My 2015 Reflections

Often, I don’t do year-end reflections. But this year it was kind 0f special. Special how? For each person, whether the events that happened in your life were life-changing, significant career-wise, personally enriching or spiritual growth, those are the moments that stayed with you. And now when the calendar is closing its days, we want to look back and review. Perhaps, to learn what we did and maybe to draw from the experience for the journey ahead.

For me, what went on in the world really signified the actions I took in 2015. Specifically, I’m speaking about many major crises happening regarding the Great Migration in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. Also, the violence involving guns and weapons really shook me up.

The migration or refugee crisis in Europe didn’t really hit me until about early May when I was in New Jersey for a work conference. My phone rang. On the other end, a BBC journalist wanted to interview me about Bolinao 52, a documentary I produced in 2009 about Vietnamese boat refugees. He, the journalist , wanted to look what happened to the Bolinao 52 to bring attention to what was happening to the boat migrant crisis in the Mediterranean when thousands are dying crossing the treacherous water to Europe.

At that point, I realized that my work matters. And especially for the blooming refugee crisis in Europe where thousands of people are entering each day to seek asylum, my work matters more than ever. So I began to search for causes to help out.

MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) is a non-profit organization that rescue distress refugee vessels at sea. Their mission is to prevent loss of life at sea. MOAS’s work fits well with my personal history since my family was rescued at sea in 1980. I contacted MOAS and worked with them to create a #ICareBecause campaign. The campaign used social media to call attention to the refugee crisis by asking users to use the hashtag #ICareBecause in their social media postings and adding their personal reasons why they care.

We also help launch a campaign to raise fund for MOAS.

These actions led us to get some recognition by main stream media as NPR Radio KPCC, The Orange Register, VOICE of America, Associated Press.

KPCC interview with Alex Cohen

Locally, we teamed up with some folks to organize a Walk 4 Refugees walkathon. Hundreds of walkers from different communities and age groups gathered and raised over $4000 to help refugees.

Through my involvement with the movement to help refugees, I ran into Meymuna Hussein Cataan, Tiyya Foundation’s director. She mentioned that the newly arrived refugees in Southern California immediate needs are diapers for babies. Since the EBT (Electronic, Benefit Transfer) they received do not allow them to purchase paper products. Well, may as well, I told her. We would put together another campaign to fund raise to buy diapers for refugees and hash tagged it #diapers4refugees.

My son came up with this when I told him what we are doing.

We raised up to now almost $2000. And on 12/23/15 we collected some of the money and bought diapers. Then we went to refugee homes to deliver the goods.

We are continuing raising money for this cause as the #ICareBecause campaign shifted its direction to a Think Globally and Act Locally initiative. If you like to contribute to our #diapers4refugees campaign click here.

That’s pretty much wrapping my 2015. I’m looking forward to 2016 to continue our efforts in bring attention to refugee causes because that is who I was.

Peace, Love and Happiness for 2016!

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