You and the Refugee Crisis

Refugees in desert

In April General Conference, there was an emphasis on service, and the women’s session was completely devoted to the plight of refugees. The session culminated with the announcement of the IWasaStranger initiative, urging members to use the gift of the Holy Ghost to discern how they can be of help during a crisis of epic proportions.

The number of refugees worldwide right now is greater than at any time since World War II. The globe now counts more than 60 million refugees and internally displaced. The number has nearly doubled over the last decade.

The average time a person is homeless is now 17 years. Some nations are so unstable that flows of refugees may soon pour out of them, adding to the problem.

All of us would like to help, but many of us are groping for the best way to do that with our limited time and resources. Some of us have not noticed refugees in our own neighborhoods, but we feel our service is a bit shallow when we make a money offering to far-flung charities.

Remembering a Time When Mormon Missionaries Helped Refugees

In the past the world has responded to disasters and drought-caused starvation by responding suddenly to the most pressing needs. This model has a limited effect in a crisis like we are facing. Local involvement, by people like you and me, is more important than it has ever been. Individuals, families, and companies need to open their arms and find ways to help.

In this and future articles, we hope both to inform and guide you in your quest to serve.

Who are the Refugees?

Refugees among you may come from any of the countries portrayed in the video above or from others — in the U.S., especially from Mexico, Central and South America. They have varying levels of health, education, language ability, and traumatic experiences. All of them have learned many skills in their home countries and even in refugee camps. But many of those skills are useless in a new environment.

War has not been the only factor leading to the increasing calamity. Disasters, many tied to climate fluctuations, have set many people adrift. For instance, a severe and prolonged drought in Syria has added to or caused unrest. Typhoons also have left people homeless.

Culture Shock is Real

After suffering through traumatic experiences in their home countries, people who choose to flee leave behind the known for the unknown. Living in a refugee camp can be a huge adjustment even for people who were living a modest lifestyle in their home country.

Being cut off from work and feeling completely unproductive is a huge blow to someone’s sense of worth. Separation from family and friends and neighborhood support is another setback. Lack of basic services, even running water, electricity, good shelter, and sanitary facilities is another test. Ill health pursues refugees, partly because of the rough conditions, and partly because of severe stress.

Should a refugee succeed in being taken in by some generous country, he must learn an entirely new set of skills, not the least of which is learning how to communicate. Unfamiliar food, traditions, religions, and lifestyles are not exactly comforting, but the immigrant must adjust.

How Some People are Helping

I recommend getting a pen and notepad at this point. Perhaps even say a prayer before you proceed. See if ideas come to you of ways you can help as you read and view the following.

Joseph Peterson has established a Facebook page called Utah Refugee Hub. On this page people can share their experiences and projects and enlist help. Is this something you can do in your neighborhood, city, state, or country?

Joseph has publicized the work of Lifting Hands International, spearheaded by Hayley Smith in Arizona. Hayley has traveled widely in the Middle East and is fluent in Arabic. She has been to Greece and visited refugee camps there. Her charitable service extends abroad, service she has been inspired to offer.

Why giving cash is often the very best choice.

As you strive to decide how you can help, there may even be an app for that. Since this app is getting national attention, and perhaps soon, international attention, you may be able to use something like it very soon.

And here is the story of Mormon women who are making a difference in Twin Falls, Idaho.

Being a mentor requires simple skills over time, the desire to create sincere, unconditional, supportive friendship. An immigrant may not know how to use kitchen appliances, shop for food, or use public transportation.


How are you helping refugees? What links and sources do you have to share with our readers to help them in their quest to serve?

Gale Boyd is the managing editor for She is a Jewish convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has lived all over the world. She has raised 6 Third Culture Kids and is always homesick for somewhere.