It is easy to recognize that this Christmas will not be the same as the celebrations of the past. We may not see crowded shopping malls, Santa Claus parades, or massive family gatherings. It may be strange for young children who are used to these holiday traditions, but for refugee children, this Christmas will be just like many others.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, more than half of the world’s refugee population are children. Oftentimes, these children are displaced from their homes and their families – two staples of the Christmas season. Many children will go years without seeing their parents or siblings, and often are forced to leave personal items behind. Aside from the loneliness they feel, refugees are at high risk of unpleasant experiences that can have long-term effects on the psyche, such as violent acts, abuse, and trafficking, to name a few.
Refugees are often looking to escape violence as their communities fight against war, religious persecution, or natural disasters. Escaping may provide them with survival, but not always a better life as it is sometimes portrayed. Many refugees are separated from their families and displaced for years to come. Numerous studies by UNICEF provide evidence of various forms of sexual violence and trafficking, severe abuse, and exploitation of these children, and the recent surges of young refugees under the age of 18 travelling across bodies of water make this problem even more apparent.
For these families, there is no other option than to take a chance and leave the dangers of their homeland behind – even though it may mean a more dangerous future – it is still worth the risk. This is a decision many of us cannot comprehend unless we are personally in the situation. It is important to be mindful and still think about what we can do to help.
As we reflect on 2020, it has been a challenging year for many around the world. The uncertainty of what the future holds, the inability to make upcoming plans based on government restrictions and many other feelings of doubt and anxiety affect us. Now think about the life of a refugee, who may experience these feelings every day and for years to come…
Every refugee has a unique story, one I would not pretend to understand the scale of. Their past experiences may pin down who they are in the present but do not define who they could be in the future. Through adoption, they have an opportunity to build a better future, and many of us can make that change possible. The simple pleasures we often take for granted such as a stable environment or unconditional love from friends and family could be the difference in the lives of many refugee children. This can be enough to provide a new direction and a future they can be proud of.
There are many different avenues when discussing adoption, and a lot of angles to consider. Ages, gender, public or private adoption, are areas often discussed but refugee adoption does not get as much attention. Through online and television media, refugees are often given a negative connotation, but every child is unique and processes past experiences differently. It is important to shatter the perceptions we have and do our research into how refugee children are displaced, resettled, and relocated, with no real place to call “home”.
December is the time of year to be merry and get ready for the fast-approaching holiday season. For many, it is also a time of deep reflection, to look back over the past year at good times and bad, and prepare for the year ahead. I challenge you this year to think about refugee children who permanently live with feelings of uncertainty with no real vision of their future. They are young kids who have little confidence, minimal opportunities for education, and who would be extremely grateful for the simple pleasures of a warm meal and the feeling of family. Can you look past the negative imagery of refugees and help them become the best version of themselves? Can you help them discover the potential every child is born with? If you have an interest or want to learn more, please take some time to visit the Government of Canada website to see what steps you can take.
So in the spirit of Christmas and during National Adoption Awareness Month, it is important to be mindful of the vast amounts of children in the world that need help creating a better future. Children who do not have access to food, clean water, shelter, education, loving family members, role models, or even just a safe environment to fall asleep in. All things we often take for granted.
And now with the holiday season in full swing, after a difficult year for all, it is important to think about how we can help. Not all children will wake up to a collection of toys and presents this Christmas, but you can make sure the Christmas’ to follow will be much better.
How can you help?
Make sure that your children participate in the 12 days of Christmas by cleaning their toys and putting them aside to bring to refugee centres where they will be distributed. When children learn at an early age to share, they grow up knowing that their actions can make a difference.
For more information about the different avenues of adoption, please visit our website by clicking HERE. You can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter to stay up-to-date on all things Green Schools Green Future. It is our mission to help reduce the number of families and children who think crossing an ocean to reach a promised land is their only option. If you would like to learn more about our vision, visit our website to donate or sign-up for our newsletter.
Written by Cassandra Briscoe