Crowdfunding website Kickstarter is known for getting creative projects off the ground through public donations, but on Tuesday it launched a different kind of campaign. At the behest of the White House, Kickstarter and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will help Syrian refugees by raising funds to provide them with both the temporary necessities to survive and longer term tools to rebuild their lives.
Partnering with USA for UNHCR, the U.S.-based nonprofit assisting the UN refugee agency, in a weeklong campaign, Kickstarter's campaign for Syrian refugees does not provide rewards for donors, but does give a general idea of what the money could go towards — tents, sleeping bags, emergency rescue kits, food, water, and even education and care for refugee children.
The project was initiated after the Obama administration contacted the crowdfunding website to get the American public involved in the Syrian relief effort, Kickstarter's CEO Yancey Strickler said.
"I immediately said yes," Strickler told The Guardian, despite the website's traditional focus on creative campaigns. "Overwhelmed by the immensity of this situation, we felt compelled to act and felt like if our product could provide any path forward for the people, we should do that."
What's in it for USA for UNHCR? According to Anne-Marie Grey, executive director of USA for UNHCR, it enables them to reach a different donor base. "This is a terrific opportunity and it's a very different group of people than would normally raise their hands to support refugee causes, so it's really quite exciting," she told The Guardian.
For the past four years, we've watched as the ongoing Syrian civil war spilled over to an international humanitarian catastrophe as Syrians fled the ruins of their country. This year alone, about half a million refugees have made the treacherous journey to Europe, more than half of them under the age of 18. On Tuesday, a European Union official said that 3 million more Syrians could flee the violence in their country.
This year, the UN had asked for $7.42 billion in aid for Syrians both in the country and those who have escaped. But in early October, it was still $4.53 billion short of its goal.
The Kickstarter campaign does not have a funding target. Donations made immediately go to USA for UNHCR, and unlike its other projects, isn't all-or-nothing. Contributions are completely tax deductible and can be made an unlimited number of times until the campaign ends on Oct. 13.
Donate here at Kickstarter's Aid Refugees page today.
Cover image via Milos Bicanski / Getty Images