As of mid-2021, there are 84 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. 26.6 million are refugees; 4.4 million are asylum-seekers and 35 million are children. Of this number, 68% originate just from five countries – according to Refugee Data Finder by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “Their numbers have doubled in a decade” – posted Angelina Jolie on her Instagram account. Given this extremely worrying picture of refugees and migrants in the present day, you might be wondering how we got to this point. Climate crisis, persecutions, or war conflicts? The real question should be: how can we help give a bit of hope to refugees and embrace this cause? What kind of help do they need? Lastly, why is it important to work as a community?


According to the Refugee Convention, in 1951, a refugee is defined as “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” Any migrants under these circumstances are able to reclaim their denial of Human Rights in a country of asylum and get support from authorities, such as UNHCR and AMNESTY

High Impact Groups

“We were young at that time. Everything began with anti-government protests reclaiming the renouncement of power. The State intervened with war weapons to repress and silence the people. It didn’t stop there: bombardment against the civilians, and gradually, the electricity and water were suspended. After several months, food and supplies were almost all lost regarding the bombardments in agricultural lands (…). Cities, hospitals, and schools were destroyed, there was no medical service (…). Those were the worst days of our lives, to the point that we could no longer sleep due to the cold and fear (…).” – wrote Abdullah Jajoul, a participant in a High Impact Group of Portuguese Basic held by SPEAK, for his presentation at school in his new host country Portugal.

Abdullah, born in Aleppo, was just 5 years old when he and his family fled to Turkey, when the Syrian war began in 2011, followed by the Arab Spring movements.

Success stories

This is just one of the several success stories from a refugee who is welcomed by his new host community. Social projects based on inclusion play a crucial role when breaking culture. For example: in 2021 alone, over 300 refugees and migrants applied to SPEAK to learn a new language and integrate into their new country.

Success stories like this are highly dependent on the local community’s actions. In other words, imagine having the possibility to rebuild your life but, at the same time, face limitations regarding the lack of opportunities for not speaking the local language? Or facing discrimination? Or not creating a net of emotional support? Fortunately, we have several opportunities waiting for you to create a huge impact in your community and even maybe have an impact, big or small, for refugees and migrants! is a great example of a platform where you can build your profile according to your interests, location (or not, as there are many online opportunities), the cause area and the skills that draw you the most, and finally finding the volunteering that suits you – such as signing up as a SPEAK buddy and sharing your language and culture with others. 

Covid-19 Crisis 

Don’t forget that Covid-19 made the scenario even worse! According to the Global Trends Report “(…) people who have been forcibly displaced or who are stateless have been among the hardest-hit group of society, facing increased food and economic insecurity as well as challenges to access health and protection services”. Thus, promoting awareness in our communities regarding this cause is more relevant than ever.

There are many benefits you can take as a consequence. Community engagement, learning new skills and interests, gaining confidence, and seeing beyond by building new perspectives, as it makes you aware of the global societal challenges and expands your comfort zone. But, for sure, the most motivational one is the satisfaction by the supported side with a closer sense of belonging and by knowing that you impact their lives. It really does fulfill our human spirit. Everyone deserves to feel secure, free, and have a new beginning.

Improve your community

Finally, let’s keep in mind that to support refugees and migrants there is no need to build an online profile, send your CV, or travel so far to make a difference. You only require goodwill, age or gender is of no importance! Do you want to improve your community? Here are some ideas when it comes to helping refugees:

  • Sharing a language as a SPEAK buddy (whether you’re a local or newcomer); 
  • Donating clothes (ex. HUMANA – Lisbon; Leger des Heils ReShare – Utrecht);
  • Donating books (ex. London Children’s Book Project – London; Oxfam – Berlin);
  • Assisting school’s; 
  • Help in a food bank (ex. Refood Foz do Douro – Porto; Lagos Food Bank Initiative – Lagos); 
  • Giving friendly support; 
  • Bringing your friends to support the cause;   
  • Coaching a youth sports team; 
  • An invitation to hanging out/community events;
  • Supporting the local Red Cross;
  • Financial support to fundraisers;  
  • Get a global view of the situation (CPR, supported by UNHCR, provides free courses in Portuguese on asylum and refugee issues)

Author: Andressa Reis

Andressa Reis and is an intern at SPEAK in the marketing and communication department. She moved from Brazil, her home country, last year to study Languages, Literatures and Cultures at the University of Porto.

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