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3 Holiday Gifts That Will Transform Refugee Lives

With the refugee crisis that has shaken the globe in 2016, the holidays mark a special opportunity to make a difference in the life of a refugee. That is why UNHCR makes it easy to give gifts where they’re needed most through our Gift Catalogue. For less than $100, you can give a meaningful gift to someone you love—a gift that will have a real, lasting impact on the life of a refugee.

If you’re committed to using your gifts to make a difference this year, here are three gift ideas that will have a major impact.

1. Solar Lanterns

refugee reading with solar lantern

Lighting might not be the first thing you think about when you think about refugee camps, but for many refugees, a single lantern can open up a world of possibility. A solar lantern can be the key to education, prosperity, and connection for refugee families. It can also play a major role in encouraging safety and security in refugee camps, especially for women and girls.

In a world of darkness, imagine the difference a single lantern can make.

Refugees in different camps live under different circumstances, but in most cases, refugee camps are erected quickly, which means that electricity is not available in the shelters, and there are no streetlights to illuminate the camp at night either. This means that many of the activities people would do in the evening, such as study, work, or even make phone calls, are not possible. In addition, most shelters don’t have their own bathroom facilities or water sources, which means that people have to leave their shelters to use the washroom or collect water. Without streetlights, many women feel unsafe leaving their shelters at night, which leaves them dependent on male household members for assistance, or forces them to try to wash-up inside their shelters, which can lead to hygiene issues.

In a world of darkness, imagine the difference a single lantern can make. When you purchase a solar powered lantern for $50, your gift gives children the ability to study after the sun goes down. It also gives adults the ability to read, work, or socialize after dark, and it gives women and girls the ability to leave their shelter feeling safe. These solar lanterns are small enough to be carried by one person and provide enough light to help that person find their way through camp after dark. They can also be used to charge mobile phones, which allows people to stay in contact with friends and family outside of the refugee camp. For someone living in a refugee camp, the gift of a solar lantern is more than just the gift of light—it’s the gift of security, connection, and economic mobility.

2. A Teacher’s Salary

refugee child at school

“Refugees have skills, ideas, hopes, and dreams… They are also tough, resilient and creative, with the energy and drive to shape their own destinies, given the chance.” – UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi

Today, there are approximately six million school-aged children living in refugee camps. Of that six million, 3.7 million school-aged children have no school to go to. While 91% of children worldwide have access to primary school education, only 50% of refugee children have the same opportunity. Even more significantly, only 22% of adolescent refugees go on to study in secondary school, compared to 84% of non-refugee adolescents.

refugee children statistics

Despite these low figures, many young refugees bravely challenge the odds to attend school and even go on to become teachers themselves. UNHCR is on a mission to not only help these young people but also make education accessible to all refugees. With a gift of $80, you can help fund the salary of a teacher in a refugee camp for one month. Each gift provides the opportunity for more children to attend school and opens up the door for them to take control of their future through the power of a good education. By helping to provide education today, you are helping to create the next generation of schoolteachers, professors, scientists, lawyers, mechanics, and educated world citizens.

3. Warm Blankets & Mats

refugee child receiving blanket

Refugees in camps face harsh weather conditions every day. Cold nights and even colder winters make warmth a growing concern, and with so many recently displaced people in places like Iraq and Syria, the demand for warm blankets and mats is especially high.

“Winter assistance is vital to ensure that displaced Iraqis and refugees can protect themselves against the cold, and it will be critical for Iraqis displaced from Mosul in the winter months.” – UNHCR Iraq Representative Bruno Geddo

In Iraq, for example—a country where more than 3.3 million people have been displaced since 2013—the fighting that began in the city of Mosul in October 2016 forced 97,000 people out of their homes. Similarly, in Syria, where 6.5 million people have already been displaced by an ongoing civil war, an estimated 40,000 people fled the violence in Aleppo in December alone, with thousands more fleeing every month. Many of these people have fled with nothing but the clothes on their back, which means that they will need all the help they can get to keep warm.

Your gift of $25 is enough to provide two displaced families with blankets and mats, so they can keep warm at night, and don’t have to sleep on the cold ground. Not only does this provide comfort, but it could be enough to save a life. “Winter assistance is vital to ensure that displaced Iraqis and refugees can protect themselves against the cold, and it will be critical for Iraqis displaced from Mosul in the winter months,” says UNHCR Iraq Representative Bruno Geddo. While a warm blanket can make a great gift for anyone on your holiday shopping list, a warm blanket can be especially meaningful for a refugee or displaced person who might not have any other way of keeping warm through the night or winter.

Despite the difficulties that many people have faced in the past year, the holidays are a great reminder of the power of hope in the world, and what better way to invest in the power of hope than to invest in the lives of refugees? This year, invest in hope with a meaningful gift from the UNHCR online store—a gift that will transform someone’s life.