How can I help?
For a few days the images didn’t kill me, the thing that touched me most was that they didn’t kill me. Becoming aware again, as I do every time I’m bombarded with images of devastation in some far off land, of the wall around my heart, built brick by brick over the years to protect me from the things I saw but could not help.
Then today, emotional after saying goodbye to my tearful daughter as she tries to be brave going into Primary One, my defences began to crack. I came home and I saw the images one too many times (or perhaps the right amount of times), and the wall broke. Here I sit, in physical and emotional pain for people far away, struggling to survive, possibly at this moment, trying to hold their baby above the waves.
I’ve searched for things I can do, I find petitions to sign, but who is looking at the petition? Who can make a change when handed a petition who did not make a change without needing a petition? I find charities to donate to… but my faith in charities has been obliterated by news of corruption and profiteering within their ranks. I see groups collecting locally, sending blankets and baby food… but where are they sending it to? Is it really getting to the people who need them? I want to personally help a person. That is the only way I can see that I will know that I am helping someone who needs my help, with no middleman. I want to get in my car and drive, I want to get a boat and go out into the mediterranean and find people trying to cross and bring them home to look after them. But who would look after my children? Would they forgive me for leaving them with others? When I go, won’t I pass people in the streets begging for help? The woman who sells the Big Issue on the corner in my own home town, could she not be a refugee? Should I talk to her first?
Iceland has made me so proud once again, the people opening their homes and demanding that the government bring the Syrian refugees to them to be sheltered and supported, help them rebuild their lives. Can I do that? Can I open my home to a family in need? The thought scares me. I’ve clearly been affected by mainstream media making out that all middle easterners are terrorists and extremists, and I thought I had been so careful to block out the sources that seemed to be fear mongering.
In an effort to understand what is going on I have been talking about it all with anyone who will listen, trying to learn from what others have seen or heard, trying to understand the reasons behind the apparent lack of empathy of the UK government (e.g. the ridiculously low number of refugees being accepted). Does it really all boil down to processing. Does anyone know more about this? Is it the processing of the people without documents that is causing a bottle neck? Is it the conditions of refugee camps that is sending people in search of better help? Are people choosing to leave refugee camps, therefore loosing their refugee status and becoming migrants, no longer given the aid of those searching for the basic human rights and instead being considered to be searching for a better life? Would our donations be best sent to those camps? Can one volunteer there? Can one help from home, with research, looking for records of peoples existence to help them get the kind of documents that will help them move more freely between countries, find work and shelter?
I will sign the petitions, send the donations, share the information that seems to be genuine, unbiased reporting of the facts… but is that really all we can do? It doesn’t feel like enough.