DESPITE the world having the most number of displaced people in history, migration is still a controversial topic. There are currently 68.5 million people forcibly displaced globally – 25.4 million of whom are refugees.
Refugee: a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or violence – a refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group
44,400 people flee their homes EVERY day because of conflict and persecution. There are currently five major refugee crises – over 2/3 of refugees have fled from one of these countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar (Burma) and Somalia.
Moved by the viral image of a lifeless three-year-old, Alan Kurdi, who washed ashore on a Greek island, one young Indian woman was determined to make a small difference in the lives of displaced people, despite not having any political clout, money, influence or resources.
Mechanical engineer-cum-educator Pooja Pradeep, then 23, was distressed by how little a tragedy such as this actually changes how the world watches war.
Emboldened by the words of Leo Buscaglia, ‘too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around’, Pooja decided to do “whatever I can, with whatever I have, wherever I was. I decided to write a letter.”
Connected with the UN Refugee Agency in Gaziantep, Turkey, Letters of Love set out to deliver handwritten colourful messages, to some of the tens of thousands of refugee children living in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. Since 2015, they have delivered postcards to more than 30,000 Syrian, Iraqi, Yazidi, Palestinian and Rohingya children from 20,000 youth from around the world.
Besides offering emotional support to children suffering from the effects of war, the initiative aims to educate, instil empathy and sensitise youth on the global humanitarian crisis through the power of the written word.
Pradeep believes that something as simple as a letter can change a child’s perspective: “As we grow in a world fuelled with bigotry and intolerance, we lose touch with that streak of compassion that we had as kids. So, if you show children that there is a way to be kind, they will take it, and in fact, lead it.”
Want to spread joy? Getting involved is as simple as clicking a ‘joyful’ photo, writing a short message of ‘love, hope, and best wishes’ (it will be translated by the team) and submitting it online either through their website or Facebook page.