In 2015, when the body of the 3-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi washed ashore in Greece, I saw in that mortifying picture the utter failure in our collective ability to stop an ongoing crime against humanity.
Then I came across Leo Buscaglia’s inspiring words: “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
I decided to do whatever I can, with whatever I have, wherever I was.
I decided to write a letter.
Letters of Love is a global initiative I founded three years ago. We aspire to make a difference to refugee crises, one smile at a time, through empathy, education, and empowerment. We are a team of 25 peacebuilders, with an average age of 22, from 11 countries, working to forge critical human connections.
With the power of a handwritten letter as the pivot, our wheel of change broadly runs on three spokes:
• We empower refugee children with joy, laughter and psycho-social support.
• We believe young people are the key to sustainable positive change in the world and we believe sensitizing them to topics of conflict are as important as traditional academics. We therefore use empathy-centric education as a tool to sensitize high school and university students about the ongoing refugee crises and we highlight the potential of each one of them as a change agent.
• We foster friendships through our pen pal project with the objective of humanizing the so-called ‘other.’
Letters of Love has how delivered handwritten postcards to more than 30,000 Syrian, Iraqi, Yazidi, Palestinian, and Rohingya refugee children and has effectively engaged more than 20,000 youth in the change movement.
We are now an official member of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees #WithRefugees Coalition and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Youth Network.
“The core idea of my work is to shake the inertia of apathy people have about grave humanitarian issues. To inspire others to help make a difference in this daunting crisis, we must first inspire empathy.”