Learning to Run

Natasha Freidus
Jun 19 · 5 min read

Happy second birthday to us!

When we launched NeedsList on World Refugee Day 2017, we had just three needs in one country — Greece. Early that morning there was a problem with our domain host — the URL was broken. I was in Europe at the time and have never been so grateful for the six hour time difference. Our small team frantically worked to fix everything and sure enough, by sunrise on the East Coast, NeedsList.co was live. Shortly after, you all began to buy shoes and feminine hygiene products and Tshirts for refugees in Greece, distributed by local nonprofits.

Two years later, it’s World Refugee Day 2019, and we have a lot to celebrate. Not only have you all met over one million dollars worth of needs for displaced people in 20 countries, this month also marks a significant milestone — we’ve closed a $1 million seed round thanks to new investors Amplio Ventures and Marigold Capital joining our existing investor base.

I’d be flat out lying if I said these past two years were easy. I had thought that getting the website up and live was the hard part — — but that paled in light of the challenges of raising the funds we needed to do it justice, the rampant sexism we have faced in the tech space, and, of course, the ongoing horrors. It’s not just the conditions which force people to flee that have worsened, but how we as a society turn our backs, criminalize aid workers, separate families. I ccould go on and on.

The journey ahead is a long one. The number of people displaced is now at 70 million, predicted to hit one billion by 2050. Now more than ever it’s evident that we need ways to address the growing gap in aid and to test out of the box models. And while we started our work focused on refugees, we’ve witnessed firsthand over the past few years how local communities need better new tools for crisis response in light of rampant flooding, wildfires, and hurricanes.

But for this week, we hope you will celebrate with us by joining our multi-sector campaign in partnership with the Refugee Investment Network highlighting how the private sector, academia, and individual citizens can stand with refugees worldwide during this time of unprecedented crisis.

From “micro-volunteering” to mattresses, there are multiple ways to stand with refugees.

“NeedsList has the potential to transform an outdated and inefficient crisis relief system to meet and exceed the over $11B resource gap in urgent needs for displaced communities,” said Tali Golan, Director of Social Impact at Needham-based TripAdvisor. ”As one of Needslist’s first corporate partners, we have been their champions from the start and are thrilled that they have hit this milestone. We look forward to continuing to collaborate along their journey in our shared aim of responding to the real-time needs of those displaced.”

As we began to explore the multiple ways that companies can support refugees, from hiring to purchasing power, we’ve seen an incredible range of commitments from global corporates to tiny startups. We’re thrilled to provide just a glimpse into some of the ways our partners stand with refugees.

  • Employees from TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site are volunteering this month with organizations serving refugees around the globe, including who is purchasing and loading SD cards with asylum rights information for our partner Refucomm.
  • IKEA North York has generously donated mattresses to the FCJ Centre, a local resettlement organization through NeedsList.

And don’t think academics are just writing and thinking.
They too are taking action.

Over in Cambridge, technology leaders at MIT’s ReACT program are training up top talent in refugee camps across the globe. Down the road in Needham Massachusetts The Shapiro Foundation has partnered with the Refugee Hub out of the University of Ottawa to allow US donors to support Canada’s private sponsorship program. Santa Clara University is running Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins, an online accelerator to support new approaches to migration and human trafficking again this year. We met many of our current partners there including fellow startups Five One Labs, Leaf Global Fintech, 734 Coffee, and Talent Beyond Boundaries.

The power of the underdog

As I write this I just got the keys to my family’s new home in Toronto while the city celebrates last night’s historic Raptors’ win. My daughter and her friends just made a beautiful rainbow cake in honor of PRIDE. She told me, “We want it to look dark and gloomy on the outside, but then you cut it and see all the beauty bursting from within.”
We will bring that sentiment to our work and the challenges ahead.

In the meantime, the air is thick with celebration, the strength of the underdog, and whispers of hope.

We invite you to join the NeedsList campaign , From Camps to Careers…Needs Along the Refugee Journey by supporting the following needs.

  • In Lesvos, there is still a need for the basic necessities. Buy a pair of shoes for asylum seekers for under $20.
  • Scalabrini International Migration Network, the oldest migrant aid organization in Latin America, is raising funds to bring dignity to Venezuelan refugees in Colombia through their migrant center. Contribute here.
  • Outraged about the situation at the border? Support Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona to provide basic aid to asylum seekers .
  • Talent Beyond Boundaries has created a new pathway to escape conflict for skilled refugees by matching them with jobs in host countries. They are raising money to cover the visa and application costs.
  • In Iraq, our partners at 51 Labs are also taking a new approach to aid, by supporting entrepreneurship. They are raising funds for refugee women to start and grow their businesses.
  • Under the radar but also in need are refugees in Malaysia, where our partners MAD Projects are training refugees for careers.
  • Two years ago James Thuch Madier arrived from Sudan as a refugee. Now he’s developed a sustainable way to build food security and economic development back home rooted in water at RainMaker Enterprise. You can donate towards their sensor here.

Thank you for showing that #WeWill continue to stand #WithRefugees this year, and with NeedsList, always.

NeedsList

NeedsList is the world’s first marketplace for communities in crisis. We connect you with ways to directly support the most effective organizations providing support to displaced people worldwide. Give global, buy local.

Natasha Freidus

Written by

Reflections on innovating crisis relief, standing with refugees, tech for good, and mission-based entrepreneurship.

NeedsList

NeedsList

NeedsList is the world’s first marketplace for communities in crisis. We connect you with ways to directly support the most effective organizations providing support to displaced people worldwide. Give global, buy local.