American Kids Are Writing Letters To Refugee Children With The Help Of This Organization

Operation Refugee Child includes the handwritten notes in a backpack full of essentials and delivers them to refugee children in camps.

Separated by thousands of miles of sea and sky, flinty border guards, and hostile closed-door policies, the literal and figurative distance between Americans familiar with the refugee crisis through statistics and the actual human suffering in overcrowded camps across Europe and the Middle East is staggering. But one American mom has set forth to bridge that seemingly-insurmountable gap through a campaign called Operation Refugee Child

The organization delivers backpacks stuffed with school equipment, snacks, first-aid supplies, clothing, toys, and other items to refugee children in camps abroad all the way from California, where it's based.

Operation Refugee Child is the work of 32-year-old mom Gader Ibrahim. Ibrahim told TODAY that she, like thousands of people in America, was deeply affected by the harrowing image of Alan Kurdi's body, a young Syrian boy who drowned crossing the Mediterranean Sea. 

Ibrahim traveled to Greece to volunteer helping refugees coming in from the Middle East and other places, and while there, she realized there was an opportunity for her to make a difference — especially for refugee children.

Back in California, Ibrahim founded Operation Refugee Child. 18 months later, TODAY reported that the organization has sent more than 6,500 backpacks to Jordan and Greece. 

The group has also extended its efforts to welcome Syrian refugee children who recently resettled in the United States — before Trump's executive order banned them from entering — with backpacks.

The backpacks are like care packages of sorts; each one includes a personalized handwritten letter. Ibrahim told TODAY that she was shocked at the donations that poured in and the letters that people sent for her to include with the backpacks.

Children and adults alike have volunteered to help the organization, and even Ibrahim's 4-year-old son, the older of two children, is doing his part by scribbling his signature on the notes. 

"Letters mean a lot," Ibrahim said. "They think, 'Oh people actually care about us. We're not forgotten.'" 

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