Collaborating to Serve Refugees in Challenging Times

This week UUSC organized a convening in Zagreb, Croatia of civil society organizations – many of them UUSC partners – serving Syrian refugees along the Balkan Route. Twenty-six representatives from 16 organizations came together to discuss how they can better coordinate their work, to problem-solve challenges that they face, and to expand their networks in neighboring countries in order to continue serving refugees. It was a privilege to provide the space and hear reflections and feedback from organizations on the front lines of this crisis, many of which experience scrutiny and harassment from their local governments. Because of those security interests we have chosen not to name specific participants.

On behalf of the UUSC family, Rachel Freed and I were grateful for the opportunity to spend time with this quality group of attorneys, case workers, and humanitarians striving to protect refugees in an environment where doing so is highly unpopular.

Participants of the UUSC Convening of Refugee Service Providers in the Balkans.

The groups who participated in the convening face extreme challenges: the closing space for civil society organizations in Eastern Europe, a rising tide of right-wing governments and factions, and general anti-immigrant sentiment throughout the region. When the Balkan Route closed in 2016, refugees headed for Western Europe were suddenly stuck in transit countries ill-equipped to serve the long-term needs of asylum-seekers. Further, both the refugees and the organizations providing services to them faced growing public hostility fueled by a misinformation media campaign similar to what we have recently seen in the United States. Governments are using increasingly aggressive, inhumane tactics to stop the tide of migrants, and there have been reports of border guards pouring water on freezing migrants in the middle of winter, using attack dogs, and other forms of violence and intimidation at border crossings.

As refugees wait for their claims to be processed they are often isolated from the rest of society in camps with varying degrees of accommodations and where their freedom of movement and access to services may be limited. In the camps, education opportunities for children are minimal, and psycho-social support is insufficient to deal with the trauma many have recently endured. The organizations who came together this week are among the only groups providing essential services ranging from legal assistance; protection against gender-based violence and the exploitation of unaccompanied minors; and mobile teams providing medical care. Case management is challenging and the formal systems of care and communication are insufficient. Gatherings, like the one held this week, help the organizations build their relationships—expanding informal networks which are frequently relied on to provide care in such a complex environment.

Participants break out in small groups to discuss the challenges they face and how they can problem solve and support one another.

As the rest of the world turns its attention to other crises, these 16 organizations continue on until the job of resettling and assimilating refugees is done. Much of the funding that was available at the height of the crisis has moved elsewhere and what remains often comes with conditions that challenge the integrity of the mission-driven service providers. As such, the financial support of UUSC members is particularly crucial and we appreciate the generosity so many have shown to ensure we’re able to make a positive difference where we can.

Read Danielle’s pre-trip blog post, Balkans Convening Aims to Offer Support to Partner Refugee Organizations.

Rights Reading

Our weekly roundup of what we’re reading in human rights and social justice! In honor of World Refugee Day on  June 20, this week’s wrap-up includes articles about how technology is helping to address the crisis, climate refugees in Somalia, and education access for refugee children.

The current humanitarian crisis is the largest since World War II. UUSC is dedicated to fighting for the human rights of refugees. Learn more about our partner organizations working in Croatia to provide humanitarian aid for and protect the rights of refugees.

Refugee hackathons and 3D printing: apps for the world’s displaced people, Tazeen Dhunna Ahmad, The Guardian, June 20, 2017

Although humanitarian aid provides refugees access to the essentials, like food, clothing, and shelter, refugees also need access to opportunities to improve their situation. This is where technology comes in and has helped “to transform conditions and empower more than 22 million refugees worldwide.”

The majority of refugees have mobile phones, which has made travel and global communication easier. However, it’s tech initiatives, like the ones Ahmad highlights in this article, that are really helping to create education and employment opportunities for refugees. Ahmad shares the story of, Admir Masic, a former refugee who is now an associate professor at MIT, who recently launched a global hub, Refugee ACTion Hub (ReACT), to provide refugees with education. 3Dmena, another tech partnership, is providing refugees with access to prosthetic limbs, “custom-built and cheaper” due to advances in 3D printing technology.

