IMPACT
08/31/2016 04:50 pm ET Updated Sep 06, 2016

Facebook Group Raises Over $100,000 To Give Refugees Cell Phone Credit

Displaced people need food and shelter on their journeys ― but they also need to stay connected.

As refugees make their journey to Europe, one group is helping them stay connected to their loved ones. 

The Facebook groupPhone Credit for Refugees and Displaced People’ is connecting refugees displaced in Europe with donors who can help pay for their cell phone data and minutes.

In the six months since its February launch, the group has garnered more than 20,000 members and raised almost 100,000 British pounds ― or around $130,000, according to the Guardian.

Refugees simply post in the Facebook group when they need credit added to their pay-as-you-go phones, according to the page. Donors can then add funds directly to their mobile accounts online, or donate to the group so the administrators can distribute funds.

The goal of the Facebook group is to provide refugees with access to much-needed internet and calls so they can stay connected along their journeys.

“I can only imagine when you are many miles from home in very uncertain circumstances that being able to keep in touch with friends and family is a big priority for most,” founder James Pearce posted in the Facebook group. “Hopefully together we will be able to help lots of people sustain this incredibly important communication lifeline a little bit more easily.”

Pearce, a social service worker from the U.K, started the group after volunteering in the Calais Jungle, France’s makeshift camp, according to The Guardian. He was alarmed by the number of people who couldn’t reach loved ones, and was inspired to help.

People use their mobile phones near a Wi-Fi hotspot at a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants near Idomeni, Greece, May 1
Marko Djurica / Reuters
People use their mobile phones near a Wi-Fi hotspot at a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants near Idomeni, Greece, May 14, 2016.

There are more than 4.8 million Syrian refugees who have been forced to flee their country, and for those who head to Europe, the journey can be arduous.

For refugees on the move, having access to cell phones to use the internet and make calls is essential. Wifi can be just as important as food or water for many migrants, aid worker Isaac Kwamy told Reuters. 

“Very few of them (migrants) said, ‘We are hungry, we need food. Or we are thirsty, can we have water?” Kwamy said. “They were literally asking, ‘Do you have Wi-fi access and where can we charge our phones?’”

Refugees use their phones to access key information on border closings, according to research from BBC Media Action. Migrants also use apps like Google Maps or Facebook to map their journeys, so they don’t have to rely on traffickers.

The Phone Credit for Refugees and Displaced People’ Facebook group allows refugees to get the cell phone credit they urgently need to stay connected.

“My hope for the group is that we will be able to grow to the size necessary to meet the need that’s out there,” Pearce told the Guardian. “And in the process, that we can humanize and raise the profile of those caught up in the refugee crisis among ordinary people.”

To donate to refugees’ cell phone minutes and help them stay connected and safe, join the Facebook page or donate via PayPal to phone.credit.1@gmail.com.

Migrants charge their mobile devices in a shelter for migrants inside a hangar of the former Tempelhof airport in Berlin, Ger
Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters
Migrants charge their mobile devices in a shelter for migrants inside a hangar of the former Tempelhof airport in Berlin, Germany, December 9, 2015.
HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

PHOTO GALLERY
Refugees Transform Graffitied Walls Into Beautiful Murals
CONVERSATIONS