Refugees moving through Macedonia

Refugees are suffering a humanitarian crisis of startling proportions in Europe and the Middle East with no immediate answers in sight.  And the worldwide travel and tourism community has a unique opportunity to raise awareness and express our support.

As travelers, here are four ways to act now:

  1. Donate. Various nonprofit organizations are involved in refugee relief; Charity Navigator has rated  each to help donors. In addition, the UN Refugee Agency: UNHCR has a special fund to receive donations to aid Middle East refugees. Make your best choice and donate now!
  2. Stay informed. Sign up for the UN monthly e-newsletter and email alerts for the latest news on refugee issues from around the world.
  3. Make your voice heard.  The International Rescue Committee has called for the US to accept at least 65,000 refugees from Syria by 2016.   If you are an American and want to show your support, sign the petition at the White House “We The People” website.  It is about 11,000 signatures short of the 100,000 goal with a September 30 deadline.
  4. Chalk your travel bag.   Chalk a visible “R” on your travel bag to show your support as you travel.  Did you know early immigrants were identified by simple chalk marks on their clothes as they were screened through Ellis Island?   Now we can use them ourselves to show refugee support.
R travel bag

Chalk your travel bag with a visible “R” to show your support

News media are showing horrific images of the refugee crisis that touch every one of us. Yet as travelers, many of us have even stronger bonds that can enable deeper understanding and larger leadership:

  • We know the comfort of having a passport when we travel.   It entitles us to be in a foreign country under our government’s protection. So we can grasp the refugees’ terrible paradox: they are fleeing the government of their citizenship, so they have little protection because they have no country.
  • As travelers, we know the good feeling that comes with returning home after a trip abroad, so we can better fathom setting off on a one-way journey, not knowing where or how it will end.

On so many levels, the worldwide travel community has opportunities to connect with the refugee plight.

That’s why HI USA hostels in a grassroots effort collected donations from our guests to help refugees during this past week’s Sleep for Peace observance on September 21, the UN’s International Day of Peace. With hundreds of travelers opening their wallets in support, over $3000 was raised in a single day for the UN Refugee Agency with a HI USA match.   It’s all part of our larger efforts as an organization promoting global citizenship.  

Many in the travel and tourism community can find a special connection with the refugee’s plight.   Now’s the time to show our support.