June 20 is World Refugee Day – a moment to recognize the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home countries. Escaping conflict or persecution, refugees seek safety across borders and often have a difficult time finding it. Families can spend years—or decades—in limbo as they search for a better life.
The American Red Cross helps refugees in the United States and around the globe. But it’s important to recognize that refugees are not just the recipients of humanitarian aid and comfort – they’re the providers of it, too. They are the first to step up, to take action, and help their communities get through tough times.
One of the helpers is Nur Mohammad, a refugee from Rakhine State, Myanmar. Nur lives in a displacement camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh and helps his fellow refugees prepare for emergencies. “I spend my time volunteering with the Red Cross because I want to help families who have nowhere else to go. I learned about first aid and cyclone preparedness and now teach my community how to stay safe.”
And there’s Nurjahan, who also lives in the sprawling camp – which faces rain, strong winds, landslides, and flooding. “We go door-to-door giving people information about what to do if a storm hits,” she said. Nurjahan has learned first aid, search-and-rescue, and other preparedness skills so she can be a first responder during emergencies. “We know what to do if a cyclone comes,” she remarks.
Shamira and her family are offering a different type of support to fellow refugees: beauty. Most families in her displacement camp grow vegetables on their roofs or in the tiny plots of land afforded to them. But Shamira and her family grow flowers instead. In a place that can often feel hopeless, the flowers offer a sliver of sunshine. “Our family likes to watch the flowers grow. It brings our daughter some happiness and excitement, says Shamira. Her husband has tended flowers his whole life and insisted on planting them in the displacement camps because “beauty is important.”
As we honor World Refugee Day, let’s remember the needs—and also the contributions—of the men, women, and children displaced from their homes seeking a better life.
For updated statistics, visit the UN Refugee Agency’s figures-at-a-glance webpage. For more information about the Red Cross’s work, visit here.