By Misaki Otani, member of Interact in District 5170 (California, USA)
Interact members in my district are raising $120,000 this year to aid Syrian refugees overseas and refugee resettlement in the San Francisco Bay Area. We are also raising awareness, planning service projects, and working to break the stigma associated with refugees.
Why did we chose this project? The main reason is because this crisis is covered a lot in the media, and the issue appears out of our hands, therefore we don’t take action. This project focuses on how Interactors can make an impact internationally from their local communities. Also because this crisis is so complex, like many world issues, we’re striving to educate our fellow Interactors on ways they can mindfully approach these issues and make a sustainable impact.
On a more emotional level, “What does it mean to be a human?” This is the question I ask all Interactors. Refugees are often dehumanized and looked upon as a problem. We want to break that stigma, and really reach the core of the human connection that ties us all together.
Love, kindness, respect. Whatever your response to what it means to be a human — that is what Syrian refugees are lacking right now. It’s an emotional issue, but one that drives us to seek change. As Interactors, it reminds us of our shared values, and why we value service. Why we spend countless hours planning events to raise funds, and why we care so much. Because in the end it makes you feel something. That undying connection we all have as humans, regardless of the borders that separate us.
As a district, we raise thousands of dollars every year for our international service project, but it’s about more than the money. It’s about the statement that we’re making together. The statement that you are a human, and so am I. We are humans, and so are Syrian refugees.