How you can REALLY help donate to refugees

Welcome, fellow humanitarians.  I guess you’ve stopped by because you’ve realised that the lives of refugees are just as worthy as your own, and you’re now keen to donate to make a difference.

LoveLifeIstanbul 1

If you’re looking to donate new or used goods, your services or your time to helping refugees in Turkey then head to Lisa Morrow’s Inside out in Istanbul for a summary of the current groups and initiatives (as of September 2015). Also check out the agencies and groups doing good things for refugees world-wide. These are listed at the end of this article.

Beyond the initial motivation to donate there are some practical actions donors can do to help volunteer efforts, and in turn, help the refugees get what they need faster for their  passage to peace.

1. Ask

Ask what the immediate needs are of the group(s) you’d like to donate to. Check their website. Link to their social media pages. Contact their coordinators.

Food is obviously high on the list of needs but these needs can change.

The groups helping refugees in Turkey are largely run by volunteers – volunteers that don’t have budgets to buy or rent large storage spaces. They rely on the kind donations of people for shelving, boxes and rooms to store items in. For this reason, storage and security of those donations after-hours can present a challenge for volunteers – especially when flooded with goods kindness.

Asking the organisation what they need as a priority will not only help them manage the stock and space they have but will also direct your donations to the areas of most need.

2. Think

While we’re on the space issue, when sorting or buying goods to donate, do think about the lives of the refugees you’re donating to. Are they on the move or in camps? Think about the logistics they face in getting from point A to B. Think about the climate they’re in, their genders, ages, their sense of fashion and aim to support these needs as a priority.

Items that cannot be given out to refugees by volunteer groups do take up space or require additional management to distribute them to the right receiver. Keep the needs of refugees at forefront of your mind when deciding what to donate.

Think small and compact for personal belongings such as hygiene products and toys for children.

Think light-weight for carrying in small bags.

Think maximum reach for donations (i.e. If buying baby clothes or shoes, donate those with unisex colours so boys or girls may benefit from your donation).

Think practical.

3. Don’t donate

Yes, I said don’t donate….IF the item you wish to donate is one or more of the following:

  • Sequined disco dresses
  • Skin tight short dresses
  • See-through clothing
  • Short shorts
  • Short skirts
  • Tops with revealing/plunging necklines
  • Dusty shoes with holes in them
  • Shoes that are broken or on their last steps
  • Clothes that are stained or tattered or full of holes
  • Stiletto shoes
  • Evening gowns
  • Racy lingerie
  • Opened or half-empty personal products
Not ideal for distributing to refugee women.

Not very appropriate items to donate to the ladies feeling war torn countries.

(Yes, my research has shown these items have been found in the donation bags to refugees!)

Even though these items are given with good intentions, these items are not appropriate to give to refugees – who dress more modestly. Not only do they contribute to the space issue, they take up the time of volunteers who spend hours sorting and categorising clothing. These volunteers wish to get on with helping refugees – rather than reminisce about the days of disco!

Basically when deciding what to donate, put yourself in the shoes of a refugee and ask yourself: Would I wear that? Would I need that? Would I want my husband/wife or my children to wear that? If the answer is no, then keep it for another donation drive elsewhere. Donate only those items that you feel a refugee will genuinely wear or use, rather than using the call for donations as an excuse to clear out the wardrobe.

4. Do donate

In terms of clothing, there can never be enough good quality clothing for all shapes, genders and sizes. More helpful clothing items that can easily be distributed are:

  • Ladies long cotton skirts
  • Ladies long sleeved cotton tops
  • Ladies shalwars either worn by themselves or under skirts
  • Primary school aged kids clothes (6 – 12 years), including shorts and pants
  • Comfortable pants for men
  • Winter jackets, beanies, gloves, scarfs, enclosed shoes (especially now winter is coming)
  • New underwear for all ages, genders and sizes
More appropriate donations for ladies...

More appropriate donations for ladies.

Clothing is not the only the thing to donate though. By researching the agencies linked to this article below you’ll find there’s plenty to contribute to, such as:

  • Food packs
  • Sanitation packs
  • Hot food donations
  • Donations of toys
  • Donations of reading material
  • Donations to help cook or set up a new home
  • Funding for programs and initiatives
  • Calls for volunteers to donate their time to teach, coordinate groups, and organise volunteers
  • Donations of boxes, shelving and other furniture that help organise premises for volunteers to work.

Again, ask the group(s) your interested in helping what their immediate needs are and go from there.

5. Categorise

The volunteers in clothing distribution centres are overwhelmed with clothes and one of the greatest things you could do is to help them out too. When sorting through your donated clothes try to categorise them into separate bags so they can be stored faster and the volunteers can spend more time in helping refugees directly.

Here’s some suggested categories you can either box or bag your donations in.

Suggested categories for clothing donations to held volunteers sort and store items.

Suggested categories for clothing donations to help volunteers sort and store items.

Winter and summer items should also be ideally separated and categorised as it’s likely they’re stored separately. Labelling or categorising items into sizes may also help when large quantities are given.

6. Gratitude

The world has not seen this mass level of migration in many years and those who have come forward to donate their time to helping are giving up work, time with family, time with friends and time to themselves. In donating to refugees, also donate some gratitude to those helping, because the other risk to this crisis is volunteer fatigue. Say thanks and keep them energised. Better still, go give them a helping hand.

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#SyrianRefugees #RefugeesWelcome #Syrian #HumanityThanks

Keen to donate your time, services or goods? Here’s a list of agencies with donation programs to help refugees:

Care Packages for Syrian Refugees (based out of Bodrum, Turkey)

Lesvos Volunteers (Based out of the island of Lesvos/Lesbos, Greece)

Halklarin Koprusu

Caritas in Istanbul

Small Projects Istanbul (Based out of Istanbul, Turkey)

Ad.Dar Istanbul

Hayata Destek (Support to Life)

United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHRC)

International Rescue Committee

International Committee of the Red Cross

Save the Children

Care International

Refugees-Welcome

Doctors without Borders

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3 thoughts on “How you can REALLY help donate to refugees

  1. Awesome post! Especially the advice to ‘ask’! I’ve found after speaking to a few IDP orgs in Ukraine that while everything is always appreciated, their most chronic shortages tend to be in personal hygiene supplies, laundry detergent, baby wipes/diapers etc. very cool post and thanks for the links!

    • I personally made the mistake of jumping head first into donations and realised quickly where the real needs were. Women were wanting shampoos, hygiene supplies, shalwars and kids loved crayons to draw on cardboard boxes – all things I had not considered…hence the inspiration for this post.

  2. Pingback: Quora

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