What if Refugees helped their host societies?

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Europe is in the actual situation of having a crisis – or not? A question that bothers me since the very first refugee arrived here in Austria and the word crisis was mentioned within the context. Since then I didn’t get rid of the feeling that this problem was pushed in far too many directions and used for political reasons.

Alexander Betts enters the stage at the TEDx Vienna 2015 and tells us how his first work with refugees started in 1999. He was about 19 years of age, went to the Netherlands and worked there to support refugees. He spent the day with them, built with them together and told us about his daytime routine. With a lot of joyful words he describes what experiences he made in those times, what kind of people he met and what he learned.

He brings as an example – a friend named Wuli – a teacher in the Ali-Addeh Camp in Djibouti, who helps people in the camp by teaching. He works with only few tools and material to teach but still he does in the best imaginable way possible. We see pictures and hear some details about his daily routines.

From this point onward we hear that he worked in some international projects concerning refugee policy and mentions Uganda, because it is not an example but exceptional. He uses this to break with some common myths according refugees.

  1. Refugees are economically isolated?
  2. Refugees are a burden?
  3. Refugees are economically homogenous?
  4. Refugees are technologically illiterate?
  5. Refugees are dependant?

To each of the above listed myths he brings examples to show us that the situation is completely different. We also get the opportunity of seeing an example of misleading decisions by companies – very close (distance of 15 minute drive) to a refugee camp has been built an economic area to provide working places, shopping areas and more but nobody came. Never ever has it occurred to the people responsible to combine both opportunities.

During the whole talk we get the impression of someone who sees change and the new input that can come with the migration of refugees as a chance to build something new, to improve the existing situation, to exchange knowledge, to bring aspects and perspectives into an existing routine. From my point of view – I totally agree, not every change may be good but change at least brings the chance to create something new.

He closes his talk with the question “What if we help refugees to help themselves?” and this is something that also works in case of education, teaching, working with adults, children and is a philosophy that should have been in used as development aid in the third world countries.

Whatever the numbers, whatever the statistics, whatever the rumors or even race or culture – it defines us as human beings to help each other. Let’s make this world a better place- together.

UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency

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