This is the ultimate guide for helping out where help is needed
By Isabelle Bonenkamp
The borders are closed but the refugees have come. As they are here, it is of the utmost importance that they integrate into society, find a home and a job, learn the language and in the end become a member of and contribute to the Danish welfare system. On their way there, refugees rely heavily on organizations like the Danish Refugee Council or on the municipalities to provide them with nutrition, housing and (winter) clothing. As the UN Refugee Agency points out, the greatest struggle at the moment is to keep the refugees out of the cold. This is why many organizations are on a constant need of volunteers in the camps, hostels and housing offices.
Sascha Brinch Hummelgaard from Frivilignet Aaarhus says, “The biggest problem as I see it right now is to find apartments for all the refugees – this is, though, a job for the municipality.” It is therefore essential to communicate and organize the help between the many organizations and the municipality. Additionally, information about the help needs to be delivered to the new refugees – which presents another problem. Not only does the work require a training period but it is also very important that the refugees feel consistency in their lives. Especially traumatized families must be treated carefully.
Consequently, most organizations are interested in a long-term involvement. If interested, the Frivillignet, the Red Cross, Refugees Welcome and Crossing Borders offer positions and participation opportunities on their websites. There is the opportunity to help out in the local asylum seekers’ centres. Furthermore, the organization traume helps to overcome refugee’s war traumas and it is also possible to become the legal guardian of a parentless refugee here.
Sascha Brinch Hummelgaard recommends working as a volunteer. “Being part of a volunteer project which is long term, can help create a stronger feeling of ‘making a difference’. A long-term involvement can eventually create a long-term commitment to the refugees and hopefully a friendship that goes both ways,” says Brinch Hummelgaard.
Of course, not everyone has the time and means for such intensive involvement. For those who wish for a more moderate long-term involvement, there is the opportunity to teach bike riding or help out with home chores once a week.
Nevertheless, even a weekly involvement can be very stressful. So if someone has time for just once, it is possible to bring clothes, toys and blankets to the Red Cross. Winter is even colder in Denmark than in many other places in the world. The Red Cross tells on the website which asylum camp is closest in Denmark. Maybe one can organize a collecting event after having consulted with the asylum seekers office about what is needed most in the specific camps.
Otherwise, if there are no clothes or toys to give, music instruments equally are taken by the organisation Music Against Borders. But if there are no music instruments either, then the the Danish Refugee Council provies the opportunity to build a personal fundraising page, or Amazon allows to construct wish lists for refugees – so people can make a planned gift as this example for refugees in Calais shows. Furthermore, gift shopping can be done in the online gift shop of the Danish Refugee Council or the Red Cross.
Finally, assuming that one has no time but money, donating money will do just fine. The Danish Refugee Council, The (Danish) Red Cross, the Migrant Offshore Help Station, the UN Refugee Agency, the International Rescue Committee and Refugees Welcome and many others will all be glad to receive donations.
However, some do neither have time nor money, but are very concerned with the topic. In this case, informing oneself is as much help as anything else. Catarina Santos, the Coordinator of Crossing borders in Aarhus, explains that listening and informing would so important because no good could come out of ignorance. „Try to find out their stories, their dreams, their motivations, their problems. Refugees are people like you and me, and like you and me they want to have a nice, stable life, and provide the same to their children.”
There are many videos explaining the refugee crisis shortly or articles that tell stories of the refugees themselves. Jutlandstation has its own radio shows accessible online. Furthermore, the Blog Syria Deeply gives an overall insight and constant updates about the situation in Syria since the outbreak of the conflict.
Information in Danish can be accessed via the Danish Refugee Council – they provide an entire PDF concerning the topic. Eventually, reading about refugees will lead one to reconsider how much one is willing to give. In this case, this article will still be here.
In the end, there is one piece of further advice for all readers – even if just having decided not to get involved at all: Let’s smile to the people on the street and especially to the refugees (if one happens to notice them). Giving someone the feeling of being welcome in a friendly environment is a great gift, and a gift easily made. From an international student’s point of view, spending the first winter in Denmark is difficult even without a war trauma, but being in possession of cozy housing, warm clothes and a bright future. Not only for those who are at the moment less fortunate, but for everyone that is dealing with the refugee crisis, a smile goes a long way.
Photo by Teresa Weikmann