Jasnaaz Tung, Humanwire

News outlets throughout the world have a lot to say about Syrian refugees; they’re flooding into Europe, the sheer numbers are overwhelming, and they might be harboring extremists. We might see flashing numbers about how many people have left Syria, how many are accepted into Germany, and what the economic burden is for the UK; but, we never talk about how every single refugee is first and foremost another human being. Each displaced person has been forced to abandon their lives for the sake of survival.

I currently work for an organization trying to humanize refugees for the general public. Ultimately, telling their stories helps motivate the browsers to acknowledge the quality of life for the average refugee and hopefully donate what they can to help those less fortunate. Humanwire was founded by Andre Baron in response to the growing displacement of Syrians and the lacking response by the international community. Humanwire accepts refugee applications from countries such as Lebanon, Turkey, Cameroon, and more. Then, thorough background checks to validate the identities, stories, and connections of the applicants so that everyone involved has never been involved in the persecution of others. After this extensive process, online profiles are created to provide a brief description of their circumstances and indicate readiness for sponsorship. This is the step of the process in which I work with Humanwire. Sponsorship is the final step in which a browser can select a refugee and launch a campaign to crowdsource money to alleviate the hardships faced by these people. The truly unique thing about Humanwire is that they offer the facilities to watch your donations translate into critical aid for other people. You can send one-on-one items to someone you wish to support and receive photographic proof. None of the aide provided benefits Humanwire in any way.

In this process, I play a very small part. As a volunteer, I have the privilege to synthesize the profile description of each applicant from information translated by on-the-ground volunteers. Thus far I have been able to work on two profiles of Syrian refugees living in Lebanon. It has surprised me that their concerns aren’t far off from those of any other person. One of the profiles I wrote up was about a mother who just wanted to pay rent and the fees to continue the education of her three kids. Another mother was concerned about the debt her family has already accrued in Lebanon. These women braved volatile borders to flee ISIS violence or state sponsored massacres and they just want to return to normalcy for their children. In a world landscape focused on painting their journey as an extremist Trojan Horse, Humanwire helps normalize the people by telling their stories. This experience has been an add on to my course in Migration and Development with Professor Tazreena Sajjad of SIS within American University. While the course covers the expanse of forced and voluntary migrants, it also takes into account the current rhetoric around migrants— especially refugees. A couple of our lectures have dealt directly with the difference between the reality of the current refugee crises and these lectures have been definitely enriched with the addition of my Humanwire experience. As an SIS student, I have found that too often the academic rarely connects with the reality but this community service based experience with Humanwire has truly bridged this gap for me.

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