I can hardly look at the photos of the refugee children anymore. I literally feel sick to my stomach to think of these children lining up for food in refugee camps, of having to flee their homes in the night, of living in colourless camps waiting… waiting for something.
This is why we have teamed up with friends and neighbours to sponsor a refugee family. I feel very strongly that is my turn to step up. In past wars and conflicts it was my ancestors that had nowhere to go, many of them eventually exterminated by war and hatred. (For more info on my sponsorship journey, read my post at Today's Parent)
But now we lead a comfortable life in Canada. How could I not pay it forward when I am surrounded by such gifts?
It was an easy decision for my husband and I (along with 19 other families) to step up to support and settle a family. But explaining it to our kids has been more challenging than I thought. How do we make them feel connected to a family who is far away living a life that they will (hopefully) never know?
Yes, we talk about it at dinner. I even showed the older boys the photos of where Syrian children sleep, which haunts me.
Then Unicef sent me their 360° viewer, which along with a phone app shows a video about 12-year old Sidra who is living in the Za-atari refugee camp in Jordan for 18 months. The technology gives a true 360 degree view of her surroundings, her school and the pathetic soccer pitch. It’s nice to see video game technology used for good. In fact, it goes one step further it inspires empathy.
I was able to say to them that our sponsored family may be one of Sidra’s neighbours, they could be in that camp right now, looking out at the barren landscape. They probably wishing that they were home but they are there – and the best hope they have is that the world helps them.
As Mr. Rogers says, look for the helpers. So I told them about Unicef, how Unicef provides food, shelter, medication and schooling to these families. Unicef tries to help the millions of children who are at risk because of armed conflict, they work on the ground, and in the political sphere trying to make the world safer for all children.
As a family have also decided to give Unicef Survival Gifts out this holiday season. The kids are leaning towards ones that provide education and schooling to the kids in the camps. (It’s funny, kids say they hate school but they recognize how important it is.)
I have always given out the Survival Gifts as teachers’ presents because I think that teachers probably have enough mugs. I have had many, many thank you notes that say it is the best gift they have received.
My kids were so moved by the video, that my budding director decided to produce a commercial for the Unicef 360 and the survival gift program. Watch it to see the world through a 12-year old’s eyes.
*Sponsored but 100% authentic