In this second post of a series, Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program Director Steve Connors provides context on the plight of Syrian refugees at the European border, setting the stage for the Coalition’s next Storytelling project, a series of vignettes featuring the work of SOS Children’s Villages, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), HelpAge International and Handicap International. (Photo is from one of the short films.)
Stranded In Transit
by Steve Connors
“We are at present largely no longer enforcing #Dublin procedures for Syrian citizens.”
This innocuous statement, tweeted out in the middle of an August night by Germany’s Office for Migration and Refugees, signaled an open border policy for Syrian refugees and helped set Europe on the path to a political upheaval unprecedented in the history of the European Union. Two years later, tens of thousands of displaced people remain stranded on the EU borders, unable to go forward and desperate not to go back.
Overwhelmed by refugees from the Syrian and Iraq wars, the Lebanese and Jordanian governments had recently closed their own borders. People fleeing the ongoing violence in their homeland began to head north and west in search of safety. First they arrived in Turkey, which was already sheltering close to three million Syrians. With news of the German government’s relaxation of its border policies, hundreds of thousands then made their way toward Europe – either by sea to Greece or through Bulgaria by land. None of the countries involved were in any way prepared for this mass influx of despairing humanity. None of the countries involved had the capacity – whether infrastructural or economic – to cope with the sheer volume of traffic that approached them.
They weren’t only Syrians. Thanks to the ubiquity of mobile communication, others already displaced by violence, politics or economics saw an unmissable opportunity. Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans, Iranians, sub-Saharan Africans and even a few Cubans, reset their course and headed for Europe’s borders.
Almost all those on the move had Europe as their desired destination, and all the countries along the way were thought of – not only by the refugees but also by the host governments – as transit points along the way. The last of these transit countries has been Serbia.
In the summer of 2015 Serbia had barely recovered from the worst floods ever recorded, and now faced a flood of another kind. The first responders to the crisis were the Serbian people themselves. Being no strangers to the plight of refugees during the wars of secession that carved up the former state of Yugoslavia, people saw the desperate condition of the people arriving on their doorstep and volunteered in the thousands, loading up their cars with food and water and delivering it along the routes being traveled by the refugees. Meanwhile, the Serbian government quietly worked in the background to renovate abandoned motels, barracks, and government buildings to create habitable transit camps where refugees could be registered, and much needed services could be delivered to those on the move.
Initially, with border controls being barely recognized, people passed through quickly and easily. The non-Syrians, if they had arrived in the early weeks, were also able to pass through in the chaos, but as time went by and the Syrian wave slowed down, border controls were soon reinstated, and the transit camps began to take on a permanence for which they were not intended.
Bordered on three sides by EU countries – Bulgaria to the east, Hungary to the north, and Croatia to the west, Serbia had become a cul-de-sac. The welcome that had been extended to the Syrians was now seen to have been fulfilled, and the countries forming the European Union’s south-eastern border had become a bulwark against further passage. At these borders, refugees face hostility, and even brutality.
Still they come: Fatima (right) and her sister-in-law, Amina, newly arrived at a makeshift refugee camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. With the official border crossings closed to Syrian refugees, the women, along with Zeinab’s husband and sons, traveled for three days across rough mountain tracks to reach safety. Amina, who was born with a club foot, was carried across the mountains by her brother and nephews.
Among the thousands still in the Serbian transit camps, perhaps the least fortunate are the Afghans. Refused refugee status because Afghanistan is deemed by the international community to be a safe country in which to live, they are stranded in Serbia waiting for their names to reach the top of a list of people allowed to cross into Europe. But even when that day arrives, most will likely be refused asylum and sent back across the border.
The sense of crisis may be fading from world headlines, but with thousands of adults and children desperately yearning for safety and an end to their journey, the mantle of responsibility for their care will continue to fall on the shoulders of international NGOs. Among those still committed to providing that care in Europe and the Middle East are the stalwart staff of the Hilton Prize Laureates.