Hackathons and other tech-centric competitions provide refugees with an innovative platform to solve the problems their communities face and to find job opportunities – from solving water leakages on camps to employing refugees to take on a backlogged recycling system.

It’s rare to find stories about refugees that aren’t grim. Technology and the opportunities it brings for human creativity and collaboration can change the conversation.

Amid Drought, Somali Pastoralists Watch Their ‘Sources of Life’ Perish, Samuel Hall Research Team & Ashley Hamer, News Deeply, June 20, 2017

The number of climate refugees is growing, and is set to grow at a higher rate as the impacts of global warming accelerate. Despite this, efforts to address climate forced displacement have been lacking and even avoided, meaning climate refugees “remain on the fringes of humanitarian support.”

Due to drought in the Horn of Africa, over 739,000 people have been forced to leave Somalia since November. Most are pastoralists who have watched their livestock die of starvation and dehydration and who have no other means of livelihood. Climate forced displacement can have, and already has had, a global ripple effect of economic disparity and violence, namely because of the damage that displacement does to families and communities. Addressing the needs of climate refugees will not only save hundreds of thousands of lives now, but can curb the more widespread conflicts that will likely come in the future.

UUSC has highlighted climate refugees as a marginalized group who are not receiving the help they need, even within the sphere of humanitarian aid providers. This is why our Environmental Justice portfolio is focusing its resources on communities at high risk of climate forced displacement.

What we owe refugee children, Elias Bou Saab, Gulf Times, June 22, 2017

Fifty-one percent of the world’s refugees are children, and without access to education, there are concerns that this group will be a “lost generation” growing up without the skills needed to rebuild their communities or to thrive. Saab, former Lebanese education minister, points out the benefits education access has for children: “Education is also a vital instrument for combating violent extremism, which can capture the minds of young people with no hope for the future. And school attendance is essential for children’s welfare, because it gives them access to basic healthcare services and protects them from the horrors of child labour and prostitution.”

World leaders have recognized the need to educate refugee children, but efforts on the part of host countries to provide education haven’t been enough. Education access has been delayed by poor organization, violence, and strained resources. Saab signifies how important it is that governments and organizations meet their monetary pledges – which many have not – but also calls on them to step up their funding for programs that make remote and online education possible. No child should grow up without an education. Visit the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to learn more.

As Countries Fail to Support Refugees, UUSC Partners Step Up

UUSC is honored to work with our grassroots partners who dedicate themselves to defend and protect refugees across the world. Today, on World Refugee Day, we take a moment to celebrate two partnerships under our Rights at Risk portfolio. This celebration comes against a backdrop of record-high levels of global displacement—over 60 million people, among them nearly 20 million refugees—and increasingly hostile environments in which refugees can access protection and realize their fundamental human right to live in safety.

From violent border pushbacks to hate crimes to legislation that criminalizes their very existence, refugees today are under attack. Social movements demanding refugee rights are also threatened, making the work of UUSC partners all the more critical and worthy of recognition. Today, I wanted to highlight those who work in a place seldom mentioned in the headlines, but that have seen new waves of violence against refugees and new attempts to punish the act of “helping” irregular migrants with fines and jail time: Croatia.

Over the last year, UUSC partner organizations Are You Syrious (AYS) and the Centre for Peace Studies (CPS) have documented a troubling increase of unlawful expulsions and escalation of police violence against refugees who seek to cross into Croatian territory from Serbia. The refugees—mostly from destabilized Middle Eastern countries like Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq—have fled horrific war at home and journeyed across multiple countries, an exhausting and traumatizing experience.

Upon reaching the Croatian border, refugees have reason to believe they are finally arriving to a country that will protect them. Croatia is a member of the European Union and its asylum laws purportedly conform to European norms. What they find, however, is far from a hospitable reception. Our partners report that Croatian authorities confiscate property, commit severe acts of physical violence, and forcibly push refugees back across the border to Serbia, all in violation of international law. Serbia is not considered a “safe third country” by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees because their asylum procedures do not meet international standards.

