Last Thursday, right before I launched the fundraiser, I took my son to a movie.
This is a rarity. He’s almost six, but over the years I’ve only seen two movies in the theater with him. (Three now.) But I knew this was going to be our last chance to see Shaun the Sheep on the big screen. And he’s been very good lately, patient and kind with his little brother, understanding when I haven’t been able to spend time with him. So. Movie.
As we were walking across the parking lot, he said, “Dad, what do you wish wasn’t real?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Is there anything you wish didn’t exist?” he clarified.
“Ah,” I said. Then, because the Syrian refugees had been on my mind lately, I said. “War.”
He nodded somberly. “I wish global warming didn’t exist,” he said.
I was surprised, but not too surprised. Kids are more aware than we assume, so they soak up more information than we think. And as a result, they worry far more than we ever know. And the worries of a child are huge, horrible fathomless things.
When I was a kid, I worried about nuclear war and running out of oil. The first because I was a child of the 80’s during the cold war, and the second because I learned in school that we only had 25 years of oil left, then we’d run out.
I’m guessing I wasn’t alone in those fears. Enough people were worried about nukes that these days we only have about 20% of what we had back in 1986 (Which is still way too many, but better…) Unfortunately, a bunch of people worried enough about the oil thing in the wrong way, figuring out how to get more oil, rather than how to make due with less. Now, as a result, my son is worried about global warming.
Anyway, we go watch Shaun the Sheep. It’s great, by the way. You should go watch it with your kids if you get the chance. The DVD shorts are brilliant too, if the movie isn’t playing in your area.
Then on the way back to the car, Oot asks me, “Can we play a game when we get home?”
“I’d like to,” I say, “but I’m busy tonight.”
“That’s okay,” he says quickly. Almost as if he’s embarrassed that he asked.
This is the part of my life I hate the most: constantly having to refuse my son’s polite, increasingly unhopeful requests for my time. But these days he’s old enough for me to explain why I’m busy. So that’s what I decide to do.
“Off in a different country, there is a bad war going on. There are bombs going off, and people with guns. A lot of people are scared. A lot of moms and dads have been taking their children and running away so they can keep their children safe.”
He just listens. I worry I might be doing nothing more than giving him worries for the future. But I’ve already started down this road, so I keep going.
“But when these people run away, they have to leave their houses behind. They don’t have a place to stay, so right now a lot of those families are just sleeping in tents. They don’t have clothes or food. They don’t have toys. There’s a lot of them, and they need help.”
He’s still tuned in, watching me seriously.
“I’d love to play a game with you, but tonight I’m going to try and help those people. Some of the families have tiny babies, but they had to leave everything behind when they ran away. A lot of them don’t have beds to sleep in or blankets to stay warm.”
Then Oot cocks his head and says: “Why don’t they just move in with somebody?”
This strikes me as a good question.
* * *
Over the last handful of days, our fundraiser has raised almost $250,000 to help the Syrian Refugees.
This is astounding to me, given the fact that we kinda threw this together. Honestly, I was hoping that we’d manage $100,000, but even that felt like a lot to hope for…
What’s even more impressive to me is *how* the money was raised.
When y’all heard about the fundraiser, you stormed in to help. No hesitation. It was like a flood. It made me so proud, and it made me feel less alone. Amanda told me she cried four times that first day of the fundraiser because y’all were so awesome.
Me? I didn’t cry. I spent the whole day laughing. My heart was full of such joy. I laughed more on that day than I had for the whole month previous.
Worldbuilders offered to match the first $25,000 in donations, and I matched the second $25,000. Then, as many of you know, folks started contacting Worldbuilders to offer up money of their own so we could continue to match donations. By the end of our first 36 hours, four donors had given us another $55,000, enough so we could match all donations up to $105,000.
All four donors wanted to remain anonymous. But even if you don’t know their names, you know they’re awesome.
Thank you everyone. Thank you. Thank you. It sounds strange to say, but I really needed this. We’ve done some real good here.
And the fundraiser isn’t over yet.
* * *
Our fundraiser is running for a few more days until late Friday night. So if you haven’t donated yet, there’s still time.
What’s more, we’ve had two more anonymous donors come in and offer to help some matching funds for our final days: one for $5,000 dollars, and one for $3,000.
That means all donations up to $151,600 will be matched. And… Ah, what the hell. I’ll kick in enough to bring it up to a nice even number, and we’ll match all donations up to an even $155,000.
