American Refugee Committee

Respite for the Weary

The American Refugee Committee (ARC) always heads straight for the world’s toughest philanthropic terrain. As its website reports:

Today’s humanitarian challenges are bigger and more complicated than ever. Our globalized world has brought everyone closer together – problems that were once distant now reach around the globe and impact communities and people in very real ways they never did before. Destabilization and the explosion of conflict have been catastrophic for families and communities. As they flee borders in search of something better, our international system is being challenged in new and unfamiliar ways… and we’re failing. No one has the answers.

Colossal humanitarian challenges require new ways to repair shattered communities on all levels. Sweeping initiatives bring water, food, medicine and shelter to thousands of refugees. Targeted local programs also restore hope.

Like youth everywhere, young refugees enjoy sports. But their soccer balls often use garbage bags tied together with concrete blocks for weight. Last June 20th, on World Refugee Day, ARC hosted the first of its kind 5k run in Uganda’s Nakivale Refugee Settlement. Olympians, ARC staff, supporters and friends from around the world along side refugees ran and played soccer to win global financial support for Nakivale youth. To date, 16 sports teams have raised more than $15,500 online, exceeding the goal by 62 percent.

Scaling up old solutions won’t rescue or resettle a fraction of 65 million refugees driven from their homes — equivalent to the entire population of France. For the sake of worldwide justice and social progress, failure is not an option.

ARC assists three million refugees a year in 11 countries. Every situation demands a unique response, “from distributing food relief during the Somali famine, running Ebola Treatment Units in Liberia, building emergency shelters for Burundian refugees in Rwanda, to establishing water and sanitation infrastructure for displaced families in Syria.” The ARC mantra: we do what we can to save lives.

Dire as conditions appear, hope springs eternal at ARC. It swung into action for the first time in 1979, when Chicago business leader Neal Ball mobilized volunteers to assist terrorized Cambodians escaping to Thailand.

Although the world’s problems are bigger and more complex than ever, we also recognize that in the hyper-connected 21st Century we have an unprecedented opportunity to bring amazing people together to work on these big challenges. And we believe the goodwill needed to make change is actually abundant and everywhere we look.

A signature program cuts billion dollar mega challenges down to size. Changemakers 365 is all about “doing the doable” for less than $500 a day. ARC funds a different change maker every day. Don’t underestimate the impact, says an ARC field leader in Uganda:

What would I do with $500? I would buy bedding and mattresses to put in the Reception Center for refugees and asylum seekers – where they stay until we can setup a shelter for them. All of these people have traveled for days and weeks to reach the refugee settlement. Some have medical complications as the result of violence or abuse. And right now, they have to sleep on the floor and have no soft spot to lie down.

Changemakers 365 might deliver a huge supply of cups and plates to families living in makeshift shelters. Says ARC’s manager in the Bidi Bidi refugee settlement in South Sudan:

You have to understand. When refugees come, they come with nothing. Absolutely nothing. When you’re waiting in line for a meal, you will be asked to step aside if you don’t have a vessel in your hands to hold the hot food.

The global ARC staff of 2,000 people shares one overarching vision: Every person who participates in an ARC program or project will have a better chance to take control of their life and achieve self sufficiency.

“It’s extremely rewarding to work for an organization that is doing such amazing work in the world,” says Leah Jaslow, an engagement assistant in donor services. What does it take to help ARC assist refugees? “A big part of the work starts with empathy,” Ms Jaslow says. “If you are passionate about giving back, there are opportunities.”