See, the world isn't such a bad place after all...
Sometimes it’s hard to feel positive when you’re reading the news. It’s all angry headlines, sad face emojis and the kind of stories that make you want to close your eyes and rock back and forth in your desk chair for a bit.
But as the refugee crisis continues (NB: it’s a crisis for the refugees. Not for us. We have homes and beds and food and multiple items of impractical clothing at our disposal. Yesterday we even used six sheets of quilted toilet roll.), some people are determined to keep their eyes open, to read the depressing stories and do whatever they can to help out.
So today, we’d like to celebrate them.
THESE HOLIDAYMAKERS RESCUED A MAN IN THEIR SPEED BOAT
After a group of Greek women spotted a man in the water, they initially assumed he was a diver. Then they realised he was a migrant.
‘I looked at him and he needed help. I immediately screamed to my friend who was driving our boat to turn around, because this man needed help,” said Sandra Tsiligeridou, who had been planning to spend her day with friends. Immediately, they stopped what they were doing and dragged the Syrian man – called Mohamed – out of the water, wrapping him in towels to keep him warm, and contacting the port authorities to get him medical help.
THIS MILLIONNAIRE LAUNCHED HIS OWN RESCUE MISSION
Christopher Catrambone, 31, was out sailing on his superyacht with his Italian wife and their teenage daughter in July 2013, when they spotted a lifejacket bobbing in the waves. One of his friends speculated that it could be from a migrant boat that had sunk – they were sailing off the coast of Malta, and desperate refugees often passed that way. But instead of shrugging it off, Christopher decided something had to be done. Over the next year, he bought a ship for five million dollars, and personally invested the funds needed to repair it. He begged strangers for donations – eventually gathering enough volunteer man power and funding to set sail in August 2014.
In the space of ten weeks, Christopher and his team rescued 1,462 migrants, and helped another 1,500 people onto nearby Navy ships. Fast forward one year, and he’s still at sea, rescuing as many refugees from the waves as he can, with his family is on board helping out. His daughter remembers one incident when she met a girl her age called Rasha. ‘I looked at her and I looked at me, and I said: “What if I was Rasha? What if I had to see people being killed by snipers every day, seeing my parents killed right before my eyes?” I would want to leave. She was so brave. She travels, she gets on a boat. And she says: “Either I am going to make it, or I am going to die trying”.’
THIS WOMAN CREATED A RESTAURANT TO HELP REFUGEE WOMEN FIND WORK…
Nikandra Kopcke, 28, launched Mazi Mas three years ago, after recognizing that for the majority of refugee women, simply getting to the UK isn’t nearly enough. Instead, they need work, structure and community if they in order to integrate into society.
“We’re working with highly qualified women, including a doctor who had her own medical practice in Sri Lanka, but their qualifications aren’t recognized in this country,’ she explains. ‘A lot of them are long-term unemployed. Employers pass them over in favour of younger people who have a recent employment history. It’s a vicious cycle.’
Currently staffed by six women from Brazil, Ethiopia, Iran, Peru, Senegal and Turkey (and with five more in various stages of training), Nikandra’s initiative is transforming lives – and providing us all with food in the process.
AND THIS WOMAN HELPS REFUGEES MAKE MONEY (AND KNICKERS!)
If you haven’t heard of Who Made Your Pants, then, well, it’s time to Google it. (Or just read on.)
Founded by Becky John, WMYP is an initiative that not only helps refugee women earn money and integrate into UK society, but gives them the skills to find employment elsewhere in the future, too. If somebody is interested in marketing, they’re given the opportunity for training. If somebody wants to pursue a career in management, they’re given the opportunity to do so. Working in an ethical (and by the sounds of things, utterly lovely) workshop in Southhampton, Becky and her staff make environmentally-friendly knickers. And trust us, they’re every bit as good as they sound.
THESE PEOPLE MAKE SURE MIGRANTS ARE WARM
Facebook comes to the rescue again. As increasing numbers of refugees flee Syria and Libya in favour of mainland Europe, five friends in Hungary noticed that they were being locked out of the train station at night, even though it was their own form of shelter. They immediately launched a Facebook group asking for donations, and within the space of a few weeks, they’d gathered over 2000 members from across the country.
‘In mid-June it was surprisingly cold and they had no blankets or warm clothes,’ explains one of the co-founders. ‘Among them were kids, sometimes babies, so we made a pot of hot tea and brought warmer clothes.’
Asking for donations of food or blankets rather than money, the group has now got branches all over country, and works closely with universities in the area to ensure the refugees get medical attention whenever needed.
THIS WOMAN FEEDS THEM THREE TIMES A DAY
With more than 1000 refugees arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos every day, it’s a matter of pulling together to help out. Local restauranteur, Melinda McRostie, has opened up her own makeshift refugee camp out the back of her business, The Captain’s Table, to do her bit.
Every day she personally delivers three homecooked meals to the 150 men, women and children living there. Funded by donations from her neighbours on the island, and the customers who visit her restaurant, she says it the work is ‘exhausting’, but acknowledges that there are hungry people relying on you for food, there’s nothing else to be done. ‘It’s obvious that it’s not something that’s going to stop, so the only obvious thing to do is to do something about it,’ she says.
THIS RADIO STATION IS FIGHTING TO CHANGE STEREOTYPES
Austrian radio station, FM4, has decided to use its power as part of the country’s mainstream media to challenge stereotypes, and welcome refugees into the country. Under the hashtag #refugeeswelcome, they’re not only campaigning for buildings to be opened up as safe accommodation for the homeless, they’re also organizing activities such as language lessons and ‘global picnics’ to encourage the local community to mingle with the migrants and learn about each other’s countries.
THIS BRIDE AND GROOM FED 4000 MIGRANTS AT THEIR WEDDING RECEPTION
Sick and tired of people forgetting to treat migrants like humans, Fethullah Üzümcüoğlu and Esra Polat cancelled their plans for the final night of their wedding reception (it’s traditional for Turkish weddings to last for days at a time), and used the money they’d saved to feed some of the 1.7 million refugees currently living in Turkey instead.
Teaming up with Kimse Yok Mu (Is Anybody There), an aid agency responsible for feeding 4000 refugees living in a camp near Kilis, on the Syrian border,the Bride and Groom hired food trucks, and spent the day serving up meals to the migrants, before taking their wedding photos in the camp too.
THIS GERMAN COUPLE LAUNCHED A ROOMMATE SHARING SERVICE
This couple from Wedding, Germany, created Fluchtlinge Willkommen back in 2013, in the hope of helping refugees find somewhere to live.
Jonas, a 31-year-old graphic designer, says: “Many asylum-seekers have to stay [in hostels] for years … doing nothing, because they are not allowed to do anything. They are not allowed to work, they are not allowed to have German classes sometimes and sometimes it’s not a city, it’s a village and there’s nothing to do and so you get depressed after years and stuff like this.’
The couple knew that there were loads of people around Germany who had spare rooms – and who would be up for letting them out to refugees and asylum seekers, if only they knew how.
So they set up Fluchtlinge Willkommen – a social media network that matches refugees up with potential roommates across the country. All you have to do is fill out a form and submit it online – then they try to find you a match. Rent is covered by the local government – and there are a few factors that affect whether or not a refugee is eligible to apply (if they’ve applied for asylum, etc). But it’s already been super successful. In fact, Jonas and Mareike have made 52 matches across Germany – and have launched a sister site in Austria, too.