Six years ago I was haunted by the horrific situation happening in Darfur, Sudan. I was overwhelmed with feeling like there was little I could do to make a difference. The problem felt huge, and any effort on my part felt like the tiniest drop in the most enormous bucket. When Christmas came, I really felt compelled to do something tangible, so our family learned as much as we could about the refugee crisis in Darfur, and what had erupted politically to create the situation in the first place. Sasha was wee then. Hannah was only 7, and Ellie 4. One thing I've learned over the years, is that you can tell the story of a place and a people so that even the youngest ones can understand the basics. We learned what we could, and we made "reminders" for our tree to honor those in refugee camps in Darfur who it seemed the rest of the world had forgotten about.
The following year we focused on Darfur again. Not much had changed. (Isn't that the way it is all too often?) The following year we concentrated on refugees in other countries around the world. The next year it was the housing crisis in Attawapiskat that called out for our attention. Then last year it was the plight of girls in countries around the world whose lives are less than simply because of their gender.
This year we focused on Syria.
We have a small tree upstairs that serves as the place to hang the words, facts, and stories of the place or cause we're focusing on. It's amazing what you can find to help you communicate the story of a place or a crisis to kids. Syria's situation is not simple. But there are simple concepts about dictatorships, democracy, freedom, power, and the fall-out that kids sometimes understand more than we do.
Last week I read the paper and listened to the radio as the current situation in South Sudan was discussed. Things aren't better than they were six years ago when we started to learn more. In fact, in lots of ways, they're worse. That realization hit me. There are parts of this that feel hopeless. Will anything change in Syria? Will there still be a need for refugee camps for Syrians at this time next year? Sadly, there will probably be a need for more.
Hanging these reminders on a tree isn't going to change anything in Syria. But knowledge is power, and taking hold of that power means we won't forget. We won't forget Darfur... or Syria. Christmas Eve seems as fitting a night as any to hope that you won't forget it either.
To learn more about Syria's refugee crisis:
Click Here for a video that explains the basics to kids.
Click Here for answers to questions about how the conflict in Syria began.
Click Here for information on the refugee crisis specifically.
Click here for the UN site for giving.