Beginning in early October, the HPC Storytelling Program will be rolling out four short videos featuring the work of HPC Laureates in Lebanon and Serbia. The first of these vignettes will follow the experiences of Handicap International as they’ve innovated and adapted to meet the needs of Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley and Tripoli. The second will focus on HelpAge International’s work with Lebanese partner organizations in Beirut, while the third will provide a glimpse into the daily work of IRCT member The Restart Center, which has been providing psychotherapy to patients living with trauma. The series concludes in Serbia, where teams from SOS Children’s Villages continue to provide for the needs of families as they transit through the country, seeking safety in Europe.
Sarah Baker recently completed a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship with SOS Children’s Villages – USA. Sarah holds an MA in International Media from American University and graduated summa cum laude with a BA in Communication from Auburn University at Montgomery. In this blog post, Sarah reflects on her experience supporting media relations and communication initiatives as a member of the communications and marketing team at SOS headquarters in Washington DC.
Becoming a Global Communicator through My HPC Fellowship
by Sarah Baker
Growing up at the foot of an extinct volcano in Germany’s Swabian Alps didn’t make me strive to become a great global communicator—being uprooted from there and plopped onto the dry, red clay roads of Alabama did.
It took me a long time to realize the value of living a life between two very different cultures, but when the realization came, it profoundly influenced my professional ambitions. I came to understand that in order to be effective in most anything—both professionally and personally—one must be able to communicate.
Equipped with this revelation and an endless supply of idealism, it only made sense to try to put my experiences and education to use effecting meaningful change in the world. Being named a Fellow by the Hilton Prize Coalition has given me a foothold in the non-profit world as well as an unmatched opportunity to learn about what it takes to succeed in a fast-paced, globally-minded and dynamic communications team.
I believe that one of the key components to solving global issues of all sorts is effective communication. For non-profits, one of the most impactful ways to spread their message is through the creation and implementation of communications campaigns built on strong, cause-driven narratives. At SOS Children’s Villages, I have been afforded the opportunity to advance and contribute to such campaigns.
SOS Children’s Villages builds families for orphaned, abandoned and other vulnerable children in 134 countries around the world. The organization’s most recent campaign implores donors to “Invest in a Girl” and complements its mission of child protection and empowerment by focusing on a group that often finds itself facing many more barriers than other segments of the global population.
Studies have shown that investing in girls creates long-term social and economic benefits for the whole world. If a girl has a stable family, an education and a healthy and safe environment, she can lift herself and her community out of poverty.
This belief in the idea that meaningful investment is integral to success permeates every part of SOS—from its work in the field to its management of its offices. Decisions there are made to promote long-term success rather than short-term gain. And so it has been for me throughout my fellowship.
As a marketing and communications fellow, I’ve been regarded as a full-fledged member of the team and have been tasked with eye-opening responsibilities that are nothing short of crucial in furthering my professional development. My time at SOS has been spent doing media outreach, crafting media pitches, copy writing, brand management, exploring potential editorial opportunities for our various campaigns and so much more. At SOS, my ideas are welcomed, my input is valued and my contributions are recognized.
One of my earliest assignments was an exercise in brand awareness and campaign promotion that led to me receiving a byline on Global Moms Challenge, which supports the United Nations’ Every Woman Every Child Initiative to help women and children around the world lead healthy lives. The story I wrote revolves around Olympic soccer star and SOS alum Mavis Chirandu. Mavis cites her experience growing up in an SOS Village in Zimbabwe as the reason she felt empowered to pursue her dreams of soccer stardom. It was inspiring to read about her success and to see just how right SOS is about the importance of providing a home and family for every child.
This type of experience was not unusual. Another media outreach effort for which I was given sole responsibility led to positive engagements with a number of renowned media outlets, including TIME magazine. Yet another work day found me attending an event on Capitol Hill with my teammates, where we were able to share the impact and importance of SOS’s work to provide families to abandoned, orphaned and otherwise vulnerable children.
The SOS team’s focus on ensuring that my time with them was meaningful, coupled with my own desire to contribute to the organization’s mission, made it easy and enjoyable for me to invest myself in my work. The Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program has given me an incredibly valuable experience that I know will influence me both personally and professional throughout my life.
