Because we can’t do nothing: Practical ways to help the refugee crisis

It’s been quite the past few weeks, news-wise. I’ve watched, as many of you have, with heartache as parents, grandparents, children, and neighbors transitioned into life as a refugee. I’ve also watched, with tearful admiration and solidarity, thousands of people who’ve rolled up their sleeves and played parts small and not-so-small in this, the largest global refugee crisis we’ve seen since World War II.

If you’re like me, you’re desperate to do something, but it’s hard to know even where to begin. I hope this post might help you out.

Understanding the crisis

• This is a great primer on what, exactly, is happening: 9 questions you were embarrassed to ask about the refugee crisis.

This is a good resource, too.

• Curious about Syria’s history? This post I wrote and recently republished covers some of that. (It’s one of the oldest countries in the world.)

• Sobering thoughts from Nicholas Kristof on why compassion for refugees isn’t enough.

• Kristof also reminds us how easily we should be able to see ourselves in refugees, along with thoughts on how to alleviate the problem at the source.

• A helpful, outside-the-box perspective on what really needs to happen in this crisis.

Photo source

What people are doing

Pope Francis is asking local parishes to take in refugees, just like the Vatican is taking in two families.

• Young Germans have started an Airbnb-esque site that pairs refugees with those willing to share space. Here, they share the positive experience they’ve had opening their home to those who need a roof.

• People wait for and applaud refugees as they enter Germany. More are welcomed here. And here. And here are lots of good visuals.

Photo source

This wealthy entrepreneur moved his family to Malta to found an organization saving refugees in the Mediterranean Sea.

• Eat Chobani yogurt? I will from now on—its founder Ulukaya is donating $700 million of his wealth to refugees.

What you can do

Read this post from my friend, Ann. It’s chock full of practical ideas of what you can do to help.

Sign up for the mailing list at We Welcome Refugees, a recently-banded movement asking churches to take part in the crisis in tangible ways. Find ideas for asking your congregation to get involved.

• Watch—and then share—this video. It’s very useful:

• Take an Instagram and use the hashtag #wewelcomerefugees to share with your people that you care.

instagram screenshot

And last but not least…

Buy a shirt.

Designed by me, these are Next Level shirts (a sweatshop-free company) and are printed in the U.S.


Right now, part of the proceeds will go to Preemptive Love, a nonprofit organization I love that provides emergency relief for families victimized by ISIS.

Head here to order your shirts. They come in a jillion colors and styles.

Guys, let’s band together. We can roll up our sleeves and play our small parts. We can get our kids involved. Twenty years from now, we can tell our family how we responded to the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Live simply so that others may simply live.

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. Lori H

    Great post – very helpful! I want to order a shirt, but don’t see the V-neck that is in your photo??

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      It’s there, but it is confusing. First, select the gender as female—then you can toggle v-neck. I’d change it if I could….

      • Lori H

        Thanks! Ordered….

  2. katy

    Thank you for all of the information you have assembled and put on your site. This is a crisis that we all need to work towards ending, quickly. And, thank you for mentioning our dear Pope Francis. He has moved the hearts of so many! I will pass this along to my friends and purchase shirts.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Thanks! Appreciate it.

  3. Anna @ Feminine Adventures

    Thanks for this! Reading the news and wanting to help but not even knowing where to start can be so overwhelming. Thanks for these simple, practical ideas!

  4. amy

    Hi Tsh, Thank you for this, I’ve just ordered my hoodie. I am thinking of having an art sale with a portion of the purchase price donated to help the refugee crisis. Is that tax-deductible? Is this purchase of the hoodie tax deductible? I am an e-commerce newbie and so I am anticipating customer questions…

    Thanks for any guidance you can provide,

  5. Jeanie

    Hi there. I am troubled by this crisis but I am also troubled by the tangible things we can do. What we should not do is take these refugees over here – we have no way to vet them as to their background. Syria and Iraq are a hotbed of terrorism and we need to help them in tangible ways like food and clothing, but NOT, the name of Christianity, have them relocate over here! The majority of them are Muslim and they need to stay over there folks! They need to be able to return. We cannot take them in as the numbers are too vast, too expensive, and we are overwhelmed. I believe Pope Francis is totally wrong on this by saying we need to take them in-please folks do not act hastily. I do like your idea of the shirt and profits being used to help them, but not the idea of bringing them in (10,000 Obama wants now).

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I appreciate your thoughtful comment here, and that your response is reasonable. We disagree on what would be an ideal response in this case, but I can see your perspective. Thanks for chiming in.

  6. Whitney

    Holy moly, your fb comments section is a political mess, Tsh! Just wanted to say YES and THANK YOU.

    • katy

      I read some of them and had to stop. There is a lot of fear out there and on some level I get it. I guess this is where we need to come together and help those who are in immediate need and encourage our government to engage in diplomacy with other nations. It’s sad and scary.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      It is, isn’t it? My FB commenters on our page don’t even bother clicking over to read the actual post, so I don’t sweat it too much—other than delete, delete, delete. We’re still working on it on this particular one. 😉

  7. Katie

    would like to order a few T’s but the female size chart will not surface. Could you please list size references. Thank you !

