The concept of home is complicated. But for more than 80 million people, home in both the physical and emotional sense no longer even exists.
Home. The word indicates a physical place where a person lives. It also carries an emotional undertone, somewhere that evokes a sense of belonging, security and personal history. Most of us have spent a lot of time in our physical homes over the past year, further amplifying the word’s emotional meaning – for better or worse.
I have had homes in Texas, New Jersey, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and now, Tennessee. Despite growing up in Dallas and living in many other places, I will likely always consider Washington, D.C., as my home. It’s where I feel the greatest sense of belonging, where I spent my early, most formative adult years, and where I met my husband. After nearly five years, though, our house here in Memphis is definitely home in the physical sense. With projects big and small, we have made the space our own. It is slowly becoming home in the emotional sense, as well. I find comfort in the quirks and creaks of this old house, knowing that it is a safe place for my family. And most importantly, it is where we are creating memories with our children.
Clearly, the concept of home is complicated. But for more than 80 million people – displaced individuals and families – home in both the physical and emotional sense no longer even exists. All over the world, men, women and children are fleeing oppression, conflict and disaster, leaving the place that was their home as they are forced to start over.
Even under the best of circumstances, change is challenging. It pushes us out of our comfort zone and forces us to adapt to a new way of thinking, doing, living. For refugees, change is the norm, and the changes they experience go beyond moving from one location to another. Their experiences beget a unique perspective, one that embodies true strength and resilience.
Organizations like International Rescue Committee (IRC) stand with refugees as they embark on the journey to a new life, helping them survive and rebuild home. At work in more than 40 countries and more than 20 U.S. cities, the IRC has a rich history of helping people whose lives have been shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future – like Heba, Yasmin and Sheeba.
Heba is 10 years old and has lived her entire life in a country at war with itself. A few years ago, she started to experience pain that affected aspects of her daily life. Her family couldn’t safely take her to a doctor because attacks on hospitals limited health care access. IRC was able to treat Heba with a surgery that has helped her walk and play again.
A refugee herself, Yasmin now lives in Cox’s Bazar as a community volunteer for the IRC. She has been instrumental in educating refugees in the camp about COVID-19 and helping them stay healthy.
Through a medical scholarship program, IRC helped Sheeba rebuild her career in women’s health after she fled Afghanistan for the U.S. She was so grateful to the organization that she reached out to see if there was anything she could do to give back. Now Sheeba volunteers with the organization to mentor others like her.
Like each of these individuals, refugees show courage in the face of crisis. And despite their own trials, many of them are giving back and enriching the lives of others.
Celebrating courage and creativity
Through the challenges and forced isolation of the past year, we have also found beauty in the creative ways we have adapted and shown courage. In a sense, we have been reborn as individuals and communities.
This is exactly what refugees experience on a daily basis. They are compelled to move forward and start anew.
To observe World Refugee Day on June 20, the IRC is honoring the many contributions of refugees here at home and around the world. Creativity has the power to unite, and art in all of its forms amplifies our individuality and connects us to each other, telling our stories through food, dance, painting, song and more.
As part of their 2021 World Refugee Day campaign, IRC has commissioned Diala Brisly, a refugee artist, to create an original illustration that captures the resiliency and strength of refugees. IRC has also produced a marquee video to tell the stories of three refugees and the impact of various art forms on their lives – dance with ballerina Christine Shevchenko; music with rapper Belly; and painting with artist Muyambo Marcel Chishimba.
Here are a few ways your company can stand for refugees and take part in the campaign:
- Share the courageous stories and creativity of refugees.
- Feature the illustration created by refugee Diala Brisly across your digital channels.
- Amplify the Brisly’s artwork in your internal materials, like a Zoom or Teams background, or donate ad or window space to profile the illustration.
- Check out IRC’s World Refugee Day social media toolkit for more messaging you can share with your audiences.
- Inspire greater giving.
- Encourage employees to give to Global Impact’s Refugee High Impact Fund.
- Screen the marquee video for employees as a way to encourage them to take action in support of refugees.
- Match donations for every share of the illustration or film from your social media channels.
- Learn more about the IRC’s World Refugee Day campaign.
When we welcome refugees into our communities and celebrate our differences, we make space for their creativity and contributions, resulting in a more beautiful life for us all. Together, we can help reestablish home for those who have escaped harm.