5 examples how social media helps the refugee crisis

There is a whole world online that seems to be working together to bring awareness and ease suffering of those involved in the growing refugee crisis. While traditional media reports news and statistics, the stories that are told and shared in the social media community focus on the human aspect of the crisis. On social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, you read stories, see images, and watch videos that follow the journeys of these refugees and the people on the ground working close to them. Keep reading to find out 5 ways social media has helped the refugee crisis.

These visuals and videos stir up emotions and offer a way for those who want to to help that newspapers and broadcast channels fail to do. Social media is an amazing tool for raising funds to help individuals and organisations that are seeking to ease the crisis. The use of hashtags is a way to spread the word and in its most effective use can have a global reach within hours, even minutes. Hashtags connect people, ideas and solutions. They don’t just bring awareness, but they inspire a call to action. Hashtags invite people to be part of the conversation. [It’s easy for viral news stories, images and videos to fade from memory, but hashtags create topics and an ongoing conversation.] Hashtags like #withrefugees centre on the human and inclusive aspect of the refugee crisis, uniting those that are suffering with those that want to help, and other hashtags like #teamrefugees which encompasses the awareness of the remarkable refugees competing in the Olympics, highlight their incredible journeys and hardships they’ve had to endure in order to reach this goal. There is evidence that people online want and DO help these refugees.

Here are 5 examples of how social media has directly had a positive effect on the refugee crisis:

1. World Food Programme: #Adollaralifeline

In 2014, the World Food Programme was forced to suspend their food voucher programme for 1.7 million Syrian refugees due to a lack of funds. They didn’t have the time to fundraise through their usual and traditional avenue of fundraising, so they took on the modern approach of turning to social media and asking the public for donations through their #adollaralifeline campaign. Their ambitious campaign was to raise $64 million by collecting $1 from 64 million people across the world within 72 hours. Through videos, images, tweets and their hashtag #adollaralifeline they were successful and were able to immediately resume their program.

2. The WorldWide Tribe

In August 2015, Jaz O’Hara visited the ‘The Jungle’, the refugee camp in Calais, France. When she came back she wrote a post on Facebook conveying the raw emotions she felt after seeing the refugees and what their lives were in the camp. She wrote that she was planning a return trip to the camp and was collecting donations. The post went viral overnight with over 65,000 shares. Donated goods for the refugees in the camps started arriving to her home and within days, she needed to hire a storage facility and gather the help of her friends. At the moment, The WorldWide Tribe was born, a grassroots organisation run by Jaz and her friends that responds to the humanitarian crisis on the ground and works directly with refugees in the camps across Europe and Asia listening to their stories, helping to ease their suffering, and aiding them in continuing their journey from the camps. They also fundraise for many specific cases such as finding healthcare for Noor, a Syrian refugee paralyzed during a bombing who now lives in Turkey, raising money for ‘Jungle Books Kids Restaurant’, a restaurant that serves children at the camp in Calais, and helping to keep Hamed from being deported back to Afghanistan.

You can follow Jaz O’Hara’s Instagram account to follow her travels and read stories about the refugees that she meets, and help The WorldWide Tribe.

3. #BuyPens – The quest to help Syrian refugee Abdul Halim al-Attar

When the online journalist Gissur Simonarson tweeted this image he took of a Syrian refugee selling pens at a traffic light in Beirut with his sleeping daughter draped over his shoulder, it went viral almost instantly and provoked the concern of online community. With the help of Twitter users in Beirut Simonarson tracked down the refugee, Abdul Halim al-Hattar, and started a crowdfunding campaign for Abdul called #BuyPens. The initial goal was $5000, but it passed that goal within 30 minutes and managed to raise $191,000. With the money, he managed to send some to his family in Syria, move into a bigger flat with his two children, and open a bakery shop. Since then he has added a kebab shop and a small restaurant and employs 16 Syrian refugees that live in Lebanon.

#BuyPens Social Media Refugee Crisis CreativeConnection

4. One Child Refugee – The Facebook comments section

Humans of New York Syrian refugees greece One Child Refugee Social Media CreativeConnection Refugee Crisis

Another organisation that started via Facebook is One Child Refugee. When American Marie Beechy came across a image on Facebook about the Syrian refugee crisis by the popular blog Humans of New York, she noticed a comment by Anca Ponea. The image was of a small inflatable boat of refugees arriving on the shores of a Greek island and Anca Ponea commented that she lived near from where the picture was taken and sees boats arriving daily. She described her sadness, guilt, frustration and sympathy for these refugees and Beechy was touched by her comment and wrote to her and asked her how she could help. Another American Laneyse Hooks read her comment and responded as well, saying that she’d like to help. So the three of them, Beechy, Ponea, and Hooks decided to work together. Ponea saw the countless refugees struggling to carry their possessions with children in their arms and she thought that the thing that the needed the most was a pram. They created a facebook page and soon they were shipping prams, clothing, blankets and more to refugee camps in Turkey and Greece. Their activity caught the attention of Facebook and they wanted to help. Nowadays, One Refugee Child works to improve the lives of refugee children.

5. Humans of New York

Humans of New York Refaai Hamo Social Media CreativeConnection Refugee Crisis

Humans of New York is a popular Facebook page. One day they featured Refaai Hamo, a Syrian scientist and academic whose wife and daughter were killed when their home was destroyed by a missile. He was forced to flee to Turkey with four of his children, yet as a Syrian refugee in Istanbul, he was not allowed to work and had no access to healthcare even though he was suffering from cancer. His story reached the actor Ed Norton and moved him to start a fundraising campaign for him which raised over $450,000. Hamo managed to find asylum in the US with his four children and was invited as a guest to Barack Obama’s last State of the Union address.

Your thoughts:

Do you find out information and read personal stories about refugees through social media? Do you think social media is a good tool for telling stories that traditional media is not focusing on? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.


CreativeConnection is a supporter of causes that help ease the pain and suffering of refugees. Our social media marketing, scribing andgraphic facilitation, animation studios and coaching and consultancy teams are keen to work on projects with similar organisations. We are eager to get the message across to communities across the UK as well and our Instagram and social media marketing team are looking for the next opportunity to show off their skills in getting great messages and engagement with this specific sector group. If this sounds like you or your organisation, please get in touch. To find out more contact Giovanna Coppola and sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of this page to keep up to date on what we’re up to.

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