Meaningful investment can take many forms—for me it manifested itself as genuine support and guidance from a team that is truly committed to its mission. What has set this experience apart from any other that I’ve had is the willingness that the SOS team has shown to invest its time and energy in me. It’s clear to me that the organization’s nearly 70-year track record has been made possible by its focus on making meaningful investments in all areas, and that in order for me to succeed that I, too, must make meaningful investments.
HPC Fellow, Sarah Baker, was put to the test in an Escape Room Live experience with her SOS – USA team.
This article by Peter Laugharn, President and CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, offers a perspective on the current migration crisis, with reference to Syrian refugees and those displaced by impacts of climate change. A shorter version of the article was published in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Many Prize Coalition members are working to face this crisis, including the International Rescue Committee (IRC), who is mentioned in the article. Four other Coalition member organizations currently working in Lebanon and Serbia will be featured in the next Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program project: Handicap International, HelpAge International, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) and SOS Children’s Villages.
Mobilizing for a Century of Dislocation
By Peter Laugharn
Nearly 35,000 people flee war or persecution each day. These brave men, women, and children join a record 65 million others — nearly 1 percent of the globe’s population — who can’t return home. Not even World War II uprooted as many people.
Migration will only worsen in the years ahead. Political and economic disorder continue to reign supreme across much of the world — and climate change will soon make life untenable in many communities.
Humanitarian organizations, donors, host countries, and their citizens can mitigate the suffering caused by the coming century of dislocation — but only by cooperating on sustainable development initiatives.
The Syrian civil war is the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis. Already, 13.5 million Syrians — more than half the pre-war population — have fled their homes. And the flow of migrants shows no signs of abating.
In our lifetimes, rising sea levels and desertification will force tens of millions to leave their homelands. Widespread flooding, and the resulting economic strain, could displace 15 million people in Bangladesh alone by 2050.
The humanitarian community must better prepare for these unprecedented refugee flows. Its aid distribution system dates to the post-WWII era. Then, most refugees needed donations of food and clothing as they waited out conflicts in camps.
Nowadays, three in four refugees live outside a camp. Nearly nine in ten reside in low- and middle-income nations, often those bordering their home countries. Lebanon, for instance, has taken in 1.5 million Syrians, who now make up a quarter of the tiny Mediterranean nation’s population.
Host governments frequently view these arrivals with suspicion, worrying that they’ll destabilize fragile political systems and take jobs from citizens. So they box refugees out of the labor market and make them dependent on charity or black-market work. Those fleeing the hell of war and disaster find themselves in purgatory — unable to return home but barred from building new lives.
Unfortunately, the current administration is limiting the number of refugees being resettled in the United States and is proposing cuts to our foreign aid budget at a time when we need it most. Instead, our government is turning to other sources of funding, like philanthropy, to fill the gaps.
That’s not sustainable. It’s time for new approaches.
Consider Oxford’s Alexander Betts, who heads up the university’s Refugee Studies Centre. He urges host countries to allow refugees to work, pointing to Uganda as a model. Over 20 percent of refugees in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, “own a business that employs other people, and 40 percent of those employees are nationals of the host country.”
Host nations have a choice. They can either let refugees burden the economy — or contribute to it.
If refugees join the labor force, they’ll inevitably disperse into cities and towns. It’s logistically difficult for aid organizations to deliver food or clothing to these dispersed populations. That’s why David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee — which my organization previously honored with the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize — urges donors to simply give refugees cash.
Cash — which currently accounts for just 6 percent of all humanitarian aid — empowers refugees to buy exactly what they need. IRC studied 90,000 Syrian refugee families in Lebanon who received pre-loaded ATM cards. Families overwhelmingly spent the money on food, water, winter clothing, and shelter. And cash keeps kids in school — “households receiving cash assistance were half as likely to send their children out to work,” according to IRC.
Cash and work permits help refugees contribute to the economy and become partly self-sustaining.
