Not since World War II has Europe witnessed such a dire refugee crisis. In four tumultuous years, the number of Syrian refugees has ballooned to 11 million, yet world leaders have failed to provide substantial humanitarian assistance to those who have fled.
Many European governments have been outrageously slow to respond to the thousands of refugees risking their lives to enter their countries. Though that is troubling, there are many people stepping up where their leaders have fallen short.
One such effort is the website Refugees Welcome, an Airbnb-style service that lets people host refugees in their homes for at least three months, with rent crowdfunded.
But whose idea was it to connect people willing to share their homes with refugees?
The founders of Refugees Welcome are a German couple, Mareike Geiling and Jonas Kakoschke. Geiling had a similar experience, donating her empty room to a Malian refugee while she went to teach in Cairo.
Soon after, she and Kakoschke launched Refugees Welcome to help others do the same.
"We don't like how refugees are treated in Germany," she told Vice in an interview. "No one leaves his country without a reason, and [the government is] putting them into mass accommodation, where 100 people have to share one bathroom, outside of the city center, where there are no Germans living or people that speak German."
Refugees Welcome aims at helping refugees settle into the country in better conditions.
Geiling told the website that pairing refugees with locals has many benefits. "You learn German better, you can build up a network, you can be proud of the community, people who live in Germany can help you to settle down, and we only provide one person per room so everyone has their privacy," she said.
Many hosts, too, find that it can be an enriching experience. Getting to know a refugee can change how one views them as a whole: as human beings, rather than an "anonymous mass of people," Geiling said.
"It's someone that you know the background of, you know the stories he's telling. It's interesting to see how the world is for someone who is not German — you see the world from another point of view."
For now, the service is available in Austria and Germany only. But they have plans to expand.
The refugee crisis doesn't just affect Germany. It affects Syria's already over-stretched neighboring countries (today, one in three people in Lebanon are from Syria), it affects all of Europe — in fact, it's an issue that needs to be addressed on a global level.
Germany is currently leading the effort in taking in refugees; 800,000 Syrians have found refuge there. But no country can do it alone, and no country can refuse to do its part.