In refugee camps, there’s often a staging area where aid groups hand out items like food, blankets, and mattresses. The idea is that it’s more efficient to have people come to you, so you can distribute everything all at once, than for you to step into each home one at a time.
It’s true. It is more efficient.
But it’s also dehumanizing. There’s no love communicated in this interaction, no learning someone’s story. It’s a transaction. It keeps all the power in the hands of the giver and leaves recipients powerless to do anything but receive. They don’t even get the chance to tell you what they need.
In one camp in northern Iraq, where 9,000 Syrian refugees live in cinder block structures, hauling supplies from the distribution point to your home can be a long, long walk, particularly if you’re weighed down by groceries or a bulky mattress.
You’ve just escaped Syria, escaped bombs and bullets. Maybe you don’t know where members of your family are or if they’re even alive. You’re exhausted, disoriented, and traumatized. A mattress, food, hygiene kits, these are great gifts, they are necessary. But now, on top of everything else, you must find a way to transport these gifts across a vast camp. And still you have no means of providing these things for yourself.
There’s a better way.
We don’t ask people to come to a distribution point. We go to them, to their homes. We step across the threshold, sit down with our refugee friends, look them in the eye. We listen to their stories. We ask what they need.
When we step across the threshold, we’re not giving handouts. We’re learning what our refugee friends are passionate about, what skills they already possess. And by doing so, we can help them start their own businesses. We can give hundreds of families what they need to take back control of their lives.
We can help them leverage one successful business to launch another, so they are less vulnerable to changes in season or circumstance. We can help women discover their own calling, as many of them use their earnings to help their husbands start businesses of their own. Women empowering men empowering women.
Many of these families have no real way home. But with each new business, we can transform a colorless refugee camp into a vibrant, flourishing new home.
We can help refugees build a future that lasts, by crossing the threshold.