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Yeah, I do wish they’d make that more obvious. If you can’t toggle ‘female,’ try to hard refresh a few times (command+R on a Mac). Hopefully it’ll show up.

      • JL

        Should we be able to choose male/female for proper hoodie sizing? I normally wear a women’s XS. Willing to buy a women’s small but not a man’s small…. Thanks!

  8. Sarah

    It is terrible that in one of the articles it is stated that Europe is hostile towards refugees. This is just completely false information and it makes me angry.

    We are really doing what we can over here. There are so many poeple coming and Europe is a smal place in comparison to the US. Also not all the countries are well off. It is not easy to deal with the situation but so many vounteers are trying to help.

    and you know what? There are refugees who are actually complaining that they don’t get enough money, that we don’t give them brand new clothes and on an on.

    It is a real desaster. And I don’t see the US helping in any great way.

    Thanks for your post, Tsh, though.

    Greetings from Germany,

    • Beth

      According to this website: in 2010 12.9% of the people living in the US were foreign born. According to this article: in 2010 6.3% of the EU’s population was born outside the EU. The United States has something of it’s own refugee crisis pouring across its borders. It’s understandable why it wants to be cautious of bringing more refugees across the ocean. It’s having a hard time managing it’s own immigrants and refugees (including LOTS of children). I really appreciate the links showing how we as individuals can get involved. It’s important to see helping others as our problem, not just our government’s problem. If you’re a US citizen and can’t help financially with the Syrian crisis then maybe you can volunteer your time at a school to help the local Latino children who are in need.

      • Sarah

        If you read this article Germany is the second most popular migration destination in the world. There are also loads of immigrants in Sweden, Norway, France, Italy and Great Britain. To state that Europe is hostile towards refugees is totally wrong!

        The world should rather try and find ways to work together and help people instead of blaming. We are all in this together, and we Westeners are also playing a big part in creating unjust/unfair conditions for many poor people by exploiting cheap labour, selling weapons to those countries and using most of the resources for ourselves.

        • Tsh Oxenreider

          I agree that it’s unfair to say Europe is hostile towards immigrants and refugees. From my time living overseas, I can vouch that the media really likes to play up a minority perspective (or a minor event) and make it seem much more catastrophic than it really is. In this case, I think they’re hanging on to a small population’s reaction in order to—well, get page views and ratings up. Sad, really.

          • Beth

            Yeah, I definitely was not trying agree that Europe is hostile to immigration (I don’t live there). I was just trying to cast light as to part of the reason why the US government might not be as eager to get as involved – we have our own immigration issues to deal with. That to say, I think the American people could me much more involved in assisting immigrants both in our own country and abroad. It’s easy for a person to say I think my government should do this _______ and much more difficult to actually spend the time and money to personally get involved.

  9. Haley

    Thanks for this post. Very informative. I just ordered shirts for my family of 4 and can’t wait for them to arrive! And way to donate all the proceeds. You’ve made it so easy to stand behind a product and an initiative. We can no longer do nothing. Thanks again.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      So glad, Haley! Thanks for your thoughtful response.

  10. Amy

    Well, shoot. I came over here to read fun weekend links and I got this instead 😉

    I admit that I am terribly undereducated on this issue; I have been living in blissful ignorance in my little bubble because, well, that’s more comfortable and safe. I am glad to have read the primer and am fully committed to prayer. Because what else in this very moment (as my children are in school and my toddler naps upstairs) can I do?

    The part in the primer that frustrated me was this: “Taking in large numbers of refugees requires accepting that those refugees might bring changes to your nation’s identity or culture. And while that change is often economically and culturally enriching, it can still feel scary. It requires people to modify, ever so slightly, their vision of what their town and neighborhood look like. That change can be hard to accept. You can see this play out in Europe, for example, in the regular political backlashes against new mosques being constructed. Those backlashes are partly about Islamophobia, but they are also an expression of people’s fear and insecurity about “losing” what made their community feel familiar.”

    I don’t totally disagree with this. However, when Islam is featured in the US media for almost any reason, it is portrayed in a violent, destructive way. We are inundated with images of terrorists with their faces covered, children holding guns, women in black burkas (not a negative in itself, but an eery image to most Americans). If those are the things that are going to be shaping my new town or community, then I naturally want to push back. I would want to see backlash in my town if mosques started popping up, because I don’t have any positive associations with the religion they represent. So it frustrates me to read that I’m simply scared of a little change or unwilling to accept an enriching of my culture, because it doesn’t seem all that enriching to me. Perhaps when the media have something positive to offer about these cultures that are trying to assimilate with ours, it might not seem so frightening. (But my hopes aren’t high for anything positive coming out of the mainstream media anytime soon.)

  11. anurban

    love this and love all that it stands for.
    the only reason my heart hurts because rarely any of white folks voice was raised when children from Central American fled from deathly violence from those countries to America, I just pray that our eyes and hearts are open to ALL global crisis, withstanding ethnicity. God Bless!

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