“Help if you can help.” - Smiler Greely
If you want to help, smile. If you want to make a difference, become a smiler. Smiling, even to a complete stranger, has been shown to increase another person’s willingness to help others. Not only that, the smilee‘s goodwill extends beyond just the one who gave them the smile. Smiler Greely is a Karen (KUH-ren) refugee from Burma, and he is known for two things: helping and smiling.
Our main concern is greeting people in a way that encourages community over division. And nobody needs that more than people from Burma who've been brought to the US as refugees after fleeing the divisive ethnic genocide in their native land.
So give people a smile when you meet them: at work, at the supermarket, on Facebook (we have some suggestions for that below), or just while passing the next person on the street. If somebody looks different than you, smile. Our goal is to get people to help refugee folks, but any advice that would help them works for just being good neighbors. And what refugees need most is for the people they meet everyday to have a positive view of them--a change in perspective. So spread the smile around. Just as Tibetan monks greet everyone they meet with a smile, hoping to make a good first impression in front a potential Buddha, showing your grin to new folks, whether they be refugees or not, might just help them feel like this world we call home is a little less hostile, a little bit better. Smiling is helping. You never know who somebody might become in your life, so give ‘em that smile. Become a smiler.
For Facebook and social media:
And now for something more traditional...
There is no single solution to ensure that refugees resettled here in the United States are provided with the support they need for a better, safer life. Each and every day refugees face incredible obstacles as they try to understand their new environment. Thankfully, there are simple things we can all do to help support the refugee community during this difficult transition period.
Demand Refugees Be Heard
Write your elected official
Many great programs exist for refugees throughout the United States, which help them become self-sufficient. They include: learning the English language and educational support services, employment assistance, entrepreneurial development resources, and counseling for posttraumatic stress and other psychological traumas.
However, it is often the case that the refugees who need these services the most are not getting them. We need to make sure that the refugees are receiving the necessary assistance from the resettlement agencies and federal institutions. Write your elected officials and demand that the assistance and support for refugees is improved.
[Decision Maker's title]
Decision Maker's Address]
Dear [Decision Maker],
I recently heard about the documentary film Nickel City Smiler and was alarmed to discover the lack of support refugees receive when they are resettled in America. After fleeing their home countries because of war, political persecution, or religious and ethnic intolerances, refugees are hoping for a safe life for themselves and their families. As an American, I am proud that we open our doors to refugees in need. However, I am also concerned that the assistance refugees receive in our country is severely inadequate.
Here in the United States, many resettlement agencies are failing to meet the terms outlined in the Federal Reception and Placement Program. Contracted to provide support, these agencies continue to place refugees in dangerous neighborhoods where they are subject to harassment and violence. Other offenses include failures to provide sanitary housing, health services, community orientation, employment assistance, schooling for refugees and their children, and basic necessities needed to function in America. We must ensure that the resettlement agencies and the departments of State and Health and Human Services are held accountable.
It has been reported that the Obama administration is conducting a thorough review of the refugee resettlement system and I urge you to support any initiatives associated with its necessary restructuring. Reform is mandatory due to the inefficiencies in oversight by the Federal departments and the failures of the resettlement agencies to deliver on the promises made to the refugee people.
I also ask that you reach out, if you have not already, to the refugee communities across the country and make yourself aware of their experiences. Together we can provide the level of support and the quality of life each refugee deserves.
[Your comment here]
Your immediate action is needed.
[Your name here]
Visit the websites below to find the elected officials and state refugee coordinators that represent you and your area.
Learn more about refugees
Most refugees come to America for a better, safer life for themselves and their families. To learn more about refugees in America and how you can help, we encourage you to visit the websites below.
Refugee Resettlement Watchdog
To learn more about the Karen people
Aid Organizations and Assistance
News from Burma
© 2011 All Rights Reserved CEP Films