Sometimes, it takes a powerful image to change the world. In early September, a photo of a young Syrian boy, laying lifeless on a beach in Turkey, moved the world to action.
The heartbreaking image made the Syria crisis real — it reflected the risks that families are still taking to escape violent conflict and do what they can to start new lives as refugees.
Moved by the increasing struggle of refugees, author Patrick Rothfuss decided to research organizations who are doing something about the crisis.
The Worldbuilders community steps up
Patrick Rothfuss is a Quill Award recipient and New York Times bestselling author of The Name of the Wind. He also founded Worldbuilders, a community of his readers who fundraise together to support causes they care about.
Members of Worldbuilders are encouraged to fundraise with their peers, and donations are collected and given to an organization of choice. After Rothfuss did some research, he chose to support Mercy Corps’ continuing efforts to help Syrian refugees.
In a blog post that he wrote, Rothfuss explained why he was inspired to fundraise for Mercy Corps. “This is about helping people who are in desperate need of help….But the simple truth is this: I can’t just watch this happen anymore. I need to do something to help. I’m guessing a lot of you feel the same way, so I thought I’d give us a chance to do it together.”
Many Worldbuilders followers stepped up to participate in the week-long online fundraising challenge, sharing their efforts with friends, family, and coworkers. Others offered large gifts to match every dollar the community raised together.
To give the fundraising effort a boost, Worldbuilders offered to match donations up to $25,000. To Rothfuss’ pleasant surprise, the community responded and met that goal in a matter of hours.
As they continued to raise more money for the cause, anonymous donors stepped up to match more donations, and then still more, eventually bringing the total of gifts matched up to $100,000. In the end, the combined effort generated over $202,000 to help Syrian refugees.
8-year-old Charlotte leads the charge
Inspired by the Worldbuilders fundraiser, a young girl named Charlotte, 8, decided that she wanted to help. With a little help from her mom, Charlotte set up a personal fundraising page to raise her own donations for Syrian refugees.
Pages like these give individuals and businesses a hub to share why they are taking action while accepting donations from their friends, family, social network, or coworkers.
But instead of just writing why she wanted to help on her page, Charlotte went one step further — she created a video to show the challenges that Syrian refugees are facing.
Charlotte, along with her friends, asks her viewers if they enjoy simple things they use in everyday life, including water, food and education. In the video, Charlotte shows what it might be like to go without these things — illustrating the reality that more than 11 million Syrians face. It’s clear that Charlotte wants to make a difference. She explains that we can help, and if we can, we should.
Charlotte’s goal was to raise $500 to help Syrian refugees. After she posted the video, her efforts for Worldbuilders and Mercy Corps garnered attention from NBC Nightly News and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls on Facebook. In the end, Charlotte and her fundraising page raised over $2,800.
“She is a terrific kid but also a completely normal kid,” said Charlotte’s mom, Heather. “She is energetic, generous, empathetic and kind, but most children are. It is just human nature to reach out a hand to help someone else up when they are down, and kids do it even more instinctively.”
Many people, one huge impact
Millions of families in Syria and neighboring countries are living in limbo as they wait for peace and hope for a chance to resume work, school and normal daily life. Mercy Corps is working hard to relieve the intense suffering of both refugees and people inside war-torn Syria.
The efforts of Worldbuilders, and young Charlotte, are a reminder of how much we can accomplish when we work together. The generous gifts that they raised help Mercy Corps continue to support refugee families as they try to survive war and build new lives.
Mercy Corps has been assisting Syrian families in refugee camps and host communities in neighboring countries since August 2012.
In addition to helping refugees who have lost everything get the resources they need, Mercy Corps is building new wells and water distribution systems, providing activities and counseling to help children feel safe again, and working to prevent conflict over limited resources. And we’ll be there until families can return home.