Message to RefugePoint staff across africa

Dear RefugePoint staff,

I know everyone has been working extraordinarily hard this year. In Nairobi our caseload has increased significantly. We are busier than ever there. Those of us working in locations across Africa often face adverse and sometimes even dangerous conditions. But our work is paying off in amazing ways.

We’ve exceeded the goals we set for ourselves, cared for and protected more refugees than we thought we could help, and expanded into more countries than we estimated. We’ve also created a particular ethos around how we pursue our work. We listen to refugees. We attend to them. We treat them as we ourselves would want to be treated. A spirit of caring for those who have no caretakers and providing solace and comfort to those in extremis unites us.

Recently I listened to a Holocaust survivor give a speech. She had been through the Nazi death camps, and then she was forced on a death march. The few survivors of that march we’re placed into a house which the Nazi’s wired with a time bomb and then left. Miraculously a rainstorm came and defused the bomb, and the next morning American soldiers liberated the survivors. At this time the woman was 18 years old. Her hair had turned white. She weighed 80 pounds. She had walked out of the house when a young American soldier arrived and asked her to show him the others. He stepped to the door of the house and held it open for her. She said that that gesture, that simple act of opening the door for her, restored her to humanity. It was the one human thing anyone had done for her in many years.

I was struck not only by the sheer power of the story, but also because I related what she said to our work. The refugees we care for have often survived situations in which life is extinguished easily. They are commonly living in conditions that are dehumanizing. We are not only opening doors to a new life, but we are also infusing warmth and humanity into the most hopeless situations.

When you think of just one of the refugees we’ve helped, say Edith in Michigan with a foster family, safe and happy and doing things a normal 19 year old would do, taking piano lessons, reading the Twilight books, going to college and thinking about the future, instead of fighting for survival as a Rwandan genocide orphan on the streets of Nairobi, then you know how important our efforts are. And when you multiply this kind of impact by many thousands, then we start to see how profoundly we are changing the world. There are few parallels in terms of the life-saving impact of our work.

Thank you for everything you’ve done to make refugees feel safe and to bring a measure of comfort to their lives. I know that each of you in your own way has left a permanent memory with those you serve. You’ve done something equivalent to holding the door open for that Holocaust survivor. Throughout the rest of their lives, many people will remember you for the way you treated them and cared for them this year.

We have a world class team, which makes it such a pleasure to advance the cause of vulnerable and forgotten refugees with all of you. Thank you for a fantastic year. Happy holidays to everyone, and here’s wishing all of you rest and relaxation!