Just last month, AYS and CPS spoke to a twenty-five-year-old man from Afghanistan who reported that he was apprehended by police and stuffed into a van with eighteen other people: “There was no air inside. They drove us to the ‘jungle’ across near the border with Serbia and made us sit and started to hit us. They used sticks and beat us with their heavy boots.” This is but one of numerous similar reports received by AYS and CPS of police violence and forcing refugees back to Serbia from inside Croatia, without giving them an opportunity to lodge claims for protection.

Such pushbacks are both immoral and illegal. The right to seek asylum from persecution is enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and is among the most important provisions in international law. The 1951 U.N. Convention relating to the Status of Refugees obliges States not to “refoule,” or return, a refugee to “the frontiers of territories” where life or freedom would be threatened.

As countries throughout the world shirk their obligation to offer refugees an opportunity to seek asylum, civil society actors have stepped up. CPS defends the right to seek asylum in Croatia by holding state institutions accountable working with and supporting asylum-seekers as they file complaints with police departments, Croatian ministries, and international bodies.


Likewise, AYS is a collective of committed activists who are growing a grassroots solidarity movement that breaks down social and cultural borders, in addition to physical ones. AYS decreases the social distance between Croatian people and refugees by activating volunteers for language instruction, cultural orientation, and public advocacy. This ultimately results in better quality of integration for those refugees that are able to access protection and remain in Croatia, as well as an informed public who demand better of their country.

The efforts of these vital organizations have not gone unchallenged by the Croatian government, who seek to criminalize not only refugees themselves, but anyone who stands in solidarity with them. Authorities have drafted amendments to the Croatian Foreigners Act that imposes hefty fines and subjects activists to criminal liability if they provide assistance to anyone in “irregular” status. CPS is now engaged in zealous advocacy to prevent the draft amendments from becoming law.

Acknowledging the difficult environment in which they work, and the countless, quiet ways in which they have improved the lives of refugees seeking to rebuild their lives in Croatia, UUSC is incredibly proud to support the work of Centre for Peace Studies and Are You Syrious. We honor them today, on World Refugee Day, and every day.

Syrian Refugee Crisis: Situation, Strategy, Partners, and Advocacy

As the conflict in Syria continues to rage unabated, the needs of refugees who have been displaced by the conflict remain acute. Yet despite the internationally-protected human right of these refugees to flee and seek asylum, host countries refuse to recognize them as full members of their societies, and many European nations have adopted closed border policies that intensifies the crisis. The need to respond compassionately to this situation is as urgent as ever.

Thanks to the generosity of so many people, we have so far raised more than $610,000 for the UUSC-UUA Refugee Crisis Fund. With these resources, UUSC is working with grassroots partners in Jordan, the Balkans and the United States, providing emergency aid, ensuring access to legal help and resettlement support, and advocating for necessary changes in policy and public perception.

The situation

Five years into Syria’s devastating civil war, half the country’s population remains displaced from their homes, with over 4.8 million Syrians forced to seek refuge abroad. While a partial ceasefire was brokered in February between Bashar al-Assad’s regime and some rebel groups, fighting continues among several other major parties to the conflict, including the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). As a result, hundreds of thousands of civilians caught in the crossfire continue to flee atrocities committed by state and non-state actors and the constant threat of violence from extremist groups.

In some respects, the situation for refugees is worse than ever before. Whereas earlier waves of Syrian refugees were generally able to cross the border and seek asylum abroad, newly displaced Syrians are encountering closed borders and tight restrictions on their movement on all sides. While Syria’s closest neighbors, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, had maintained a relatively open border in the early years of the conflict, all three have now effectively closed their borders to asylum seekers – due in large part to the failure of wealthier governments to step in to fill the gaps by adequately funding the humanitarian response and expanding their resettlement programs. Turkish border guards in some cases have actually gunned down Syrian asylum seekers who tried to cross the border.[1] The result is that more than 150,000 civilians fleeing ISIS are now trapped in the desert outside the Turkish border,[2] where they face the constant threat of airstrikes or of falling into the hands of armed rebel groups.

