The very beginning
One Refugee Child stemmed out of the crowd-funding project, One Stroller – Many Steps Forward, started by Marie Beechy, an RN living in Louisiana at the time. Marie had ‘met’ Anca Ponea, a woman in Lesvos, through the comments section on the Facebook page “Humans of New York”. The page was doing a special project taking pictures of Syrian Refugees and telling their stories. Anca commented that she lived in Lesvos, saw refugees every day and about the overwhelming sadness of the situation. Marie reached out to her via Facebook message and asked what she could do to help.
Anca had been helping the refugees in small, practical ways; giving shoes, handing out some clothes, and she had also given away five used strollers to families with small children. She had seen families pulling their children and belongings on garbage can lids and the strollers were a great way to help the refugee families who often had long journeys to register on the island or travel on to the mainland.
The strollers really hit home to Marie, the mother of two young boys, and Marie proposed sending some to Anca if she was willing to distribute them. Little did either one of them know that One Stroller Many Steps Forward was beginning to take shape.
Marie sent strollers to Anca, and Anca handed them out. Anca would take pictures and post them to Facebook for Marie to see. Soon, others saw the pictures and wanted to help as well. Marie and Anca had an initial goal of 10 strollers. When they saw others would like to help they started a Facebook page and a You Caring page. Within a month they had handed out 23 strollers. Two months later the total was at 57. Throughout this, Anca and Marie grew to be great friends despite having only ‘met’ via Skype.
Fate took hold
Meanwhile, good friends Claire in London and Megan in Chicago, were chatting about how desperate they felt about the children caught in the refugee crisis. Both looked at their young children and the suffering of the littlest of the refugees and knew they had to do something. Claire asked how do we help? Who do we help? And Megan got down to business. She found Marie after doing a bit of Googling and found a local news story on Marie’s efforts. Facebook again helped expedite fate and Megan tracked Marie. They joined forces with fundraising pages for Megan in Chicago and Claire in London and the foundations of a larger organization were formed.
And then there were two more
Diana, a close friend of both Claire and Megan’s also living in Chicago, saw all the Facebook posts and wanted to get involved. Diana’s father spent the first 10 years of his life living in refugee camps and other temporary conditions following World War II. His experience always lay at the back of Diana’s consciousness, and with the news and thinking about her two young daughters, she had been losing sleep over the headlines and resolved to get involved. She knew if busy moms Claire and Megan could find the time and energy, she could as well. Diana’s professional background in planning large billion dollar fundraising campaigns would definitely come in handy for the charity’s future.
Monica also saw the plethora of Facebook posts from Megan. With three small children herself, she wanted to do something that directly impacted the lives of the refugee children. She offered her skills in international business, marketing and communications and a strong network in the New York Metro area to the burgeoning group.
Still one missing piece
The stroller project was gaining momentum and the Facebook posts were garnering attention. Ceylan, a close friend of Megan’s, wanted to help. She and her family in Turkey helped expand the group’s remit beyond strollers to help displaced children throughout the country. While the assistance shifted from strollers to blankets, winter clothing and boots, the strategy was the same: Grassroots fundraising, local volunteer, pictures that track the funding to the children getting the donations.
One Refugee Child is a registered charity and has tax exempt status in the US. Marie, Anca, Claire, Megan, Diana and Monica make up the board and are driving constant project development and fundraising to provide small comfort and show kindness to children stuck in the middle of humanitarian crises. Many more friends and strangers have come together to support the efforts of this group and as long as there is a need for assistance, One Refugee Child will look to support the most vulnerable wherever they may be.