Our refugee and conflict-affected team members are our #RealLifeHeroes who took heroic actions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This World Humanitarian Day, iACT recognizes that those receiving humanitarian aid can also be humanitarians themselves. We have seen time and again that being displaced by conflict does not mean a person cannot show up for their community. That being in need of humanitarian aid does not mean that you yourself cannot be the aid worker, cannot be the one bringing assistance to your community, cannot be the one at the table with the broader humanitarian network.
This year’s World Humanitarian Day theme, #RealLifeHeroes, recognizes humanitarians who showed especially heroic acts throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic. When iACT thinks of who those heroes might be in our community, we look no further than our amazing refugee team members who stepped up in monumental ways throughout the pandemic.
From the very early days of the spread of Coronavirus, iACT’s refugee colleagues across the globe worked tirelessly to support and protect their communities. As Little Ripples Ponds and Refugees United Soccer Academies closed down in those first few months, teachers and coaches became community organizers, walking from house to house and educating their communities about masks, social distancing, and staying safe.
“Here is a part of our response to COVID-19 in Goz Amer camp. And as our community moved to the farms, away from the camp, we were proud to find them on farms, for Coronavirus response. Sometimes we go farther than 43 km.” - Refugee Leader in Chad
“Today my team and I distributed another two hundred copies of iACT fact sheets around two large zones, zone 19 and zone 20. I also successfully trained zone leaders of those zones about iACT fact sheets.” - Refugee Leader in Tanzania
We saw team members from locations like Chad, Tanzania, and Greece communicating back and forth, sharing information, and coordinating how to combat misinformation in their communities. They maintained their commitment to bringing easily accessible and accurate information to those who needed it most.
“We have created many WhatsApp group chats here in [refugee camps] Nduta and Mtendeli. Truthfully, this method is helping us a lot sharing the information, including Facebook.” - Refugee Leader in Tanzania
Further, they listened to their communities and adapted their own strategies. For example, in Tanzania our team members realized that the women in refugee camps were most often the point of contact. So their female team members took the lead as they went out into the community.
“We’ve been doing an incredible job together with [Refugees United Soccer Academy] coach Jeanette. I always thank her for the bravery and willingness she has shown us in this work of serving our community.” - Refugee Leader in Tanzania
They came together to create a universal sign to show unity with each other, sharing and posting images of themselves with their hands over their hearts. Showing solidarity not only with other refugee communities, but also with US teammates who were struggling with the virus as well.
iACT’s global community of volunteers came together to translate COVID-19-specific health and wellness documents into 12 different languages. These handouts explained the importance of mask wearing, handwashing, and even how to grieve when we can’t be together.
When the world began to shut down, and NGOs and the United Nations were unable to send teams to these areas, our #RealLifeHeroes stepped up. We remain in awe of their courage and commitment to the health and wellness of their communities.