What is a refugee?
Do you know how many people live in your town? Is the number more or less than 400,000? That is the number of refugees that live in tents and other temporary structures in the world’s largest refugee camp in Kenia.
A refugee camp is a temporary settlement where refugees can stay for a short time before they find a new place to live. They are mostly built with tents and other quick-to-set-up shelters.
Many people in the world flee their homes and countries and become refugees because their life or freedom is endangered by war, or due to their religious beliefs, their political opinion, or their race. Other reasons to seek refuge are natural disasters or epidemics.
It is estimated that about fifty million people are living as refugees. Many must leave their homes very quickly and aren’t able to pack any belongings. Many travel in extremely dangerous circumstances — in overcrowded boats, or by walking across deserts or over mountains without enough food or water. Not all who attempt such journeys survive. Especially children and older people are at great risk during their journeys.
Once refugees make it to a camp their ordeal isn’t over. Numerous camps in crisis areas are overcrowded and poorly equipped to serve large numbers of people. Poor sanitation, lack of food and clean water, and infectious diseases make living conditions unsafe. But for families with nowhere else to go, a camp may become home for several years. Refugee children often don’t get the chance to go to school, they may become severely ill or suffer trauma from the terrible experiences they’ve experienced. If they were born at the camp they might not even have a birth certificate or citizenship.
It is estimated that half of all refugees are younger than eighteen years old. Many of them are very bright but don’t have a chance to go to school or college unless organizations or individuals work hard to bring education opportunities to these kids and offer scholarships for college degrees.
What you can do
Donate clothes, computers, or phones to organizations that support refugees. Volunteer with a local organization to play with refugee children or to help them learn your language. Most important of all, lend a helping hand, give a smile and the feeling of being welcomed to people that are new to your country.
By Constanze Niedermaier (Whyzz writer)
The article was first published in the award winning book "33 Things to talk to kids about Global Challenges" by Constanze Niedermaier