[Edit: Hey guys, Amanda here. Just for clarity’s sake, all donations from the $141,600 we were at when this blog was posted this morning until we hit $155,000 will be matched.]
I’m pretty confident we can hit that in the next couple days. And I’m curious to see how much further we can go….
* * *
Answers to a few questions:
- “Why did you decide to raise funds for Mercy Corps?”
Many reasons, but here’s the highlights:
- 93% of their staff live in and are from the countries where they work – giving them unique insight into the recovery and building long term effects toward resiliency
- They help when an emergency occurs, but then stay beyond afterwards to help with long term recovery
- Mercy Corps has earned the highest ratings for efficiency, accountability and transparency from independent charity watchdog groups
- Over the last five years, 87 percent of Mercy Corps resources have gone directly to help people in need around the world
That said, there are other charities I would have happily thrown in with if Mercy Corps hadn’t been around.
For example, Neil Gaiman’s support for the UNHCR is well deserved. Neil has been out to visit the refugees. He’s been supporting this cause for ages, long before it recently became popular in the media.
Because I live under a heavy rock sometimes, I hadn’t been aware that Patrick Ness apparently got fed up with all of this in much the same way I did, and ran a fundraiser for Save the Children. Tons of YA authors jumped in to help match funds with his fundraiser too. Folks like Hank Green, John Green, Maureen Johnson, Phillip Pullman, Cressida Cowell, Holly Black, and more.
Yeah. Further proof that people are awesome.
- “So what will this money be doing?”
Many things. Because I think in terms of stories rather than factoids, let me share a couple people’s stories with you.
Houda, 13, was an excellent student in Syria with lofty dreams for her future. When the conflict became too much to bear, her family fled to Lebanon — where they’ve resorted to using a cowshed as their temporary home.
“I haven’t been to school in over two years,” Houda told us. “I loved my school and I miss going to class and seeing friends.” She attends programs at one of Mercy Corps’ Child Friendly Spaces, which provide play and psychosocial support for children who have endured trauma, but she hopes to return to school one day.
“I don’t know what the future will bring, but I have not lost my dream of becoming a doctor someday…or maybe an artist. I’m not sure yet.”
25-year-old Zeena was a university student with great aspirations until violent clashes erupted around her home in Syria. She studied philosophy and law and planned to become a human rights lawyer, but those dreams were put on hold when her family was forced to flee to Arbat Transit Camp, a tent settlement in northern Iraq.
There, her studying was replaced with daily chores like cleaning the family’s living space, collecting water and taking care of her brothers.
But Zeena has since found a positive outlet for her energy in Mercy Corps’ conflict negotiation program. She underwent training to become an official negotiator in the camp, and now helps settle disputes between its growing number of residents.
In Syria, 10-year-old Omran had a fun-loving childhood: He went to school, played with friends and enjoyed helping his dad with his construction work. When the conflict uprooted his family and sent them to Jordan in search of safety — they now reside in Zaatari Refugee Camp — Omran became distraught and angry.
“I miss Syria and my home. I miss school and playing with my friends,” he says. “I miss swimming. I played soccer with my cousins and friends in the field behind our house. I miss my house and the graves of my two brothers the most.”
In Zaatari, Omran plays soccer every day through Mercy Corps’ sports therapy program, which uses sports to give refugee children the opportunity to make friends and cope with stress. “That’s the only thing that relieves me,” he says.
- “What the hell is happening in Syria anyway?”
To answer this question more effectively than I ever could, I’m going to turn to John Green, who made an excellent video about the history and current implications of the crisis.
- “Why don’t they just move in with someone?”
This is a good question. But the fact that there are more than 4 million refugees make it hard to answer.
The US has offered to accept 10,000 in the next year. And the first thing we have to say is that this is good. It’s a good thing. It’s more than we were doing, and it’s a good first step.
But the next thing we should probably admit is that it’s a very small step toward resolving the overall crisis.
It’s a big topic. But once you strip away all the outer layers, it comes down to the fact that there are families with nowhere to stay. People who left everything behind to to keep their children safe. Families that own nothing. Kids with no beds to sleep in.
If you were in that situation, you’d want someone to help you. To give you a place to stay. Helping people who have been screwed by circumstance is the humanitarian thing to do. It’s the human thing to do.
But the fact remains that even if everyone did suddenly, magically, have places to go. It would take a long time to sort it all out, and they need help now.
So for now, we’re going to do what we can to help.
If you want to throw in with us, here’s the link to our fundraiser.
Thanks for reading, everyone…