Buddhists Put Compassion in Action in NYC
We’ve all heard about the refugee crisis. We’ve seen their images on the news or read about them in the newspaper. But how much do we really know about the daily struggles faced by the Syrian refugees? We watch or read news, but can we really comprehend what it would be like to see our neighborhood, schools and hospitals indiscriminately blown up by barrel bombs?
Can we imagine the horror of going to sleep at night, not knowing whether we’d wake up, or, indeed if we even wanted to? All the while fighting off gnawing hunger, fear and grief. This, we must know, would be an untenable life.
For those who find a way out of this war zone, they find yet another challenge: Life in a refugee camp. Of course, the word ‘camp’ connotes the KOA experience many of us may have had in our childhood, or perhaps camping with a scouting group. These personal references, however, do not reflect the reality on the ground. Many of these camps are more like tent cities, often housing thousands of people with little security, privacy, and minimal access to basic hygiene. With an inadequate number of latrines, disease can run through an encampment with deadly speed.
Empathy: Putting Ourselves in Another’s Place
Imagine being forced to leave everyone and everything you’ve ever known. Then imagine traveling to an uncertain future in an unknown land. Most of us can’t conceive of uprooting ourselves from the comfort of our lives. For thousands of Syrian refugees, life was neither comfortable nor sustainable in their native Syria. As many refugee camps became inundated, facilities providing water and sanitation were quickly overburdened. Imagine trying to live without a toothbrush, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, or hand soap for a day? For many refugees, living every day without these basic necessities is a way of life. Most of us would find living without these items unacceptable. As mentioned, lack of basic hygiene products among refugees can lead to dermatological problems, infections and disease. It also erodes the sense of human dignity with which every human is endowed.
On Sunday, June 26th of 2016, members of Compassion NYC put compassion in action and joined Heart to Heart International and the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian refugees at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City to assemble emergency hygiene kits for Syrian refugees. These kit contained items necessary for basic hygiene, such as shampoo, underwear, soap and small washbasins, which can help prevent the spread of disease. We also assembled kits designed to meet the specific needs of women and girls. They are an especially vulnerable population during times of crisis.
“I want to do more actions like this,” said Jerry Gerber, of New York Insight. “It’s worthwhile, and I know I’m helping people.” He echoed the sentiments of close to 1,000 people who came together to assemble 7,500 kits. Heart to Heart sent the kits to Turkey for distribution to various refugee camps. We found it touching to reflect that “this kit, which I now hold in my hands, will soon be in the hands of someone else across the world. In that way, we will have connected.” When we put compassion with action, we truly can change the world.
The Great Challenge of our Time