Photos of the lifeless body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi are covering newspapers and websites, filling Facebook and Twitter feeds. He was a Syrian toddler whose family was trying to escape to Canada.
Now Alan is dead. So is his five-year-old brother Galib and their mother Rehan.
The tragedy is almost unimaginable, but so is this refugee crisis — and it did not begin this week.
Since the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, 11 million Syrians have been displaced, or about half of the entire country. Four million of them have fled across Syria's borders, 75 per cent of whom are women and children.
This is not new, but the horrific photo of Alan Kurdi, whose name was initially misspelled Aylan by the Turkish government, seems to finally be shaking the world out of complacency.
People want to help.
This Toronto-based group is promising to "recruit, train and assist sponsor groups to welcome and support 1,000 Syrian refugees coming to Canada as permanent immigrants to resettle in the GTA over the next two years." They say sponsoring a family of four will cost about $20,000 for support for the first year, plus start up costs of $7,000.
If you or your group want to sponsor a Syrian refugee, click here for an eligibility assessment.
The Canadian government's Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program helps bring displaced people to Canada every year. Sponsors must provide financial and emotional support for one to three years. With new promises to increase the number of refugees in the wake of the current crisis, this official website is your info clearinghouse, whether you're a single, group or community sponsor.
This Canadian NGO, which began in the 1920s, is part of an international network that calls itself "the world's leading independent organization for children." Save the Children is trying to provide basic essentials to a half-million Syrian refugee children, mostly in Jordan. They are distributing food in and out of refugee camps in Jordan, as well as tools and insulation for shelters, and vouchers for winter clothing, blankets, heating, fuel and stoves. They are also providing emotional support by establishing safe spaces for kids to play and learn.
To donate, please click here.
Since the refugee crisis erupted, Oxfam has helped over 1.5 million people. Inside Syria they're focused on providing clean water in conflict areas, while in Jordan and Lebanon they are also focused on assisting with cash and supplies, such as blankets and heating stoves and hygiene products. They're also building showers and toilets and helping families get access to medical, legal and support services.
CARE has so far helped more than 850,000 refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt on their way to a goal of bringing emergency support to over one million people in need. They have been providing refugees and host families with cash for food, rent, medical care and household essentials, as well as distributing blankets, mattresses and heaters in advance of the coming winter cold and helping address water and sanitation issues. CARE has also partnered with the UN Refugee Agency to run community centres and offer psychosocial support and are raising awareness of sexual exploitation and other forms of gender-based violence to protect refugees from abuse.
Since the crisis started, our Red Cross has been helping to support the Syrian Arab Red Crescent organization on the civil war's front lines, where 47 volunteers have lost their lives. With financial assistance from Canada and elsewhere, the Red Crescent has been providing food, household items and life-saving health services as well as essential winter items.
The child-focused Christian aid organization has so far supported over 700,000 people in Syria, northern Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon by providing food, health care, water and sanitary supplies, as well as protection and education for kids.
The UN's refugee wing provides shelter, food, water, medical care and other life-saving assistance to refugees and says that 86 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to "uprooted families living in dire conditions."
UNICEF, the UN's arm dedicated to protecting children around the wold, has been looking out for the 5.6 million Syrian kids in need since the conflict began. They are focused on everything from winter supplies and malnutrition to vaccinations and clean water to emotional support and education. And toys. These kids really need toys, too.
And finally, you can call or write your federal MP candidates, as well as party leaders. Let the politicians who are campaigning right now to run our country know that saving Syrian refugees is a priority for you and should be a priority for them.
Click here to enter your postal code and find contact information for the candidates running in your riding.
Editor's Note: The boys' aunt told The Canadian Press the boys’ names are Alan, and not Aylen, and Galib, not Galip, as originally released by the Turkish government.
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