If you can, get in touch with people who are actually helping refugees in the area where you live or check reputable (Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, etc. ) websites for information and places to send donations. If you have a mosque near you, go there and ask for information; you might be able to drop stuff off to be given away.
Get out of the way – so many people want to give the thing that THEY love, which is understandable but not helpful. The whole “but they are coming to MY country, they should know what WE like” argument is only made by trolls. The refugees are dispossessed. Give them a chance to breathe/ to get settled. Give something familiar and recognizable. There are so many things needed, switch your focus rather than digging in your heels. If you can’t handle buying a modest bathing suit, then buy crayons. They lost their country – their need is survive is more important than your need to get displaced people to live exactly the way that you do.
Give items WITH what is needed to make them work: give a football (soccer ball) WITH an air pump
Go to your favorite store! Helping others does not mean slogging around and being miserable. If you like camping (I have no idea why anyone would like camping, but I am told it is considered amusing by some people), buy camping headlamps, batteries, camping ice-cream, space-age blankets, sleeping mats and warm socks.
So pick the item that most interests you and get shopping! (what lovely practice for the coming holiday season!)
|modest – adults||some Muslims want to cover their body||buy pants, long skirts and leggings in every size and color|
|modest – kids||some Muslims believe that boys AND girls should have their body from waist to knee covered||buy long shorts and if you want to buy or make dresses, give them with matching bike shorts or leggings|
|swim suits||some Muslims want to cover their body while swimming||swim shirts, swim leggings|
|sensible||I know (and you know) the world needs frippery but in emergencies, be practical||well-made, dark-colored purses; give sport shoes with socks|
|sewing||some people might want to make repairs||sewing kits with thread, needles, scissors, extra buttons and snaps, etc.|
|ingredients – 1||NO PORK, NO ALCOHOL – check the label||if there is a Middle Eastern grocery store near you, have a look; if there is a mosque near you, ask for recommendations|
|ingredients – 2||the person receiving the food might not be able to read English or Arabic||buy items that have photos on the label so it’s easy to know what it is or something that it is a clear container so you can see it|
|don’t assume they will have all the equipment||if you give muffin mix, they might not have a muffin pan or muffin cups||make ‘kits’ in see-through bags so people know it is and have everything they need|
|people need fun||there are still celebrations even in an airplane hanger||give frills like birthday cake candles, ready frosting, and colored hundreds and thousands (sprinkles)|
make sure whatever you give is sturdy, non-toxic and washable
kids will be living with or close to other kids so always give multiples of safe objects: 10 bottles for blowing bubbles, 5 boxes of colored chalk
|Legos||Lego sets (so many pieces, so many chances for one to get lost)||bags of Lego pieces|
|dolls/ stuffed animals||some Muslims believe that there should be no representations of humans (which means no dolls) and some believe that dogs are dirty||soft/ sturdy stuffed animals like bears and dolphins (the perfect shape for a child to spoon)|
|art – 1||art kits with 6 colored pencils, 6 markers, 6 tubes of paint are hard to share with group of kids||huge box of crayons and large pad of paper|
|art – 2||don’t expect the kids will have everything that is needed||give a big set of colored markers WITH paper|
|dress-up||try not to give only one of anything||6 sets of fairy wings, 6 tutus, 6 bottles of scented sparkle body mist, 6 rhinestone tiaras|
|games||anything with lots of necessary pieces like a puzzle||checkers, marbles, rubber bouncing balls, Uno|
|learning||some kids will want to learn/ put their nose in a book||make a kit in a see-through bag with math/ science/ English workbooks, pencils, erasers and stickers|
|kids are messy||people might not have a sink close at hand||give biodegradable wipes for safe and easy clean-ups|
*Note on school supplies: remember that many stores have lists of what is required and some schools have on-line lists that you can download. If you can, get extra pens, pencils and paper, as well as some fun stickers – put everything in a big clear Ziploc or bag and label it -[for example: “grade 4 school supplies”] Please DO NOT put any kind of candy in as an extra treat.
|blankets||great, but can be bulky and hard to move, people might also need warmth throughout the day||heavy shawls that can be used as a blanket and worn around the shoulders; if you give a blanket put it in a cloth/ canvas bag so that it can be carried|
|people need ways to organize and remember||people might have a lot of papers to keep track of||give study folders to help people keep documents, blank books with pens|
|lights||candles are not a great idea in crowded living conditions||battery operated candles, night-lights and lanterns (give with extra batteries!)|
|study aids||some people might want to focus on what comes next||make a kit in a see-through bag with an exam test prep book (like IELTS), pencils, pens, erasers and notebook|
|lotion||some lotion/ body scrub is packaged so it looks like food with photos of fruit||lotion is always needed (and prevents medical problems caused by split/ cracking skin) but donate types that don’t look like food|
|period supplies||some Muslim women will not use tampons||give pads and tampons|
|hair||hair removal is important for some Muslims||give wax strips/ sugar hair removal kits|
|grooming kits||some people will need basics||kits with nail clippers, nail scissors, emery board, tweezers, small mirror, etc.|
|medicine||people might not be able to read the label or know the name/ use of the medicine||give basics like Vicks, lip balm etc.|
If there is a refugee center near you and you have a skill – see if it might be appropriate to go and donate your time or pay for someone to work for a few hours (cutting hair, making balloon animals or face-painting for kids, etc.) At later points, people might need help filling in paperwork and getting kids ready for schools.
[I showed this post to a friend who yelled “THEY ARE IN DISTRESS and you are talking about cake frosting and fairy wings?!?!” Yes, I am talking about cake frosting because the world contains multiples. In an emergency, some people will show up with 10 dirt-brown wool blankets and 10 sacks of rice and some will show up with rose-scented hand cream, pencils with pom-poms, coloring books and fuzzy purple slipper socks with no-slip soles and little blue bows. No one person in the world decides what is best. As long as you are thinking of the recipients, and not your own wishes, shop with joy.]