Like any reasonable human, the devastation wrought by the 2015 refugee crisis left me broken-hearted. That we still live in a world in which 65 million people can be displaced is almost beyond comprehension. And if that wasn’t appalling enough, the way these blameless individuals have been treated by certain public figures, media outlets and governments is not just disgraceful, but often illegal. As a journalist, as a Brit, as a person, this made me feel ashamed.
Although work commitments and meagre finances prevented me from making a trip to Calais, I remained inspired by the important work being done across the world by Help Refugees. I made it my personal mission to find a way – any way – to help.
In 2017, I was thrilled to start volunteering with East London Friends of Help Refugees, and over the past year have donned a ‘Choose Love’ tee to serve as a barman, doorman, shop assistant and waiter, at various fundraising events – and grabbed a quarter-second of screen time in an arresting campaign video.
If I’ve learned anything throughout this time, it’s that you don’t need be on the frontline to be useful. Not everybody can collect 600 sleeping bags, squeeze them into a Ford Transit and motor to the warehouse in Calais, yet most can afford to spare an evening to wait tables at Imad’s Syrian Kitchen x Choose Love, show solidarity at a march, or encourage those around them to pledge a few pounds.
A few months ago, I was lucky enough to secure a place at this year’s London Marathon, which takes place on 22 April. I say lucky, I actually hate running and am really quite bad at it, however the thought of raising money for such a worthy cause was all the motivation I required to channel my inner Mo Farah. Now, I am fiercely determined to conquer those 26.2 miles in under four hours. (I’m told that’s quite a good time; I wouldn’t know.)
All donations are gratefully received – whether small, big or spectacular – and you can do so here – safe i
n the knowledge that every penny raised will help the refugee children and families that desperately need it.
Even better, why not turn your goodwill into personal action – join your local Friends of Help Refugees team, or launch a fundraising campaign. Many incredible volunteers have already embarked on gruelling endurance challenges, staged gigs, or raised cash through their schools, universities and workplaces, as part of their own personal quest to Choose Love.
As for me, I’m about to start planning a comedy fundraiser – for little more reason than because I’m a sucker for a cheap pun (I am a journalist, after all), and think ‘Choose Laughs’ would look awesome on a poster.
Help Refugees provides funding, support and volunteers to more than 80 projects working with refugees and asylum seekers across the world. To find out more about our work, and how you can get involved, click here.