One of the the most intense parts of being at the TED Global conference in Geneva last week was watching Melissa Fleming’s talk on the Syrian refugee crisis, and having a Q&A session with her afterward.

First, check out her talk:

Aboard an overloaded ship carrying more than 500 refugees, a young woman becomes an unlikely hero. This single, powerful story, told by Melissa Fleming of the UN’s refugee agency, gives a human face to the sheer numbers of human beings trying to escape to better lives … as the refugee ships keep coming …

Bet you can’t watch it without crying.

Because of the work that I do as a TEDx organizer, I was very fortunate to attend a private session with her and hear her answers to some very challenging questions.

In the Q&A session she made a very 2 powerful points: 

TED Talk Syrian Refugees, Melissa Fleming

Melissa Fleming & I, TEDGlobal, Geneva

  1. The situation that these refugees are facing is so incredibly horrible that they are willing to take risks such as the one described in the video.
  2. People would not take these kinds of incredible risks if there was a safer, legal way for them to leave.

Can you imagine living in a situation so desperate that you’d stow yourself away in a boat and risk death on the open sea, just for a chance to arrive in a country where you knew no one, and didn’t speak the language? If you can, then imagine over 5 million people living in that same situation. That’s the magnitude of the issue we are dealing with in Syria.

The solution is for countries – and individuals – to step up to make room for the Syrian refugees facing these situations, before they take the risks to do it illegally.

Thankfully, as shown in this past week, my home country of Canada is leading the way.

Canada’s pledge to take 25,000 refugees from Syria (including 2000 to my home city of Winnipeg) is noble. (It’s also 2.5 times more than our neighbours in the US, even though we are 1/10th the size.) However, when you consider that there are in excess of 5 million Syrians displaced from their homes, it becomes clear that much, much more must be done.

How Everyday People Can Help The Syrian Refugee Crisis

This is a big problem, but it can be solved.

Here’s a list of 6 ways that everyday people like you & me can help:

  1. Donate to MOAS.  MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) is a Malta-based registered foundation dedicated to preventing loss of life by providing professional search-and-rescue assistance to people in distress at sea or trapped on unsafe vessels. They have saved 11,685 lives (and counting) by sending boats to rescue refugees at the world’s most dangerous border crossing – the sea.
  2. Register at Refugees Welcome. Refugees Welcome (Flüchtlinge Willkommen) is like Airbnb, for refugees. If you have a spare room in your home, you can register to host a refugee. You can also get paid as many of the countries on the site (mostly in Europe right now) have government programs to cover the costs of housing the refugees. Help people, make money. What could be better?
  3. Support the UN efforts. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is providing on the ground support for Syrians displaced from their homes into refugee camps. The conditions in these camps are incredibly difficult and your donation can make a big difference.
    • $20 – Could provide two families with synthetic mats to prevent them from sleeping on the ground.
    • $50 – Can provide high thermal fleece blankets to help protect a family from the elements
    • $100 – Could provide a family with a stove so that they can cook for themselves
    • $550 – Could provide a whole family with a tent to shelter them from the elements
  4. Sponsor a refugee. You don’t have to do it alone, you can form a group in your community to spread out the financial and administrative responsibility. Organizations like LifelineSyria can help.
  5. Petition your government, local all the way up to federal, to do something to help.
  6. Share this post – and others like it – to raise awareness of this issue and replace the fear-mongering and political propaganda with facts and compassion.

If you’ve taken any of the above actions, let me know in the comments below or send me a tweet. I’ve got a special gift to recognize your efforts to make the world a better place. (Yes, you’re literally changing the world. Boom!)