My father and my husband both have birthdays this Tuesday (November 8).
I am not giving them birthday cards. When I went to select a card for each of them, I realized it would be easy to spend $5 on each man, for a colorful piece of cardstock, carrying a sentiment written by someone else, that may end up on the recycling pile within days. This year, they are getting blue keys instead.
Why blue keys?
By buying a $5 Blue Key from USA for UNHCR, the buyer of the key tells “the millions of refugees worldwide that they’re not invisible.”
Much of the focus of the USA for UNHCR’s efforts is on women and children refugees. In most refugee areas, women far outnumber men in the population.
That got me thinking about the things I have never had to worry about, things that women refugees almost always have to worry about.
To use Somalia as an example, the UNHCR reported in July 2011 that more than 80% of those fleeing Somalia are women and children. Where are their husbands and fathers? According to Jane Alice Okello, a senior protection officer with the UNHCR, “Many men give the little money they have to the truck drivers to transport the wife and children here [the Dadaab Refugee Camp].”
In preparing for this post, I read of women who had agreed with their husbands that they would take their children immediately if their neighbors suddenly packed up and left for the Dadaab Refugee camp, even if it meant leaving the husbands behind. One woman, Yaroy, did leave as she had agreed with her husband, but two of her children were with her husband at the time and she had to leave right away with the couple’s other four children.
A woman named Makanoor reported that she “had a last meal of maize at home before leaving with her three children. Her husband stayed behind to look after the animals while she embarked on the six-day walk to Dadaab.”
Over 46 years of being daughter to my father and 19 years of being wife to my husband, I have complained about things. A less-than-sympathetic voice tone here and there, disputes over The Style Network vs ESPN on tv, other bumps on the emotional road of family life. But come on … I have had it good! Displacement, traumatization by sexual violence, torture, and aggression were all abstractions – something that happened far from my comfortable four walls.
So, Dad on your 79th birthday and Wayne on your 53rd birthday, I hope you understand getting a blue key instead of a card. As I read recently in this post about Dadaab Camp, where there is hope, there is a home. Each of you has, in your own way, given me a physical home and an emotional home where hope could grow and thrive.
As we celebrate your birthdays, let’s give refugees hope as well.
Buying a blue key (and therefore giving hope!) is simple. Just click here.
For the full text of the article from which I quoted Jane Alice Okello’s statement and other information about the Dadaab Camp, click here.
UNHCR stands for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees.
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.