For The Children: Please Join Me In Supporting Syrian Refugees

September 11th, 2015 by Bita Milanian - 17 Comments

A Syrian refugee kissing his son, while walking toward Greece

Today, I celebrate my first birthday as a grandmother. Our grandson, Hudson, was born earlier this summer and when I held him in my arms, I knew my life was changed forever. Life is so precious – a miracle!

When I, along with millions of others, saw the image of little Alan Kurdi washed up on a beach in Turkey – I reacted as a grandmother. How could this possibly be true? How is it that in this world, innocent children and families are dying because we cannot respond to humanitarian crises, including establishing a system for political asylum and care for refugees even as we spend billions of dollars protecting ourselves from terrorism?

Today, I am doubling down on my lifelong passion for and dedication to the protection of children and invite you to join me, my friends and family, and my wonderful colleagues at GENBAND I am so proud to be part of, to “do something.”

Here are eight ways we can join together and help:

  1. First of all, don’t feel overwhelmed by crises like these – we can all help, whether in small or big ways. Believing we can make a difference is an important step – it changes our attitude into altitude.
  1. Write to your elected officials demanding attention and immediate action to send aid to Syrian refugees; regardless of where you live, you can easily go online, find your state, local and national representatives and contact them either directly or through any number of organizations who are advocating for funds and humanitarian troops. You pay taxes. Help guide your elected officials on where you want your taxes to go.
  1. Share, share, and share again. Whether at your church, synagogue, mosque or community center; whether on your social networks; whether you are at a dinner party or business lunch – let’s talk about this. It is now possible to amplify your voice – in fact you can start now, by sharing this with ten friends and asking them to share with ten friends.
  2. PilosioDonate. Here are a few organizations to consider. But there are many others and they are easier to find nowadays than ever.
  1. Enlist your business networks to help. Don’t be afraid to mix your business life with your philanthropic life. There are many individuals in the business world who are giving back and surprising us with their incredible acts of generosity. For example, Chobani’s founder Hamdi Ulukaya who has pledged most of his wealth, at least 700 million dollars, to help the Kurdish refugees as well as refugees from all around the world or Jonas Elgquist, the Swedish CEO who canceled a corporate vacation trip to Italy organized for the company’s employees to donate the money to the same cause. All of his employees joined their CEO to give up their hard-earned incentive trip to give back.  Talk to your employers or staff to find out how you can be creative in doing similar things. We are doing the same at my company and will soon be announcing our global initiatives in support of the refugees around the world.
  1. Connect with journalists and media outlets covering the news on the ground via their social media channels to have access to factual news from the region and share from the source. One of the great sources I enjoy following is AJ+.  Kudos to all the journalists risking their lives covering the news for us.

AJ

  1. Don’t just think globally – act globally. Early next month, my company GENBAND is sponsoring a business summit in Istanbul and are being supported by one of our partners headquartered in Turkey. While we will be very busy interacting around an important global technology and Internet initiative – we look forward to talking local experts on the refugee challenge to better understand the situation and engage the global business leaders from nearly every continent who will be with us. These executives are influential and we look forward to their supporting ways to help solve the challenges, including with public and private partnerships – and this will scale.
  1. Finally – take some time to educate yourself. The United Nations website is a good place to start.  They recently published a report on the size of the refugee global diaspora. Know the facts, share the facts. Encourage your local school teachers to share with children, so we raise a generation of thoughtful leaders who are compassionate without boundaries. Avoid politics, focus on policy.

refugeegirl

I Am A Refugee

Another reason I am so passionate about helping the Syrian refugees is that I am a refugee from Iran. My family left Iran due to the social conditions at that time, as well as nightly bombings of Tehran where we lived during the Iran-Iraq war. Together with my mother in August of 1986, one month shy of my 13th birthday, we sought refuge in Germany. We were fortunate in that my mother had contacts at the Embassy, which issued us tourist visas.

We had to leave my father, brothers and grandmother behind. We didn’t think it would be our last time in our mother country, but after 10 days of staying at a relative’s home in Frankfurt, we were advised to go to a different city to seek political asylum as the situation in Iran deteriorated. Packed up and left by train to Köln, spent the night in a one-room apt with four other families also seeking refugee status, and the next morning went to the police station with all of our suitcases and belongings to ask for asylum status. We were rejected and told to go back to Frankfurt.

I was so scared that I started to cry and others in our group followed, as we were all scared and worried about what would become of us.  We finally arrived at the Cologne Police Station about 10 minutes before closing time. Thanks to my mother who was semi-fluent in German, the officer agreed to accept our applications if my mother translated for the entire group. I will never forget his kindness.

