Imagine Dragons Cares about the Refugee Crisis (and you should too)

With refugees across the Middle East and Europe in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, Imagine Dragons introduces the One4 Project to support relief efforts

Like many people, I find most of my information regarding world news on the internet. I have a regular routine of waking in the morning and scouring the web to keep updated on world events. It’s the modern day newspaper, except the sources seem to be endless and the opinions are far more reaching.

Now that the world seems to be consolidated into a computer screen, it’s even easier to fall into the trap of thinking that you understand an issue thoroughly based on a little browsing. Light research can quickly become an unchangeable opinion.

Some seem to have the answers to the world’s problems at hand, even if they are hundreds of thousands of miles away from ground zero. Others are so overwhelmed by the constant outpour of devastating news that they don’t even know where to start.

It’s understandable for people to think that they know what it feels like to be in the shoes of others just based upon articles/pictures/videos they’ve seen on the internet. It’s also very easy to become numb or overwhelmed with the amount of world problems at hand. We often have to make our best assumptions and opinions based on the few resources we have, and often that’s the internet, not real life experience.

The sad truth is that the internet doesn’t even begin to capture the true heartbreaking reality of what it is to be a refugee.

The refugees I speak of are NOT “migrants.” They are not packing up their bags in search of a better economic situation. They aren’t in search of a job that is better than the one their country offers. Not to say there is anything wrong with that. If I was born into a poverty-stricken country, I imagine that I also would try to move to a place that offered me a better situation. Isn’t that what we all do at work? Do our best to climb the ladder to a higher position? A better paying job? We move states if we get a better job offer. So isn’t it understandable that someone would try to leave their country to escape impoverishment and provide a better future for themselves?

But still, that isn’t the refugee I speak of. Those aren’t the refugees that I met with at a camp in Germany. Their story was a very different one.

These refugees had to flee their beautiful homes and secure jobs due to war. They had no choice. It was either move or be killed. They wish nothing more than to be back in their homes, but that isn’t an option. These are people who had dedicated their lives to their trade. To their families. Their education. These are lawyers.

These are people just like you and me. They aren’t what I see many people calling them — “freeloaders.” Over half of these refugees are children. HALF. With over 11 million people displaced, the math is nothing short of devastating.

If they are lucky enough to be able to pay off smugglers to get them across the border (which is extremely expensive) they then have to face a journey that often leads to death. Small dingy boats that often don’t reach the shore. Little to no food along the way. Terrible treatment. These are very scary circumstances for a full grown adult, let alone small innocent children.

After the excruciating journey that many don’t even make it through, these refugees arrive at camps like the one I visited last week with my wife in Germany. Let me tell you, it’s not the promised land they were hoping for.

As I walked into the gated area, I was immediately greeted by a dozen children that had huge smiles on their faces, overshadowing their dirty clothing and skinny bodies. They grabbed our hands and sang us songs. They seemed completely unaffected by the environment. However, the faces of the adults were far different. They often didn’t even want to be seen, dodging into small crates/tents that they called home. When I asked the few that would speak to me why no one wanted to be seen, they explained it very simply: these are people that have lead very respectable lives. They often come from stable homes with stable jobs and don’t want the world to see them in this state. They want to be known by the life they led before this. The life they had worked so hard to achieve that could now only be found in photographs they carry with them.

The man in charge of the camp greeted me with a worn smile. I could tell that he was doing his very best to make his camp respectable, but the minimal funds he had at hand weren’t even coming close to creating a temporary livable environment for these families.

As I walked into one family’s crate, I was immediately moved to tears. A man greeted me with his four children clinging to his legs. He was from Syria and tried to bring a smile to his heavy lips. He hardly could look me in the eyes out of embarrassment for his “home” that was roughly the size of a tiny American bathroom. He didn’t speak English or German so we weren’t able to converse, but his eyes told me so much. I don’t think I’ll ever forget those eyes. In them I saw a father’s desire to do whatever it took to take care of his children. Also, complete sorrow for the home and life he had left behind. Being so close to defeat, but not showing it so that his children could see. It was in those eyes that I found the resolve to do whatever it took to help these refugees. No article did that for me. No video. Only human interaction, even without words being shared.

