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News > World Magazine Summer 2022 - Supporting Each other for Peace > How can we HELP!

How can we HELP!

How can we HELP? We are witnessing the worst refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War.
Photo from Bogdan Greavu
Photo from Bogdan Greavu

We are witnessing the worst refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War. At the time of writing, over 4 million people have been displaced by the war in Ukraine.

In these dark times, the positive and welcoming response of European countries generally and Romania, in particular, has been  eartening. I could not be more proud of the CEESA network of schools and how they have proactively supported our partner schools in Kyiv and Moscow at this time.

AISB has taken a number of students for these other schools for the remainder of this year. So many in our community – students, parents, faculty, and staff – have given so generously of their time and resources and opened up their homes to support Ukrainian refugees. The instinct to help has been so apparent, which is wonderful. In March, our school hosted a student-led CEESA conference, showcasing student voices, actions, and priorities from across our region. In the opening session, we had two different speakers from Syria and Afghanistan talk about their experiences as a refugee.

They have lived through terrifying times and much hardship. They shared that as refugees they first needed a sense of safety and friendship, and they also needed a sense of agency and to be empowered. The people who have flooded out of Ukraine left behind independent lives, so while receiving charity may be necessary for the short-term, refugees need help to get on their feet and get on with their lives independently and sustainably as much as possible. As we offer help to people in desperate need, we need to think through this lens of empowering others. I have a background in development work in Africa, a continent littered with aid projects that have ultimately been self-serving, based on creating dependency rather than empowering people.

While I have no intention of criticizing anyone who is fundamentally working for good, when we see a social media post of someone with their arm around a refugee, this can read, look at me saving this other person. As much as possible, we need to take our agenda out of our intention to help and meet people on their own terms, giving them control over what can happen next. 

Refugees want to retain their dignity and their sense of self as they face the loss of everything else they hold dear. 

Peter Welch
American International School of Bucharest


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