This week, Claire Chamberlain shares her reasons for donating to Phone Credit for Refugees.
Before a friend added me to the Phone Credit for Refugees Facebook group, I’d given little thought to the importance of phone credit for refugees and other displaced people. Writing that sentence now feels embarrassingly naive. Until then, I of course understood the need for shelter, warmth and food, and had donated clothes and money, run the London Marathon as part of a fundraising effort, and organised collections. But phone credit? It simply never occurred to me.
I’m also ashamed to admit that, aside from a cursory glance when I was initially added to the group, I didn’t pay a huge amount of attention at first. The odd ‘Friday Conga’ post would pop into my News Feed but, not really knowing what it was about, I scrolled on by.
I’m not sure what changed, but one Friday, I didn’t scroll on.
Instead, I sat and read nearly a hundred messages in a comments thread: I witnessed donations, messages of solidarity, and a whole heap of gratitude.
I thought about what it might feel like to be unable to contact my loved ones, and for a second the world fell away. That was the moment it hit me: connection – with family; with friends; with a group of humans who care – is just as sustaining as food, shelter and warmth.
In the online world of PC4R, borders don’t exist and humanity comes first. It is a place not just of connection and communication, but of love – and wow, this group offers it up by the bucketload.
I donate regularly now – it’s my way of sharing a little love and compassion, and it is a demonstration of solidarity. Which is important, because we are all human.
And we are all connected.
We also asked members of our Facebook group why they donate - and here’s what they told us.
“I donate here because I like the sense of community the group has, and because I know every penny given goes directly to the refugees we are here to help.”
“I used to volunteer in Calais and I was exceptionally happy to have access to this service. It added a barrier of appropriate, professional behaviour between me and vulnerable people, as I did not have to give them money [for credit] directly. Since I left France, this is the only organisation I consistently support. Money is not wasted and I have seen how important the results are.”
“I volunteer weekly at a migrant detention centre – the only one of its kind in Portugal, as the rest are attached to the airports. The detainees are only allowed use of their phones (if they have one) two hours each day, and many don't have money or SIM cards. There is one phone in the hallway for them to receive calls, and it's their only connection to the outside world if they don't have a phone. So I see how important that connection is – whether it’s excitement because the phone is ringing when someone is expecting a call, or disappointment when the phone call is for someone else.”
“Sometimes I miss home where we grew up; then I remember how lucky I am to have a home at all…”
“I donate because it has an instant impact on someone’s life. It’s personal, there is a great community feel and I trust the admins. They do an amazing job – hours and hours of work. Very special people!”
“Because phone credit saves lives.”
“Vulnerable people who are marginalised by society have this safe place in the cyber world where they can connect to not just family, but also access support groups, get information and feel less isolated.”
“My daughter's grandmother and her great grandparents were refugees after WW2. I am motivated to donate because good people helped them find a new home in America. And now it is time to pay it forward. Also, I am appalled by the politics in my country, so I want to do something to make the world a little bit of a better place. This is my something.”
It’s so important for safety, but also for mental health to be able to connect with people who care.”
“Donating is one way of living my belief that we are all connected on our planet, and that the connections between us are worth much more than things like national borders and war.”
“I donate because although I work hard and am often away from home, I feel the world is so unbalanced in the distribution of wealth that I am embarrassed by the inequalities of life. We are one people, irrespective of colour, race, religion etc. I feel hopeful that my contributions go a little bit closer to closing the gaps and helping people to stay in touch with the ones they love. Jape and the group admins are truly awesome people – Earth Angels.”
“I grew up on the other side of the world from my grandparents, before email, Skype or even affordable international telephone calls, so I know something of how it feels to need to communicate and reconnect.”
“I can only imagine how it feels to be desperate enough to leave one’s home and lose one’s loved ones. In truth, I hope I never have to find out. In Calais, someone thanked me for being there and I realised I hoped he would do the same for me if needs be. We are all connected.”
“Because I can. It’s a life and sanity saver for so many and, even if I don’t give a huge amount, I like being a cog in a wholly virtuous wheel.”
“It's a mixture of helping those in need, paying forward the help I've had from family, friends and strangers, empathising with many aspects of the situation, imagining what I have never had to experience, awareness of some consequences of all the privilege I have, awareness of not having certain privilege or occasions when I've experienced discrimination, awareness that I have more than many (even though I'm in a tough spell financially, but trying to help with spreading the word), recognition that some equity can come from me giving to help balance things out, anger that these governments who were put into service have abused their power and frustration at those who seek more than they need to the detriment of others. Also that the grassroots organisations I support make a difference in many people's lives and that makes the world a better place and inspires others, and that those dedicating way more time and effort than me need support too, to carry on the good work. So, I guess that's why. Oh, and world peace.”
“I moved abroad just when the refugee crisis started to emerge. While watching the whole unfold, and wondering what could be done, I was homesick and felt very cut off, although I had love, family, shelter, food and felt very safe. I couldn't even begin to imagine what people who fled had to endure, but I felt great compassion. I feel like if I give something to relieve their pain, my pain is relieved too, if that makes sense. The group is special to me, because I’ve seen it grow from very few members to an incredible community, and I love the spirit and positivity.”
“I live about 3000 miles away from my family, and the disconnect between us hurts enough; I can't imagine being in a place where I might not have any connection to them at all, so I feel it's my responsibility to help these folks whose connections to their families depend on contributions from people like me.”
“Five minutes ago, I sent credit to a homeless minor in Greece. He said: ‘I will never forget this.’ The consequences of not doing what we're doing would be too great for us to stop.”
James Pearce, PC4R founder
We hope to see you at the Conga on Friday… even if you can’t donate, come and say hi!
The Phone Credit for Refugees Team