Learning about refugee issues

My internship by Minming Chien

I did not know anything about refugees before I came to Japan in September 2015. What drew my attention for the first time to the refugee issues was the photo of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy being washed up on the beach near Turkey.      The image of his lifeless little body lying on the sands shocked the whole world. With the population of refugees reaching over 60 million worldwide and all the major countries encountering difficulty responding to the Refugee Crisis, I started to think about the question: how can I learn more and get involved?

minming  Fortunately, I found RIJ and submitted my resume to Jane, the CEO of RIJ, at the end of 2015. My internship lasted for almost five months, starting from the beginning of April to the end of August 2016. Since RIJ is a small organization, I got to work very closely with Jane and other staff, volunteers and interns in the office everyday. They came from different parts of the world with a variety of backgrounds. In RIJ, you can do any project you wish to do (as long as it is approved) and your ideas will be appreciated and supported. I have done all kinds of work ranging from research on crowd funding website to helping in RIJ fundraising events. It was always inspiring to be surrounded by energetic and compassionate people with brilliant ideas all the time. I also learnt a lot about the obstacles we are facing as a small Japanese NPO that supports refugee projects overseas.

Since I started my internship at RIJ, I feel that the word “refugee” is no longer something that is distant. We were reading the stories of our beneficiaries and transforming them into materials like manga for people to learn more about the refugee issues. The stories of our beneficiaries also made me think about the meaning of life and work more often as they are improving their lives by their own endeavours, even when sometimes the conditions are not ideal. I am really grateful for having the opportunity to know about these amazing people who are making a difference in their communities and passing love to others as a result of the projects we are funding. Interning at RIJ also made me realize how one person can contribute to the society and change the world little by little. In the mean time, Jane also encouraged us think more about the methodologies of choosing projects that best fit the need of the local community but not just pouring money into project that we think they may need. In all, doing an internship at RIJ is an eye-opening and life-changing experience to me. It has definitely influenced how I perceive the world and global issues. I sincerely appreciate Jane for giving me such a valuable opportunity to intern at RIJ.

This year, we witnessed a greater understanding of refugee problems – it is the first time that there is a Refugee Team competing in the Olympics and the Photography Pulitzer Award goes to the coverage of Refugee Crisis. It has been one year since Kurdi’s death this month. However, there are still two children a day like Kurdi that die as they flee their home countries when crossing the Mediterranean Sea. There is still a lot that we can do.

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