By Lizbeth Francisco, Hannah Haller, Faisal Imami, & Damien Martinez
The authors are seniors at Olympian High School in Chula Vista, CA working together to help refugees by organizing a petition for their cause.
March 5, 2014 (San Diego)-- Nations throughout human history have been torn apart by civil war, natural disasters, famine, and foreign and domestic wars leaving millions of people displaced in a region they once called home. Refugees, as they are called, are forced to live in horrid conditions, usually having to take shelter in government provided camps; these camps however, have no rules on sanitation, drug use, or hardly have an intact system of peacekeeping. Other refugees flee their home countries to seek asylum in other neighboring countries, not facing the same perils as theirs.
At the end of 2012, it was reported that there was at least 15 million refugees in the world. That is 15 million people living in extreme poverty, barely managing to live day-by-day. The US in 2013 had 260,000 refugees, and in 2012, California received about 5,000 refugees, contributing to the amount. San Diego County alone receives 3,500 refugees every year.
Children in refugee families who were once attending school are not left alone at home while their parents desperately seek work in their new environment, leaving these kids to partake in illegal activities such as drug use or robberies. These are kids the same age as us, with barely a meal to eat or clean water to drink; with a hardly a doctor around these kids, and the other refugees, they fall victim and die to treatable and preventable conditions. Imagine it was you in that situation, worrying about your iPhone’s battery life or a barista messing up on your coffee order would be the least of your worries. Now imagine that you have the power to aid these people, and all it would take of you would be just to listen to these refugees’ calls for help, and maybe some leftover change from your pocket to donate to an awareness or relief organization. The project that we are doing is raising awareness.
This problem has been repeating itself throughout history. War and refugees have been a consistent problem in the world, and it is important to know about this because it effects our government, and results in a war that damages our economy. This problem occurs currently in the world today because our own country, America, is at war due to disputes with the Middle East, escalating in a war in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This is relevant to our topic because the current war we are facing has caused many families to leave their home countries in seek of a better life. Refugees are escaping wars so that they can gain freedom rather than coping with oppression.
Our project is connected to a book we were assigned to read, Beautiful Souls by Eyal Press, because it speaks about refugees and the consequences they face with war being involved. For example, in the book, the story of Paul Grüninger directly relates to the struggles refugees face. Paul is a Swiss police commander, who disobeys his duty as such and helps the Jewish refugees flee Austria in 1938. He was able to develop empathy for these refugees and therefore helped them out. Our project is based off the idea of using his same empathy, and using refugees as our key source to emit that empathy.
This year in Olympian High School’s Common Senior Experience project, our group decided to raise awareness for refugees in war-torn countries across the world, and how we can get people to understand their situation. Our group has to work on spreading the word about the struggles of a refugee, which can be done by speaking to groups of our student body, creating informative flyers to hand out to the public, speaking out in the community, and creating a petition to grab the attention of a government official. This project will not only inform others about the situation regarding refugees, but will also prepare our group and our school’s entire senior class to start having a perspective on the world and not just our local environment.
For our project, we are creating a petition to grab the attention of a Senator, to hopefully persuade the government to help fund the Seeds of Peace Organization: an organization in which brings together people of different ethnicity, religion, etc. in order to educate them about each other and hopefully spread peace through them into the world. We believe it is important to do this because many refugee situations are related to people in countries getting into conflict because of those types of differences, and we are trying to prevent that.
You can find our petition on Change.org by visiting https://www.change.org/petitions/sen-dianne-feinstein-speech-on-refugees-in-chula-vista. We hope to gain your support for our cause and help us to spread peace.