How You Can Help Syrian (and Other) Refugees

Photo of an Afghan refugee family leaving the Keleti train station. From Budapest Seen's Facebook page.

An Afghan refugee family leaving the Keleti train station. Photo by Edd Carlile, from Budapest Seen's Facebook page.

The refugee crisis in Europe has many asking how they can direct their funds and attention to Syrian and other refugees here. There are many different initiatives, but here are a few good ones I’ve found:

  • Refugees Welcome: The site is mainly in German, but you can donate here or sponsor the monthly rent for a refugee here. German residents can also volunteer, or offer up a spot in their home if they have one.
  • Migration Aid: This charity specifically helps refugees who have arrived in Hungary and accepts both cash and goods donations.
  • The Migrant Offshore Aid Station helps rescue refugees at sea. I think this is a worthy cause, but their FAQ is worth reading to understand how they treat refugees once they’re rescued.
  • British charity Refugee Action provides a range of services to refugees who’ve reached Britain’s shores.
  • UOSSM Canada is seeking both donations and volunteers at its Ontario location.
  • Those in Budapest can offer to volunteer with The Secret Kitchen, which provides meals to refugees there.

Two years ago, I wrote a post about how you can help Syrian refugees. While I stand by the information in that post, I decided to write a fresh one that includes newer organizations. This post also includes some repeats from the last. Many thanks to Lina Sergie Attar and Sima Diab for their help.

As I explained last time, I’ve highlighted organizations that are 501(c)(3) US-based nonprofits and receive high marks from GuideStar and Charity Navigator, with a couple of notable exceptions.

Suggestions are in no particular order:

  • Save the Children is an internationally known organization (95.01/100 on Charity Navigator) and 501(c)(3) nonprofit that currently maintains a Syrian children in crisis fund. Their program is unique in that they’re working to create “child-friendly spaces” to give children in refugee communities ” a safe space to play and get support while keeping their minds off the harsh reality they are facing.”  This is important in that psychological help is as needed in a crisis as medical and other care.  Guidestar also ranks Save the Children highly, with a Gold-level mark in the Exchange.
  • The Syrian American Medical Society Foundation received a Silver ranking from Guidestar‘s Exchange and is not yet ranked on Charity Navigator (which requires 7 years of IRS filings). The organization has local programs in Lebanon and southern Syria. Their own annual report states that only 1% of donations went toward overhead costs in 2013.
  • Basmeh & Zeitooneh is unranked because it’s not a US charity, but Syrian and Lebanese friends speak highly of it. The aid group, based in Lebanon, works primarily with Syrian refugees in Lebanon, providing them with psychosocial support, food, clothing, and other needs. You can donate to their current campaign here. They also run a women’s workshop.
  • The Middle East Children’s Alliance is a California-based nonprofit that works locally and internationally, and is currently running a campaign to provide urgent aid to Syrian refugees seeking shelter in Lebanon. They score a 70.79/100 by Charity Navigator, due in part to high fundraising costs as well as their Bay Area location. Their financials are a bit outdated onGuidestar.
  • Relief and Reconciliation is a charity that runs a Peace Centre in northern Lebanon aiming to “help people of all faiths … to exit violence and to find a better future.” As they are not a US nonprofit, they are unranked by Guidestar and Charity Navigator, but their About page boasts some impressive credentials!
  • is a small organization that received 501(c)(3) status in 2013, after I wrote this post. Though it does not yet have its financial reports up (GuideStar), the charity claims that it does not use any donations to support overhead costs, ensuring that donations are used entirely to support Syrians.

This post was originally published on Jillian C.York's blog. Jillian is a volunteer representative for the Global Voices Board of Directors. She is also EFF's Director for International Freedom of Expression and is based in Berlin, Germany.

Read more of our special coverage: Streams of Refugees Seek Sanctuary in Europe

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.