Do you follow Humans of New York? A friend of mine turned me onto the site about a year ago, and since then I’ve been a religious reader.
But I’ll admit, after the novelty wore off, I realized it was fairly repetitive. Nearly always a picture of a person, in the park, wearing eccentric clothes that are clearly quite expensive, complaining that they’re not sure they’re making the right decisions. Sure, Brandon Stanton (the blog creator and photographer), finds all sorts of people, people with very sad stories, but for the most part, I’d say Humans of New York is an accurate reflection of how spoiled we are to live in this country; to have the liberty to worry that we’re not fulfilled in every single aspect of our lives.
So it’s been really nice to see Stanton branch out from the monoview that is privileged life in New York City and expand to other parts of the world where many people have none of the things we take for granted. He did a tour through impoverished regions of Pakistan a few months ago, then Iran, and now has just completed a series of interviews with refugees who have made it to Europe, having left utterly brutal circumstances in the Middle East.
These are families who were living in the middle of war zones; being threatened by militia groups and terrorists, lacking access to clean water or electricity. Can you imagine the violence that these families were forced to endure until it got so bad that they felt they had literally no other choice but to leave everything behind and make a dangerous Mediterranean crossing on overfilled zodiac boats? And then if they were fortunate enough to make it to the relative safety of Europe, to arrive and only to be hated and treated like they were parasites? You read about these terrible things happening, but it all seems very remote and unreal. Then Humans of New York does an interview with a woman who has just lost her husband after their boat capsized in the middle of the sea...and it's impossible to deny that these are real people suffering our worst nightmares. Thousands of them.
I got into science because I wanted to help people, and unfortunately, I’ve found that I’m not able to help people fast enough for my liking. A big part of me wants to drop everything and volunteer at an NGO; hand out food and water, provide information, dig latrines, whatever, but just something that could make the smallest difference. I wish I could do something right now without that meaning abandoning my own family.
Humans of New York seems to have finished their refugee series and the last post has information on how to donate to the UNHCR to support efforts to help these displaced people. I think this is an incredibly worthy cause and will be donating. Please consider it too. These are real people. Read Humans of New York if you don’t believe me.
Edit: Here's a direct link to the Kickstarter campaign.
Writing, editing, and doing science when I feel like it. Just a book without a genre.