September 21st is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace. This year, the UN is calling for respect, safety, and dignity for all. Here at Peacebuilding Solutions, our goal is make sure that refugees and displaced persons can achieve that sense of peace.
We show respect by listening. We know from our work in the field that refugees have a wealth of experience and knowledge that we can and should draw upon when planning interventions. Their voices are the most important in any conversation we have. Any projects we carry out in a refugee community come from the research we do and the needs that refugees bring up.
We work to build a sense of safety for refugees in our community. In Haiti, this means buying tarps so community members have a roof over their heads. It means sending money so the community can build a much-needed latrine. It means conducting culturally sensitive research so that no one in the community feels left out or uncomfortable. It means learning and navigating a system that is unique to the area we are working in. We have made a commitment to the community we work with, and above all, we promote safety by living up to that commitment.
We give space for refugees to live with dignity and choice. We know that we don’t have all the solutions. What we do have is the ability to learn. We treat members of the refugee community as partners and as sources of knowledge that we cannot implement projects without. When the community in Haiti needed shoes for the children, we didn’t go out and buy them. We worked with community leaders to identify the sizes of shoes needed and went with them as they found the best deal at local stores. We know that accepting aid can be a difficult and at times disheartening prospect for people who are used to being self-sufficient. Our goal is to support refugee communities as they build their own futures.
Respect, safety, and dignity are not too much to ask for. Every person deserves to know that they are respected, that they live in a safe environment, and that they will be treated with dignity by those they come in contact with. Peacebuilding Solutions knows that this peace is attainable, but we can’t do this work alone. This International Day of Peace, join us in supporting refugee communities.