With no clear end to the violence in sight, the nearly five million Syrian refugees living abroad have effectively become permanent residents of the societies they inhabit. Host governments in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, however, continue to maintain the pretense that these refugees are merely temporary “guests” who should not be integrated into society or granted the full rights of citizens. Because of this, Syrian refugees are for the most part forced to live in the shadows. Denied formal permission to work and other basic rights, they must subsist on vanishing cash allowances from international organizations or eke out a living in the informal sector. The extreme financial vulnerability of refugee families has led to skyrocketing rates of child labor and other forms of exploitation, as well as to the loss of an entire generation of Syrian children from institutions of formal education.

The shameful conduct of host countries toward refugees, however, is only a foreseeable consequence of the policy choices of wealthier countries. At the start of this year, the European Union made an agreement with Turkey that has exacerbated the crisis. In exchange for returning refugees from Europe to Turkey and the nominal loosening of some of Turkey’s restrictions against refugees, European governments have effectively turned their back on the thousands of refugees trapped at Turkey’s borders or suffering exclusion in Turkish society.

After this bargain went into effect, Europe’s previously open reception centers in Greece and the Balkans were converted into closed detention camps, where refugees are effectively imprisoned while they await possible deportation to Turkey, and where violence against migrants is well-documented.

The United States, meanwhile, has done next to nothing to ameliorate the situation. The U.S. has resettled less than 2,000 Syrian refugees, despite a commitment to resettle 10,000 this fiscal year. What’s more, the U.S. is in the throes of a terrifying anti-immigrant and Islamophobic backlash that jeopardizes the safety of Muslims living in the U.S. and threatens to amend the current refugee program to include overt racial and religious discrimination.

The strategy

UUSC addresses human rights violations against refugees and asylum seekers that are fueled by xenophobic attitudes, short-sighted immigration controls, and nationalistic policies. In whatever context we work, UUSC commits ourselves to the principles that migration is not a crime and seeking asylum is a fundamental human right. UUSC continues to affirm this truth as it pursues a multifaceted strategy in addressing the crisis at home and abroad:

  • Emergency aid and resettlement support in Greece, Croatia, and Serbia: offering medical aid, mental health support, resettlement support, and more aid? to long-term refugees.
  • Legal access in Hungary, Jordan, and the United States: providing legal assistance and awareness training, reunifying family members and assisting refugees in navigating the resettlement processes, including how to challenge discriminatory treatment.
  • Advocacy in Europe and the United States: raising public awareness and sensitivity around refugee issues, challenging xenophobic sentiments and legislation, and upholding the inherent dignity of immigrant communities.

The partners

Greece: ensuring decent reception conditions
UUSC has been partnering with the Greek non-governmental organization PRAKSIS to provide immediate transportation assistance and basic needs kits to newly arrived refugees and their children on the Greek island of Lesvos.

Serbia: providing comprehensive mobile assistance along the transit route
The Asylum Protection Center (APC), our partner in Serbia, enlists a team of aid professionals to provide a comprehensive array of services, including legal support, humanitarian aid, psychosocial counseling, and language interpretation, to long-term and transiting refugees.

Croatia: offering support for long-term resettlement
UUSC is partnering with the Center for Peace Studies (CPS), which spearheads the Welcome Initiative, a collaborative effort of 50 organizations to address refugee resettlement, to provide immediate humanitarian support, and to advocate for more welcoming policies at the national and international levels.

Hungary: facilitating family reunification
With our support, our partners at the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) are working to provide full financial and legal support for refugee families who have been torn apart by war and are navigating the family reunification process.

Slovenia: providing humanitarian protection at the Croatia-Serbia border

Magna Children at Risk, a UUSC partner, operates medical humanitarian projects — including medical, surgery, psychological, and nutritional programs for children and their families —in two refugee camps at the Croatia-Serbia border.

