During the holiday season each year, my family tries to do something for those in need. One year, my grandma and I visited those in the hospital with terminal illness who had been abandoned by their friends and families. Another year, my mom and I went on a shopping spree of clothes, food and toiletries for a local resident who had lost all of his possessions in an apartment fire.
This year, I’m making it a blue Christmas. I’m not talking about playing the holiday tune by Elvis, but rather being involved in the Bluekey campaign from USA for UNHCR.
In December 2011, UNHCR will commemorate 60 years of working to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees and internally displaced people. Our goal is for 6,000 U.S. residents – thoughtful, caring people like you — to get a Blue Key. By doing so, you’ll tell the millions of refugees worldwide that they’re not invisible, and our staff that their live-saving work does not go unnoticed.
When I was asked to be a Bluekey champion, I knew it was a good opportunity to get involved in an issue that often goes ignored. For instance, did you know that there are over 43 million people around the world— nearly the combined populations of New York and Texas — who are forced from home, family and everything they have ever known with no other option than becoming a refugee? Didn’t think so. The UNHCR provides the protection, food, shelter and care that these refugees need to give them a chance at a new life, making them pretty darn cool in my book.
But I’m not the first in my family to support refugees. For the past five years, my grandma found a way to occupy her retirement by taking in a refugee family from Thailand through an organization at her church: a man, his wife, their three babies (with another on the way) and the man’s two teenage brothers. What started out as driving the family around town for various appointments and errands turned out to be a life-changing experience.
She helped the family adjust to western civilization by teaching them our culture and language, assisted them financially and helped them find an affordable rental home in the area. But when the family decided to move to a different city after finding a long lost uncle, the two of the teenage boys asked to live with her. With her help, the boys were employed at their first jobs at a restaurant, attended their first prom, developed their first crushes (and experienced the heartaches that go with it), graduated high school and are now in community college.
While you may not have the luxury of time and resources of my retired grandma, here’s what you can do:
- For just $5, you can order your Blue Key to help refugees in need.
- Give these refugees a voice, YOUR voice, by sporting your Bluekey pin and spread the word about the cause.
I know us PR pros tend to complain a lot about our industry in one way or another (cranky coworkers, clients from hell, office politics, the overwhelming abundance of self-proclaimed social media “gurus,” etc), but having a place to go day-after-day (or take a much needed vacation from) is truly something to be thankful for anytime of year. Having a place where you “belong” is often taken for granted until it is yanked away from you.
So this year, help those who have been displaced so, with your help, they can learn to belong again.