1982 - Tehran - With my grandmother & brothers at my 9th birthday party.

1982 – Tehran – With my grandmother & brothers at my 9th birthday party.

 

From there our journey began as refugees, living in a one-room, two-star hotel, used as refugee housing, for a year and a half.  My oldest brother joined us after two months, and my dad arrived in time to help us move to the apartment we had found outside of the city, leaving behind his very ill mother and my younger brother who was still serving in the military, while taking care of my grandmother.  My grandmother passed away three years later, with just my brother by her side – the woman whom I adored and had raised us all.

Meanwhile, we had applied for our green card through family in the U.S. and were approved, so our journey to America began in February 1989 where my parents at the ages of 45 and 50 had to start over, once again to support us for a better life and future.  All of these experiences were totally foreign to us, having lived a comfortable middle class lifestyle back home and not having any guidance or information to start lives here in our new home.  This is why I love what my friend Bita Daryabari is doing today through her foundation Pars Equality Center in support of Iranian refugees in the U.S.  I wished my family had access to such services in 1989.

But today – my personal refugee experience seems luxurious compared to what the Syrian refugees are going through.

For my birthday this year, I am so humbly grateful and blessed, now a grandmother thinking even further ahead than I have before. For my birthday, my gifts are my family and friends, and my gratitude of knowing that today we have the tools – the networks – the circles of colleagues – and the ability to organize quickly and continue steadily onward and upward. One year from now, I hope you will join me in looking back and reflecting on the positive difference we are making together – so Hudson’s world twenty years from now will have found refuge – for all.

bsig

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  • binaural

    This is a very inspiring post Bita. I didn’t know about your history as a refugee, and I hope your story goes a long way to motivate all of us to support the refugees struggling to also provide their family’s a better life.

    • Bita Milanian

      Thank you dear Cigdem – my story is nothing compared to what’s happening today – I hope everyone takes some action to help with this horrific situation.

  • Roy Timor Rousso

    These are the brave ones that take ownership on fate and future

  • Parmis Khatibi

    One of my most favorite posts of yours! Thank you for sharing your insight and wisdom and letting others know how to help this critical situation occurring around the globe!

    On another note, Happy Birthday beautiful B! May your wishes come true all in good health and happiness. XOXO

    • Bita Milanian

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and reflect. Blessed to have friends like you in my life! Lots of love!

  • Serge Hamad

    You are an amazing person Bita! Joyeux anniversaire! <3

    • Merci Serge Joon…you are uber amazing yourself!

    • Bita Milanian

      Merci Serge – you are amazing yourself!

  • Lila Noor

    This was so touching and beautifully written!!! You always have very interesting and thoughtful blogs but this one truly stands out! What an amazing thing to wish for and I, as a refugee, want a better future too. Nobody should suffer because everyone should deserve a life full of love, peace, and fairness. Bravo!

    • Bita Milanian

      Thank you azizam…appreciate your love & support always.

  • Mara Marzorati

    Mein Bitalein, although I always knew that you and your family came as refugees I have never seen you like refugees. For me you became my best friend since you joined me in my class.
    When you told me that you will go with your family to Los Angeles I cannot tell you how my heart broke at that time.

    We were children back then and if you look through childrens eyes one’s heart is always opened. That is what we all should keep in mind to keep our hearts opened.

    I miss you a lot and I am very proud of you!

    • Bita Milanian

      I will never ever forget the time I shared with you in Germany. You and your family made me feel special and welcome. And our friendship – priceless and incomprable to any other. I cherish you and think of you as the sister I never had. I can’t wait to share the rest of our lives together and creating more memories together as one, while making a difference in the world for the next generation to come. I’m sure there is a little Mara and Bita among the children who have just arrived in Germany who will one day share a similar story as you and I!

  • Nasim Dehghani

    Hi, I came across your blog on smartgirlsattheparty.tumblr and as a refugee myself, I hope that more people continue to shine light on this crisis and like yourself inspire others to help. If your company needs any contacts in Istanbul, media or otherwise, I would be more than happy to put you in touch with someone that can help.

    Best,
    N

    • Dear Nasim,
      Thank you so much & glad you related to the story – each of us have a responsibility to learn from our experiences and challenges to help humanity. I would love to stay connected with you & discuss ways to collaberate to reach that common goal. Please stay in touch via bitamg at gmail.com

    • Bita Milanian

      Dear Nasim,
      Thank you so much & glad you related to the story – each of us have a responsibility to learn from our experiences and challenges to help humanity. I would love to stay connected with you & discuss ways to collaberate to reach that common goal. Please stay in touch via bitamg at gmail.com

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