But refugees can’t reach their full potential without an education. Two-thirds of refugee children aren’t in school. Yet less than 2 percent of humanitarian aid was devoted to education in 2016. My organization is working with international nongovernmental organizations, including Save the Children and Theirworld, to demonstrate how education initiatives for the most vulnerable young people are a smart investment for future peace and sustainability. Together, we’re supporting education programs for the children of Syrian refugees close to the epicenter of the crisis.
A long-term vision has been articulated in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its 17 Global Goals and 169 targets for improving lives around the world. By collecting and tracking more data on different aid projects, donors could better identify best practices — and make funding contingent on host nations adopting those practices. Donors could also preemptively identify areas where environmental migrants will likely flee — and work with local governments to make sure they’re able to handle large migration inflows.
Regular Americans can encourage this shift by making financial donations to organizations that implement modern approaches to humanitarian aid. They can also volunteer locally to support refugees who are beginning their new lives in the United States.
Conflict, a lack of economic opportunity, and climate change will make this a century of dislocation. By quickly adopting new approaches, aid agencies, donors, and host nations — including the United States — can turn the challenges of mass migration into opportunities.
(Photo by Jodi Hilton/IRC)
Reprinted with permission of The Hilton Foundation
June 20th marks World Refugee Day as recognized by the United Nations. This year the world has reached unprecedented numbers of people fleeing their homes for fear of persecution or violence. On this day, the international community honors and recognizes the profound struggle of those who have no choice but to abandon their homes and face a future of impermanence and instability. As the refugee crisis persists, many agencies fight to advocate for and provide humanitarian assistance to the voiceless.
Hilton Prize Coalition members are at the forefront of response to the refugee crisis, providing leadership in their practices and partnerships. The Hilton Prize Coalition’s next Storytelling project will shine a spotlight on some the powerful and collaborative work being done by Coalition members in their efforts to aid refugees in the Middle East. Storytelling Program Director, Steve Connors, is spending the month of June traveling throughout Lebanon and Serbia to connect with Coalition members as they work with refugees in the region. The project will feature SOS Children’s Villages, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), Handicap International, and HelpAge International. Read more about the Storytelling project in this blog post.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “What is at stake is nothing less than the survival and well-being of a generation of innocents.” In honor of World Refugee Day, below are some more highlights of work being done by Coalition member organizations to respond to the crisis.
Women for Women International (WfWI)
The winner of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2006, WfWI leads the world in empowering marginalized women in regions plagued by humanitarian emergencies. They harness the skills of women and provide them with the necessary resources to support themselves and their families, promoting community development.
In the context of the refugee crisis, WfWI offers invaluable resources to women and their families around the world. Programs include mental health counseling to women who have suffered the trauma of being forced to leave their homes and who often take on the leadership role for their families. WfWI also has a strategic partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, which have been long been affected by displacement. Programs under this partnership combine their areas of expertise to teach women useful skills that help create economic opportunities for them as they search for stability in an unfamiliar place.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC)
The IRC received the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 1997, and has been a global leader in response to humanitarian crises for 83 years. In regions all over the world, the IRC provides best-in-class aid, promoting safety, health care, education and economic development for people affected by disasters and conflicts.
One recent initiative illustrates the power of collaboration and technology in the response to the refugee crisis. The IRC has recently partnered with Air BnB, the popular home rental service, in the creation of their “Open Homes” platform. This philanthropic endeavor will allow the IRC to connect refugees with Air BnB volunteers around the world who are willing to temporarily open their homes to refugees—for free. Temporary housing will then give the IRC time to resettle the refugees in a more permanent home.
Stay tuned for more stories about Coalition members as they continue to lead efforts to alleviate the suffering of refugee populations around the world.
Photo: Syrian women from a refugee camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley plant seeds in a local farmer’s field. (Steve Connors)
2017 Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow Judith Bagachwa is currently completing her fellowship with HelpAge International Tanzania (HAITAN). She holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from Hubert Kairuki in Tanzania and is the founder and director of the Jb Geriatric and HIV Center in Dar Es Salaam. In this blog post, Judith describes her experience working on the “Afya Kibaha – International Health Ageing through a Life Course Approach” project to promote healthy living practices across generations of community members in Tanzania.
