On January 21, 2018, APU student organization Two Stars held an event at Beppu International Plaza (AP House 4) to discuss refugee issues. Ms. Nakamura from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was invited to deliver a speech which was followed by a workshop. APU students participated in the event with Beppu citizens.
Ms. Nakamura, the guest speaker, shared her knowledge and experiences working on the UNHCR staff. UNHCR was established in 1950 to protect, assist, and find sustainable solutions for refugees. It provides emergency protection such as shelter, water, health, education, and legal support, as well as long-term solutions including repatriation, local integration, and resettlement.
UNHCR has been funded almost 100% from voluntary contributions. Until now, over 67 million people have benefited from UNHCR’s work. Yet the total number of refugees and internally displaced persons reached 65.6 million worldwide by 2016. As a result, UNHCR’s financial shortage reached 3.5 billion US dollars. Donations from the private sector have become more and more crucial. Besides financial support, UNHCR also receives other aid in the form of PR activities held by companies and organizations.
Next, a workshop called My List was held after the speech. The participants were asked to list their necessities for living, such as things that can be replaced including shelter and food. They also listed things that cannot be replaced including health and family. Then, the participants were asked to imagine that they have to give up each and everything on their lists to feel the hardship of refugees. Based on this experience, the participants shared their feelings, as well as ideas of what we can do to help refugees.
The world is witnessing unprecedented numbers of people forced to flee their homes. Just because something is not happening in front of you does not mean it is not happening. We have to believe that every one of us can make a difference.