I met with a man that was a chef back home in Africa. He was strong and had the biggest smile I had ever seen. He told me that he would cook in the kitchen each day for people in the camp. The kitchen for more than 300 people consisted of a few stoves and ovens. On the wall, written with marker, were names of families that were assigned days to clean the kitchen.

The bathroom was a topic of much contempt with everyone I spoke to. Upon entering it, I immediately understood why. There were only a few meager toilets that were supposed to be able to support over 300 people. Feces were spread out on the ground; the smell was overbearing. Refugees in the camp tried to apologize to me for the condition of the bathroom, as if it was their fault they had been kicked out of their homes and were forced to resort to living in an overpopulated and under financed refugee camp. Granted, it was better than nothing. Or was it? We now know that the conditions of many of these camps — especially in Jordan and Lebanon — are so bad that refugees are returning home to their war torn countries only to be killed. Over 100,000 civilians have been slaughtered due to this epidemic.

I can’t begin to explain to you the emotions that ran through me as I was in this camp. It was the most eye opening experience of my life. I was saddened to see that when I posted about this on our band’s social platforms to raise awareness, a few people commented about how they were ashamed I was choosing to shed light on this instead of problems on our own soil. “We have enough problems here in America. Stop trying to help those that are abroad, whose circumstances you don’t even understand.” In response to them, I would say, yes, we do have problems here at home that need awareness, but are we as a human race so narrow-minded that we can only focus on the problems that affect us directly?

I know there are enough hours in the day to spend our energies both here and abroad. I also know that if the whole world could set foot in one of these camps and see the devastation, they would absolutely be moved to help.

We as a band started a nonprofit a couple years back called the Tyler Robinson Foundation. We raise money for families that have a child who has cancer. One young teenager named Geoffrey recently raised over $25,000 through tons of small donations he collected over a year's time for the Tyler Robinson Foundation. He did this out of his own free will. He simply wanted to make a difference. This floored me. One very small and young human being was able to do something that would directly change multiple people’s lives.

Bearing this principle in mind, I am convinced that if we as a world make a collective decision that this refugee crisis is indeed a crisis worth fixing, we can absolutely do it. If the power of One can be so strong, how strong can the power of millions of Ones be?

Germany and many other countries are bearing a large load right now. A load too great for anyone to handle alone. We need to help. We cannot stand by and watch these families lives be turned upside down. These children need homes. These parents are willing to work and do whatever it takes to contribute to the economy of the country that gives them a home. Yes, some will be migrants looking for a better place to live (around 10% of the refugees), but the vast majority are just looking to survive. They are looking to protect their children from a premature death.

We released a song last week titled “I Was Me,” and all the proceeds on iTunes will go towards the refugee crisis. We have called this the #One4 campaign to honor the spirit and power of One in making a difference. This took a very small effort on our part, and I don’t share this to pat us on the back. I share it to hopefully inspire others to be like Geoffrey. The power of One is immeasurable. I plead with each and every person who reads this to find a way to contribute to this cause. The circumstances are dire and the time is now.

I am not a writer. I wish I had the power of word. I wish that I could speak eloquently and powerfully enough that it would convince the world to move this mountain together. I wish that I could make you feel what I felt when I looked in that man’s eyes as his children clung to him. His eyes plead with me. Not out of desperation, but out of the purest and most complete love that he had for his children. He merely wanted to give them a chance at life. These people need us. They need humanity to reach out it’s hand and pick them up from the unfair position they were forced into.

It only takes One hand.

Dan Reynolds is the lead singer of the Grammy Award-winning band Imagine Dragons, and Cuepoint is honored to host this important message.

Imagine Dragons’ “I Was Me” single is available now on iTunes. Proceeds from the sales of the track will be donated to the UN Refugee Agency.

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