Jordan: challenging refugee exploitation through legal trainings and assistance
The Arab Renaissance for Democracy (ARDD) — Legal Aid is raising legal awareness and empowerment through trainings and research to help Syrian refugees in Jordan navigate the risks they face due to discrimination, lack of formal recognition, and heightened vulnerability to exploitation and abuse.

United States: promoting positive dialogue, refugee integration, and a more welcoming public policy
In Southern California, the Arab American Civic Council is launching, with UUSC support, a “Refugees Welcome” initiative that supports the resettlement and integration of Syrian refugees. The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) is working to improve public policy related to refugees in Massachusetts. In Indiana, UUSC is partnering with Refugee Exodus to provide critical care to Syrian refugees while also practically confronting anti-refugee political agendas that caused Refugee Exodus a loss of vital funding. In Toledo, Ohio, UUSC is partnering with US Together to help newly arrived refugee families resettle with dignity in the United States and build their new lives in this country.

The advocacy

Through national policy advocacy, an integrated communications plan, and mobilizing UU congregations and activists, UUSC has been working to increase federal humanitarian assistance for refugees, to increase the U.S. refugee quota, and to forestall any attempt from politicians to introduce religious or ethnic discrimination into the refugee program, and to promote a welcoming environment for all refugees and asylum seekers. 

Key highlights:

  • Releasing “Building Bridges: Refugee Support and Advocacy Toolkit” – a resource for congregations, student groups, and individuals to take action on refugee rights.
  • Launching the Refugee Rapid Response Network to mobilize quickly and effectively around national and state-level legislation on refugees and asylum-seekers.
  • Partnering with members and congregations to organize events such as the Monte Vista UU Congregation’s Refugee Welcoming Lunch, data parties with the Arab American Civic Council to develop a welcome guide for new Americans, and Know Your Rights trainings for Central American asylum-seekers with local congregations and RAICES.
  • Presenting in large-scale UU settings such as the Annual General Assembly and the Walking the Walk Justice Summit of the UU Justice Ministry of California and the UU Justice Arizona Network.
  • Mobilizing, through our work with the Ministerial Leadership Network and the Unitarian Universalists Ministerial Association, more than 600 Unitarian Universalist clergy to sign onto an open letter from faith leaders to Donald Trump calling upon him to retract his call for banning all Muslims from entering the United States.
  • Connecting Unitarian Universalists to interfaith initiatives and events to welcome refugees as part of the Refugees Welcome Coalition.

[1] https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/05/10/turkey-border-guards-kill-and-injure-asylum-seekers

[2] https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/05/27/dispatches-isis-advance-traps-165000-syrians-closed-turkish-border

In Their Own Words: Not Any Less Human

An interview with Emina Bužinkić

In the following interview, Emina Bužinkić from the Center for Peace Studies, a UUSC partner in Croatia, speaks about the center’s work aiding refugees in transit and taking part in the Welcome Initiative. This interview was conducted via Skype in October and includes minor edits for style and length.

Can you tell me about the Welcome Initiative? 

It’s very simple. It’s a platform of solidarity of residents and nongovernmental organizations working [NGOs] in Croatia. These NGOs have been working in different fields, including sustainable development, education, human rights, peace building, and gender equality. Everyone has recognized the importance of supporting refugees during this crisis — and also supporting the Center for Peace Studies as a leading organization in the field of migration and refugee services. The work has been coordinated every day in a fantastic way with open communication and coordination of our activities — on the borders and in the refugee camps, while talking to diplomatic staff, and communicating with the public through roundtables, seminars, webinars, and our public campaign.

It’s good to be part of it. Even though the things happening around us are really horrible, and it affects us very much emotionally on an individual level, it seems that on a social level, this initiative is giving us further energy and further motivation to respond to this crisis.

What has been your interaction with the refugees you’re working with?

