I think about you every day.
I do not know what it feels like to be forced from my home. I won’t pretend to know; I will probably never fully understand. I’ve never contemplated what I would take with me. I can’t imagine the anguish of losing a child.
The best I can do right now is recognize my inability to empathize. I’m not naïve. As a middle-aged white male in the United States, I am privileged.
We’re a product of the decisions we make every day and, thankfully, I’ve never had to choose between fleeing and fighting. For many, flight is fight.
I’ve been to Ramallah. I’ve been to Akkar. I’ve been to Cox’s Bazar. I’ve been to Krakow and to Kathmandu. From Stung Meanchey to Bourj el-Barajneh, I’ve seen a few things. I still don’t know what to do. But I will keep trying.
I have lost people I love. And most days I feel uncertain about tomorrow. But right now, thankfully, I have a roof over my head.
I’ve seen people come together to help one another during hard times. It inspires me.
It saddens me to write this for World Refugee Day. One single solitary day where we recognize the struggle that confronts too many – every day. Today, you’ll read a lot of statistics. Statistics are important, but they can’t shake your hand and look you in the eye.
I am listening. I’ll do everything I can to amplify what I hear. We will do better. We must do more.
Your kids should never have to sacrifice their education for survival.
We’re all unique. We’re all different. Often, I feel like it’s the only thing we can agree on. But we all have the same basic needs. We need a safe place to sleep so we can rest easy. Opportunity. Access to information and education. The peace of mind that comes with knowing where the nearest hospital is and that you’ll be treated there. We need respect. We need to respect ourselves and each other.
Don’t forget. The headlines fade, but the need remains. Cliché, I know. Our collective focus shifts constantly. And while our attention is pulled in different directions, a mom and dad sit in a tent settlement in northern Lebanon wondering how they’ll get the kids through this.
So, what do we do?
Talk about it. Leverage every tool and resource available. Navigate the politics. We can do better. Let’s get creative. Let’s get organized. Let’s commit to never giving up.
Joseph Harrison is a member of the Cisco Crisis Response (CCR) team. The team has long focused on helping vulnerable populations – those unhoused or displaced by conflict and natural disasters – meet their critical needs.
CCR partners with organizations that are doing incredible work on the ground, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). If you are financially able to do so, please consider donating to these organizations.