Pictured above is Judith in discussion with a community member from Bamba village about the village’s 2-acre farming activity.
As a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow with HelpAge Tanzania, I have learned and gained a lot from working on the “Afya Kibaha 2025” project, a community-based approach designed to promote healthy living practices across all ages. This project takes a life course approach to health in view of the role that intergenerational relationships, families, and communities have in promoting health across all ages. It integrates a community-based approach to “reduce modifiable risk factors for non-communicable diseases and underlying social determinants through creation of health-promoting environments.” The project further seeks to increase a sustainable youth engagement and strengthened intergenerational partnerships to support healthy living practices.
The goals of the Afya Kibaha 2025 project are to:
1. Support health promotion and improve health among all ages
2. Prevent/delay the onset of non-communicable diseases (NCDs)
3. Support the health and functioning of older persons with non-communicable diseases.
Project Training and Community Life Competence Approach
During the project, we conducted a total of five training sessions involving 240 participants from 10 communities: Mlandizi, Mtambani, Mwendapole A, Mwendapole B, Boko Mnemela, Mnemela Kibaoni, Mharakani, Bamba, Picha ya Ndege and Kongowe. Through the use of our CLCP approach (Community Life Competence Process), community members were trained and asked to come up with their own health projects that would benefit their communities. The CLCP process aims at promoting self-reliance by stimulating older persons to appreciate their strength and abilities. The CLCP facilitates the empowerment of people and communities to discover and use their own strengths to address life concerns.
Participants planning and strategizing about their community dream
Family Health Mentors
During the trainings, six intergenerational family health mentors from each community were selected and given the task of educating their respective communities about health issues, especially on non-communicable diseases, and guiding families to live healthy lives by visiting health clinics, doing regular exercises, and setting up vegetable gardens. The aim of the trainings was to ensure that healthy lives are promoted and advocated to all ages (Children, Youth, Adults and Older Persons). Community dreams and action plans therefore focused on promoting intergenerational healthy practices to better protect communities from health risks. As the participants who attended the trainings represented their respective communities, they were able to identify challenges within their communities and later come up with ideas on how they can solve the health-related issues. As a team, these community members explored all the opportunities and developed action plans towards achieving their community dreams.
Community vegetable garden at Mtambani
Community members from Mwndapole A, doing regular exercises in the early morning before sunrise
Outcomes from the project observed to date:
- An increasing number of people are understanding the importance of doing physical exercises and joining the active ageing groups.
- Community members had been encouraged and motivated to have vegetable gardens, both at family level and community level; as a result, family members are now eating nutritional food staff from their own gardens.
- More youths, adults, and older persons are going for health checkups.
Celebrating at the Learning Festival
In March 2017, all ten communities were invited to come and share their experiences at a learning festival. During the festival, video clips from the different communities and their projects were shown. Through these and the testimonies of how the Intergenerational project had helped children, youths and older persons, all were able to see how the CLCP approach had a positive impact on people’s lives in Kibaha. The CLCP approach required people to use their own resources and strengths to achieve their goals at both the family and community level, guiding them on how not to be dependents and instead to seek out and apply their own resources. The festival helped people realize that they can do something better for themselves and improve on their lives.
Women from different communities displaying their own initiative — handmade products — at the Learning Festival in Kibaha
Bibi Elizabeth Nkwela checking her blood pressure at the health desk during the festival
Participants from Mtambani village at the Learning Festival
I am so thankful I was able to conduct this project. I have been able to see how a young generation can work with an older generation and bring change in the community. Through HelpAge and the Hilton Prize Coalition, a door has been opened for me and my organization.
Ms. Eunice Musubika is currently a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow with HelpAge Tanzania, an organization that supports older people in more than 65 countries to lead full, secure lives and overcome discrimination. Originally from Uganda, she holds a degree in Guidance and Counseling from Kyambogo University in Kampala. In this blog post, Eunice writes about her field research with intergenerational households in Tanzania to combat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and support overall health promotion.
