For four years, we’ve heard the words “Syria” and “biggest humanitarian crisis.” For four years, people have been sending their old mittens, socks, backpacks and jeans. These items have been loaded in boxes, packed into shipping containers, and sent halfway across the world to reach any one of the dozens of refugee camps housing Syrians. Occasionally, people will buy new items and ship them. Sometimes, we’ve reached out to our neighbors, friends, colleagues, asking if they can take an extra suitcase with them on their next trip to the region. “It’s for a good cause”, we tell ourselves. “It’s the least that we can do.” But is this the best that we can do?
At Karam, we believe that we can do better. We can be more efficient. We can be more effective. We can do more to help Syrians and their host communities. We believe in Smart Aid. That there is more we can do to better a Syrian’s life than provide lightly used mittens.
Instead of sending your used clothing and books, we’ve proposed for you to sell them. Selling them and then donating the proceeds for sustainable initiatives directed at those in need will give ultimately benefit Syrians far more. We’ve proposed for you to sell things you no longer have a need for to provide Syrian children with something that they desperately need: an education.
WHY ‘SMART AID’ IS ESSENTIAL
By donating money directly, we are being more efficient. Shipping containers take at least three months to travel to ports in Turkey or Lebanon. Those coming in from the United States occasionally need longer than that. Once they reach Turkey or Lebanon, they must go through a thorough customs check. Then, they must be transported onwards to the Syrians in need which can take an additional few weeks.
An online campaign asking for monetary donations is a faster, more efficient way to responding to the urgent needs of Syrians. Online campaigns can also support projects that are already active, meaning the donations are put to use immediately upon receipt.
Sending something like a shipping container is also extremely expensive: money is spent purchasing or renting the container and shipping it, with even more money spent on administrative and bureaucratic costs imposed by customs officials. Once the items are received, they must also be stored in large warehouses which cost money to maintain. Money that could be better spent.
By selling your stuff online, the donation directly aids the #Innovate2Educate campaign. No middle-men, no customs, no exorbitant and unnecessary costs.
When faced with images of the cold and hungry, our first inclination is often to give. However, after 4 years of conflict and the growing dependence on aid within refugee communities, we must look towards a more sustainable way to provide for populations in need. As the adage goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Shipping-in aid, asides from being extremely costly and inefficient, has a negative impact on local communities and their economic capabilities. The shipped in products can flood the market, which causes local manufacturers and sellers to lose business. Furthermore, the shipping in of aid creates populations that are dependent on aid in order to survive. People are no longer able to function independently in the economy because of the high levels of dependency and inability to break free.
Ultimately, while immediate aid in the form of clothing and food baskets is needed, the long term effects of such aid ultimately creates aid dependence which perpetuates poor economic conditions that cause populations to require such aid in the first place.