The UNHCR has reported that 65.3 million people have been driven to flee their homes due to war and persecution, and this number does not seem to be decreasing. While the politicians are discussing how to solve the issues with the increasing number of forced migrants, young people are taking action to improve the situation for residents in the refugee camp. I talked to Chris Tabet, 21, from Lebanon, who together with two other students started the initiative “Zaroorat”.
Chris Tabet grew up in the Middle East. He says that it opened his eyes very early to the issues of war and inequality, which frequently lead to the displacement of people. He studied Political Science at the University of Florida, and he did an internship at the Lebanese Mission to the United Nations in New York last year. At the UN’s Headquarter, he foremost worked with issues related to the Global Goals (the Sustainable Development Goals), migration and Palestinian refugees. After his internship, he felt a desire to help refugees and migrants. As he stated:
- ”I believe we all have a responsibility to ensure that we are all equal and help in whatever way we can.”
Together with two other students from United World Colleges, he went to the Calais refugee camp in Northern France. After long discussions with the people there, and after volunteering with several organizations, they noticed that there was a lack of information being shared and collected about the camp residents’ real needs. Chris and his colleagues saw their chance to contribute. With a team of ten people, they started to create a framework that organizations could use for collecting and sharing information about the needs of the refugees. They called it Zaroorat.
- ”Our desire to start this project came from the following guiding idea: nobody knows what people need, except the ones who need it. To come in and make assumptions about people’s needs without at least having a basic form of their input or communication is one of the largest problems that exists in development today”, says Chris.
So how does Zaroorat work?
Zaroorat is a survey about the camp residents’ needs. A team of volunteers from an organization called L’Auberge des Migrants carry out the survey every morning. In the afternoon, they deliver the items needed by the camp residents in order to provide for their needs that day. This survey could then be expanded to include the different types of aid delivered by other organizations and shared with them.
Chris hopes that Zaroorat can be seen as a way of reaching the Global Goal 10 (to reduce inequalities within and between countries) and especially target 10.7, since it aims to help organizations to deliver aid more efficiently and coordinate information between one another, with the aim to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration.
- ”If there is one thing I learnt during my time as an intern, it is that for change to occur, it is important for it to happen at an intergovernmental level, but it is just as important for it to happen at the grassroots level”, he states.
If you want to do something for a cause like the Global Goals, Chris has two advises:
- Start working on your idea and make it happen! It is better to start rather than to never start at all. If you learn that your ideas have some small flaws, you will be able to work on them and fix them later on.
- Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Make sure that when identifying a problem and trying to resolve it, you consider what has already being done in the area, and build on those ideas.