I moved to Berlin a few weeks before little Alan Kurdi's body washed ashore, and before all hell broke loose over the refugee crisis. Germany has been bearing a good deal of this.
Despite what the media tells us, it's not a war zone here. Life goes on as normal. Despite the rising of far right movements like PEGIDA, I have not met a single person who has been opposed to helping refugees. But perhaps I just hang out with really nice people.
I've volunteered at shelters, doling out barely digestible food. I've helped out with playdates for the kids. But although I was happy to do something hands-on, I quickly realized that monetary support is what's really needed these days. Here are a few worthy ways to contribute some cash:
1. Help refugees in Germany find homes.
An influx of refugees seeking asylum in Germany means that resources are desperately limited. Conditions are not good, and people sleep in the streets.
Refugees Welcome International allows you to donate money to help refugees find homes (often with other Germans). Most Germans, of course, can't afford to pay rent for a full apartment alone. So, the money helps cover the costs.
This gets the refugees out of the overcrowded shelters, and it provides them with a bit of assimilation into Germany. The website also lists partnerships with other countries, including Canada and The Netherlands.
If you want to know exactly where your money is going, I've donated several hundred dollars to Moabit hilft in Berlin (a shelter). You can peruse its Amazon Wish List and send items directly to the shelter's door. The list includes things like strollers and feminine hygiene products, and you can choose what you'd like to donate.
2. Starfish Foundation
Lesvos is the Greek island that is accepting most of the refugees who come across in boats from Turkey. Three years ago, I worked there for a month. It's a sparsely populated island, and it's unimaginable to me how the people there are handling such stress, on top of the economic crisis.
Most of the work comes down to the locals. The Starfish Foundation is a small organization working on the shores of Lesvos to hand out dry clothes and food to the people arriving from Turkey. It also has a bus service that delivers the refugees to the registration center in Mytilini.
You can peruse its Amazon Wish List to purchase items for shipping.
3. Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS)
The Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) has been in the news a fair bit, but it is worth mentioning just the same. Based out of Malta, MOAS is a private foundation with a rescue vessel (MY Phoenix), which is being used to rescue refugees and prevent deaths in the Mediterranean. So far, they've saved more than 10,000 lives.
You can donate on its website.
4. Small Projects Istanbul
If you've been following the crisis at all, you'll know that Turkey has had one of the biggest roles in aiding Syrian refugees. Small Projects Istanbul provides education and cultural enrichment for Syrian children via scholarship aid. This will help set them up for the future at a time when their futures seem very bleak.
The project was started by Karyn Thomas, a humanitarian who has spent a good deal of time at a camp in Damascus years ago. She has first-hand experience with setting up refugees with education and livelihood support.
5. Collateral Repair Project
When I visited Jordan years ago, the Syrian civil war had just broken out. Refugee camps had already been set up around Jordan. I remember the endless sea of tents.
At the time, it didn't seem like a huge deal. Who knew what was to come? Collateral Repair Project assists with basic food and housing assistance, as well as by providing educational and after-school programs for children.
Donations are always needed because refugees have an extremely hard time getting work permit.
6. The Worldwide Tribe
The Worldwide Tribe has a direct donation page for you to help refugees stuck in the Calais Jungle. While the Jungle has been disassembled recently, it doesn't mean the refugees are any better settled.
You can trust The Worldwide Tribe to use your donation to help these displaced people in need. As it says on its charity page, "We are all the same, the world is our home and we have a responsibility for one another." No donation is too big or too small.