Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Key to Making a Difference

Top image: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

About 18 months ago, I dreamt I was in an airport in Rwanda. The structure, on the inside, did not have any of the trappings of an airport situated in the midst of a civil war. Outside, the African sun was burning, bright and hot, an the skies were clear. At eye level, there was sparkling outside the window and a low, indescribable hum. And then, someone near the window howled, and I heard the word "machete" as people began to move frantically. But we had nowhere to run.

Fear, even while in a dream state, sets loose a surge of adrenaline that pulsates through your body like nothing else. As I joined the melee, the terror I felt was palpable. I couldn't shake the idea that I was a sitting duck and that I was going to die on the tip of a bloody blade.

I awoke in a sweat, shaking, and haven't been able to shake that dream since. It's as vivid today as it was that night.

A few months before, my former publisher -- a brilliant, inspiring gent -- posted on his Facebook page that he had just finished reading and had thoroughly enjoyed "What is the What," the autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng. If you don't know of him, he's one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Jim's recommendation was enough; I picked up the book and dug in, and followed with other stories of genocide and the refugees that survived. These stories embedded themselves in my subconscious.

Lower image: UN Photo/John Isaac

My dream, though horrifying, was just that: a dream. As I raced through that airport trying desperately to figure out an escape, I was consoled by the fact that my children were home and safe. Around me, children called out for missing parents, parents for children. If they made it out alive, who would help them? If they had to walk, alone, for hundreds of miles, would they make it? Would they have food? Shelter? Someone who cared? Someone to help them continue to live?

For millions, that support comes from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). I joined the Blue Key Campaign to help ensure that support will continue.

Around the world, millions of people are affected by natural disasters, violence and civil war. Forced from their homes and, in some cases, their countries, they struggle to survive.

The Agency has helped more than 50 million people since 1951. At the end of 2009 alone, there were 43.3 million displaced people around the globe. More than 26 million refugees and 15.6 internationally displaced persons had received help from the UNHCR. Many are children; many have disabilities.

For many of us, $5 is practically pocket change. For a refugee, it can be a key to change. Get your Blue Key to help them. Visit to learn how.

The Blue Key campaign is a project of USA for UNHCR (, which works in the United States to support the UNHCR, based in Geneva.

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