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In which John Green discusses the Project for Awesome 2015, the growing refugee population in Ethiopia resulting from the conflict in South Sudan, the Syrian refugee crisis, and the vitally important work being done by the United Nations' High Commission on Refugees (the UNHCR) and Save the Children.



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Good morning, Hank, it's Friday, the beginning of the 9th annual Project for Awesome.  You can head over to projectforawesome.com to find a link to the 48 hour livestream, info on donating, and all the amazing perks, and of course, to watch and vote for Project for Awesome videos.  Your votes will determine where much of the money raised is donated.  But for the first half of the P4A, we're raising money for Save the Children and the United Nations High Commission on Refugees.

So you're probably familiar with the Syrian refugee crisis.  Millions of people have been forced to flee Syria as a result of a horrifying civil war there, and both Save the Children and the UNHCR are providing massive support to refugee camps from Turkey to Jordan to Lebanon, where more than a quarter of the people currently living in the country are refugees, but these organizations both work around the world and today, I wanna focus on Ethiopia.

So since 2013, conflict in South Sudan has forced more than 250,000 South Sudanese people to flee to the Gambella region of Ethiopia.  Most have left with only whatever belongings they can carry, and often ferry across the river board in canoes.  This woman, Sarah, explained to a Save the Children employee succinctly why she and her family had to leave.  

"The government forces came and started killing people, so we ran away."

Once they get to Ethiopia, most of these people make their way to a camp, where they then wait to register as refugees.  More than 60% of the refugees arriving in Gambella are children, and many meet this man, Johannus, a child protection officer from Save the Children.  

"And here, they are many unaccompanied minors who are separated from their parents."  So Johannus works to help these unaccompanied minors including these boys, all of whom arrived in Ethiopia separated from their families.  It's also Johannus's job to make sure that safe spaces are created and maintained for children who live in the camps.  Within the camps, Save the Children works to provide basic medical care, including measuring physical progress to hopefully limit the stunting that can lead to long-term physical and intellectual disabilities, and also to provide kids with opportunities for play and learning.  

Meanwhile, the UNHCR works to get food and basic shelter to the refugees which is a a massive task for a perennially underfunded organization.  For instance, this mother, Mary, explained that there's no firewood to cook with in the camps, and no machines to mill grain.  She said she wants to return to South Sudan where her family was relatively prosperous before the fighting broke out, but it's too dangerous.  

I know it's easy to feel hopeless in the face of these complex challenges or to turn away from them.  The global refugee crisis is overwhelming, and it's easy to say that this is not our problem, that these boys are not our boys, but in the past few years, we've seen what human history has shown us again and again, that on this planet, there is no such thing as "other people's problems".  Disease and poverty and violence are shaped by political borders but they cannot be controlled by them.  Whether it's Ebola or antibiotic resistance, or the civil war in Syria, or the refugees in Gamballa, we all lose when we imagine that there are no consequences to turning away from the biggest human challenges.  These unaccompanied children face an exceptionally difficult future, but it is not a hopeless one.  We know it isn't hopeless because we've seen the success that humans have when we come together to support and empower the poorest and most disenfranchised among us.  

Infant mortality has gone down by half in the last 25 years.  The percentage of kids in school has skyrocketed, and overall global poverty has diminished, but the global refugee population hasn't been this high since World War II, and more than half of them are children.  These refugees, in accordance with international law and also with whatever higher law might exist, need to be protected.  We can't afford to have a generation of marginalized kids with no access to healthcare or education, and that's why I don't see donations to organizations like Save the Children or the UNHCR as gifts, I see them as investments.  We know that healthier, better educated kids become happier, more productive adults, and we know that the cycle of poverty can be broken, but these kids need our investment.  So I hope you'll join me in supporting them, again, on this, the first day of the Project for Awesome, all the donations to our charity The Foundation to Decrease Worldsuck will be split between Save the Children and the UNHCR, and the money raised after that will go to support charities chosen by you at projectforawesome.com.

If you want to make a donation directly to the Foundation, you can do that by clicking on this fancy new card that Google has made.  There's no fee with the transaction, which is amazing, and Google will match every dollar donated through this card up to $100,000, so please help us take some of Google's money, and again, you can go to projectforawesome.com to find the fundraiser there and all the perks and stuff and to follow along with the livestream madness.  

Thank you, happy Project for Awesome, and as we say in my hometown of Nerdfighteria, don't forget to be awesome.  

Endscreen, Hank always says I should make an endscreen, yes, I know this video was more than 4 minutes long, and therefore, I will probably be punished.  I have accepted this fate.  This is your last chance to use the donation card unless you rewind the video.  I will see you at projectforawesome.com and in the livestream, bye!