Stimulating Intergenerational Households in Rural Tanzania through the Community Life Competence Process (CLCP)
by Eunice Musubika
In June 2016, I began work as a mentor and facilitator with HelpAge Tanzania on a project entitled “Extending Healthy Aging through Life Courses: Community-Based Interventions in Rural Tanzania.”
This project took place in the Kibaha district of Tanzania, which I visited in August 2016. The purpose of the visit was to provide technical assistance in the areas of Community Life Competence Process (CLCP) facilitation. CLCP is based upon the core belief that communities can respond to their own issues. They are able to envision, to act, to mobilize resources, to assess progress to adapt, and to share their learning with others.
Alongside a team of partners, I monitored and provided field mentoring support to Family Health Mentors (FHMTs), a group of community members who have been trained to support families in living healthy lifestyles and link them to health care services. I also delivered FHMT training in five communities in order to facilitate the development of a family and community-centered approach to support health promotion. This approach improves actions among all age groups, prevents and delays the onset of non-communicable diseases, and improves the overall health and functionality of older persons.
A SALT visit is the first step of CLCP. The SALT approach (Stimulate Appreciate Link and Transfer) reveals the capacity of the community to build a vision for the future, to assess the community’s situation, act, adapt and learn. It helps in building relationships with communities and promoting community self-reliance by stimulating intergenerational households to appreciate the strengths and abilities of the family members to live healthy lifestyles. We practiced SALT by stimulating families to start vegetable gardens in their compounds for their consumption and easy access. We also encouraged them to complete physical activities and seek health care.
I carried out fifteen SALT home visits to intergenerational households in Kibaha to support the FHMTs. The families I visited were growing vegetables to sell because it is a very lucrative business. Many older persons said that they were able to look after their families by selling vegetables, and that the activity didn’t consume much of their own personal well-being.
(Visiting a vegetable garden in Mlandizi, Kibaha district, where older persons grow vegetables as an income-generating activity)
One household the facilitators and I visited was in Mwendapole, Tanzania. Asha, a 74-year-old woman, has her granddaughter and daughters who stay nearby and visit her often. Asha’s husband passed away some years ago due to diabetes, and she is sometimes bedridden due to body pains and heart disease. Asha felt a lot of responsibility and stress about taking care of the family. Recently she felt that the stress was increasing her blood pressure, but she has not managed to walk to the pharmacy due to body pains. For the past few years she used to cultivate their garden, which is far away, to ensure the family has access to basic goods, but she can no longer go to the garden because of her back and joint pain. Her daughters give her support once in a while when they come to visit, and she will sometimes stay with her granddaughter Lailati, and other children check on her often. During the visit we practiced SALT in the following ways:
S- We stimulated Asha to walk around her house and also start a vegetable garden; we stimulated the granddaughter to massage her grandmother with oil to reduce the back and joint pain.
A- We appreciated Asha’s efforts to bring up her children. Despite being a widow, she had been able to build a house and pay school fees for her children from selling vegetables and other food stuffs.
L- We learnt of her skills and strengths that helped her manage to look after her family. We linked her to medical care and encouraged her to go the Health Centre, accompanied by the FHMT.
T- We transferred knowledge to the family about healthy lifestyle activities, for example eating vegetables, doing physical exercise and going for medical checkups.
(Aisha moving around with the support of the chair)
It is clear that older persons have many strengths and are willing to take actions to improve their health and well-being using their own local resources. They require less support from the NGOs and others if they are stimulated and empowered to change their attitudes from being recipients of care to taking the lead in providing care to themselves.
Thanks to my Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship and to HelpAge Tanzania, I was able to use my skills to reach out to the Tanzanian intergenerational community and share knowledge about how the older persons and youth in Uganda, my home country, are managing their health and livelihood through CLCP. I have been practicing CLCP now for four years, and it is truly empowering to see intergenerational households in Tanzania taking action and using their own strengths to improve their health and well-being.
#WednesdayWisdom from “On Shifting Ground” doc #HPCStorytelling @HelpAge_USA https://t.co/aAjvpf9gdK