Many people who we meet with — hundreds and thousands of them — we are not able to talk to in depth. They are in the camps, in transit through the territories and borders, and they are usually in very fast transit in our country, as it is in Serbia and Slovenia. But from the refugees we have talked to in the camps, we hear about why they are fleeing their countries, such as Syria or Afghanistan or Iraq. Most of them are coming from those three countries, though there are plenty who are coming from Pakistan and Bangladesh. Most people are very, very tired and very thankful when they receive food and blankets, and we manage to talk to them about their health condition. If they need a doctor, we take them to a facility where medical assistance is provided.

What are the biggest challenges in this work?

We are very much critical in calling attention to this refugee crisis. In talking about the refugee crisis, many people would say that the crisis is happening to us, because many people are coming to our territory, we are responsible in organizing their transport, and it’s kind of costly to establish these camps and to run them. It’s demanding financially and time-wise. And people are afraid of such a high number of foreigners entering the territory — will there be diseases, terrorism? So there are a lot of myths and prejudice, and people are not well informed and well educated when it comes to this. So it a huge challenge to change those attitudes.

But the thing is that the crisis is not happening to us, it is happening in Syria, it is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. The refugees are trying to escape from that crisis. And also, this has been going on for many months and many years. Croatia wasn’t on their path, as there was another path to their destination countries. Greece, Turkey, and Italy have been hot spots for awhile, and the same things have been happening in those countries that is happening now here. It’s probably going to move to Bosnia as well; I am kind of afraid of that moment. And even if all the people who are in our country today decide to stay, or if they won’t be able to move forward because the borders will be closed, that’s also not a crisis for Croatia. We are a small country, we are only four million, we can handle it.

Where do you find hope as you do this work?

We have been living in Croatian society for 25 years now [Croatia declared independence in June 1991], and we have experienced war. We always say that we wouldn’t want anyone else to experience what we have experienced here. So always, during the last 20 years or so, civil actions have been run under the slogan: “Enough of wars; give us peace.”

It’s highly understandable what is happening in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Middle Eastern and African countries. Many of us were refugees, so we have that experience. We know what it is to live in a foreign society and to not be accepted, to be labeled — that’s a common experience of many activists here. And we are also people with roots here, from national minority groups. So, we act from experiences.

I think our hope is that we would like to see peace building as an act of protest. There are refugees living in Croatia who we have been working with for many years now through different kinds of projects, such as the football club that we have established together with refugees and migrants or the Taste of Home culinary collective we have or the group of people who share their childhood stories. I think this tells them that people are really willing to live and share their stories and keep nice memories of their homes while they are also trying to build a ground for living here in Croatia — this kind of intercultural connection is very important.

What do you most want people to know about the work that the Center for Peace Studies is doing?

I think we would like people to know that first of all, we are an organization of human beings, who decided to be activists because of injustice in this world. I don’t say citizens — not because I don’t think we have civic responsibilities, but because the concept of nation states and post-colonialism tells us that citizens are only those who have papers. There are many people in this world who do not have documents confirming their identity, but that doesn’t mean they are any less human, even though some people treat them that way. So we are an organization of human beings who are willing to support other human beings in their fight for equality.

Learn more about UUSC’s work advancing justice for refugees in Europe.

 

 

2015 Highlights

Thanks to the support of advocates for justice like you, UUSC has relentlessly pursued justice and the advancement of a host of human rights over the past year. UUSC partners with locally led grassroots organizations that have deep connections to individuals and communities facing vast violations of their rights due to race, class, gender, sexual orientation, refugee status, and other aspects of who they are. Together, UUSC and these partners work to end entrenched systemic inequality and social, political, and economic exclusion, often in the midst of rapidly evolving humanitarian crises.

Check out our 2015 highlights below and please make a gift to ensure this work continues in 2016! You can also click here to download a PDF of 2015 annual report.

