Now living in a refugee camp in Lebanon, Fatima, 19, does the best she can to provide for her daughter Mariam, 1. In 2014, when militants invaded her home town of Al Raqqa, Syria, she fled with her parents to her uncle’s house. When the situation became too dangerous there, she fled alone to Lebanon. Fatima soon married, had Mariam, and now looks ahead with hope, in search of life beyond displacement. (Photos courtesy

A crowd-funding platform connects donors with individuals

When news stories describe the harrowing journeys of refugees and the war zones they escaped, we tend to imagine the group rather than the individuals. The mental concept of millions of nameless displaced people is overwhelming, and might dissuade people from trying to help due to a misguided sense of hopelessness. Since general aid donations can feel like a negligible drop in the bucket, Web developer Andrew Baron came up with a crowd-funding platform that connects donors directly with the individuals they’re helping.

Fidaa (left) and his siblings standing near their small house in Bekaa, Lebanon. The Abdelwahed family lived in the countryside of Damascus, Syria, under constant threat of airstrikes. When their home was destroyed, they moved to their family’s home in Al-Qaboun but eventually left for Lebanon due to the lack of viable resources. Now surrounded by a lack of opportunity, Jamal (the father) would like to start a shoemaking business. (Photos courtesy

Humanwire, the nonprofit organization that runs this platform, connects philanthropists all over the world with specific refugees in desperate need of assistance. Based right on Pearl Street, Humanwire sets up profiles for refugees and makes them available to anyone who wants to help. You can contribute funds to established goals for these individuals, or start your own campaign and call on friends and family to help refugee applicants awaiting aid.

Humanwire also offers the opportunity for donors and refugees to Skype with each other if both parties are interested. Baron reports, perhaps surprisingly, that many displaced clients are eager to connect with their donors.“We have heard that many donors feel shy and don’t want to connect with their displaced families, as they feel it might bother or inconvenience them, but it’s actually the opposite in most cases,” he says. “They mostly yearn to have a connection, especially one that can lead to opportunity. Almost always it’s exciting. Both sides of the table often cry over how intense the connection is when they meet.”

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—Sara Bruskin