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This is a guest post by Emma Buck.

These are dark times. The refugee crisis in Europe and the attacks in Paris and Beirut sent a shock throughout the world, where before, some U.S. Americans may have been challenged to find Syria on a map, now key players in Syria and the diaspora have become household names in the United States and around the internet- from the Assad regime, the dictator being overthrown in Syria, to the island of Lesvos, a small vacation Greek island being rocked by the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees by boat. So, you know there’s a war going on in Syria and a refugee crisis as a result, and you want to do something about it? I have three organisations that I wish to highlight and link to ways to supporting them, because they are doing some of the best work on the ground here, because they need your support in continuing to do it, and because they bring me hope that light can emerge out of this darkness.

I’m in Southern Turkey living with displaced Syrian revolutionary activists, volunteering and collaborating with many local organisations that have sprung up in this crisis. Amidst the many challenges they must face and I struggle to even comprehend, I have found my hope in meeting the ordinary people, mostly women, who are confronting impossible problems, starting as grassroots activists and formalizing into organizations and, really, changing the world. These people work in and around Syria, every day, where and when everyone else fails. If you believe in a world where ordinary people help each other in need, where refugees are welcome and peace can be built from the ground up, here’s where to send your money and support. Invest in the world you believe in. If you’re thinking about where to give before the end of the year, please consider supporting them. If you are not able to financially support them, please consider learning more about them and sharing this post on your Facebook or other social media.

sawa 2

SAWA

In Lebanon, where Syrian refugees make up 1 in every 4 people, SAWA for Development and Aid was one of the first organizations on the ground in 2011 when Syrian refugees first started coming in. They were “founded in reaction to the dire gap of fulfilling the needs for Syrian refugees in Lebanon”- such gaps include, for instance, when weather conditions in winter get bad enough, the NGOs managing the camps abandon them to their fates. Really. SAWA are holding a supply drive called #beforethestorm, and every cent donated goes to coats, heating supplies, and shelter for refugees in Bekaa. Donate below, $10 buys a winter kit for a child, $25 buys blankets, and more can go towards tents, firewood, and more.

https://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/before-the-storm-winter-drive

Starfish

In Greece, where Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan and other refugees arrive by rubber dinghy on the vacation island of Lesvos, the formidable local restaurant owner Melinda McRostie had to do something to help the wet and desperate people arriving by the hundreds every day (read more about them here: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/10/captain-table-restaurant-helping-refugees-151012133022206.html). Her organization, Starfish, until recently only an informal yet highly organized group of volunteers and now a Greece-based nonprofit, has since it begun helped shelter, feed and house more than 90,000 refugees, and counting. These were the folks I volunteered with back in October, and I cannot stress enough how much Starfish is holding up that side of the island, connecting refugees, locals, volunteers and the UN to get the job done. Just 1.60 euros buys a meal for a tired refugee. More info here, including links to the paypal donation page:

http://www.asterias-starfish.org/en/donate/

Centre for Civil Society and Democracy

All throughout Syria (Da’esh, Liberated Areas, Rojava, Regime-held areas, and the diaspora), multiple networks of over 25 peace circles led by Syrian women are negotiating ceasefires, opening schools in besieged areas, advocating for political prisoners, bringing together ethnic and religious communities to reduce tension, and so much more. These women are remarkable, sowing the seeds of peace amidst such a terrible war, and their stories need to be told. There are links to donate and also other ways to support below for their parent organization the Centre for Civil Society and Democracy- just put WFFS in the memo line. Added bonus, if you’re looking for donations to ease your tax burden, CCSD is also registered as a 501(c)3 in the United States, so can count towards your charitable donations. See below:

http://ccsdsyria.org/donate-2/

Will you make a donation to one of these organizations? They are doing urgent, important work, and they need our support. Sometimes, what makes the world brighter is also what makes it easier to bear the darkness: taking action to make it better.

Happy New Year, everyone. May it be a peaceful and just 2016.