Promoting economic justice

  • Supported national day of action in solidarity with Darden restaurant workers by rallying local ministers and UU advocacy networks in California and Maryland
  • Filed a shareholder resolution at Darden that would require greater transparency and accountability concerning Darden’s political spending at local, state, and federal levels
  • Benefitted 5,000 people directly and 15,000 people indirectly, all in the informal economy, through leadership development, capacity building, and awareness raising about the rights of people with disabilities
  • Supported the creation and distribution of a comic book to educate youth and adults about food chain workers
  • Supported training for 500 restaurant workers, an expanded network of 200 responsible restaurant employers, and three new training facilities for U.S. restaurant workers
  • Initiated series of trainings that will each empower 36 workers to advocate for the Good Food Purchasing Policy, which benefits low-income students and senior citizens
  • Petitioned the Darden restaurant group, pressuring them to adopt the Good Food Purchasing Policy principles in their food procurement

Protecting rights at risk

  • Responding to the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe
  • Partnered with the Trauma Resource Institute (TRI) to train nearly 900 people in the Philippines affected by Typhoon Haiyan in teaching and leading more than 5,000 others in trauma resiliency skills
  • Trained agrarian reform communities in the Philippines on organic farming and livestock raising
  • Completed construction of a sixth eco-village in Haiti as well as the first phase of a school for children of the eco-villages
  • Continued supporting the Urban Food Gardens project in Haiti, which trained another 140 families to build food gardens
  • Celebrated the passage of the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act into law and gathered more than 800 supporter signatures for a thank-you to legislators
  • With more than 4,500 UUSC supporters, petitioned the Obama administration to release asylum-seeking children and their mothers from immigration detention and worked with partners to support these families
  • Provided assessment and services to 400 people with disabilities affected by Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu and ensured that disabled citizens had equitable access to relief materials
  • Provided temporary classrooms and supplies to enable 2,300 students to return to school following the Nepal earthquake
  • Mobilized community-based volunteers in Nepal to assist earthquake-affected communities, reaching 15 districts, 112 communities, and 23,271 households
  • In partnership with TRI, trained 92 frontline service providers in Nepal with the capacity to assist over 13,000 survivors with psychosocial support
  • Supported 200 farmers in Northern Shan state in Myanmar, also known as Burma, through a credit union project that reached 5,000 community member beneficiaries
  • Provided Rohingya refugee communities in Thailand with shelter, access to education, and other emergency support
  • Together with TRI in Turkey, trained nongovernmental organization workers in trauma resiliency skills to assist Syrian refugees, with an expected 800 beneficiaries
  • Supported a local foundation and community shelter in Burundi that provided assistance to women and children during the violence that erupted before the June elections
  • Working in tandem with the UU College of Social Justice, organized 17 volunteers who spent up to 1,880 hours assisting asylum-seeking families with a partner in Texas

Defending the human right to water

  • Participated in hearings on the human right to water held by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
  • Facilitated a fact-finding visit to Detroit, Mich., by the U.N. special rapporteurs on the human rights to water and housing, with visits to families affected by water shutoffs
  • Supported a legal case in which the Mexican court ruled the city and country are required to fully implement the human right to water
  • Advocated for water affordability in Boston, Mass., where Mayor Marty Walsh announced a 30% discount on water rates for low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities
  • Participated in first-ever consultation on human rights and the environment held by the U.S. government and attended by several federal agencies
  • Organized more than 1,400 UUSC supporters to contact President Obama and urge him to veto approval of the Keystone XL pipeline

Responding to climate change

  • Collaborated with seven other organizations to form Commit2Respond, a coalition of people of faith and conscience taking action for climate justice
  • Raised more than $17,000 during Climate Justice Sunday to help communities in California and Kenya protect their human right to water
  • Took part in Commit2Respond’s Climate Justice Month, which succeeded in getting 3,200 individuals and more than 170 organizations and faith communities to join Commit2Respond

Facilitating transformative learning through the UU College of Social Justice

  • Conducted a total of 15 journeys — grounded in worship, study, and reflection — for congregations and individuals to Haiti, India, Mexico, and U.S. destinations, with 166 participants
  • Engaged 90 youth participants in Activate justice trainings for high school age students, including a program focused on climate justice
  • Adapted service-learning programs for youth groups in New York and at the U.S.-Mexico border
  • Placed 12 college-age young adults with justice organizations through an internship program, including four in India