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Western Union stands #WithRefugees

Changing the fate of a generation

Last year 80% of Western Union employees donated money out of their own pockets to the WU Foundation*, to support refugee education and other causes. Employees also took part in volunteering opportunities and business projects in an effort to prevent a potential lost generation through the refugee crisis. Many employees live a long way from the most affected borders, but as global citizens they want to find out more and how they can help.

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Western Union Continues to Stand With Refugees

I’ve learned so much over the last few months as I have met and spent time with the wonderful people that most of the world refers to as Refugees.

Like many, I don’t like the term Refugees. It’s generic and somehow gives the impression of a common identity. It takes the humanity out of their stories. Refugees are people like you and I – who had real lives, attended school, held jobs, lived full of hope and dreams for their loved ones. However, left everything behind due to conflict in their home countries.

The Refugee crisis is a global humanitarian issue. On average, Refugees have to put their lives on hold for over 18 years. During that time, they are stateless and often unable to access education, jobs nor able to participate in the global economy. This creates a lost generation, impacting children the most.

I am lucky to work for a purpose driven company that serves so many customers who are on the move and “dual-belongers.”

Our employees are global citizens who understand the world of today and the world of tomorrow. They are embracing the Refugee cause and leading the way to find ways Western Union can leverage its assets and strengths to be part of sustainable solutions.

Together, we are exploring three focus areas – education, employment and enablement – to support Refugees in concrete ways.

  • Education: We’re pursuing alliances with NGOs who are innovating access and delivery of education, to optimize refugee opportunities and jobs to participate in the global economy. For example, entrepreneurship and technology training.
  • Employment: I am now more convinced than ever that the solutions to this global crisis lie in harnessing the talent of young refugees. Many Refugees have highly-valued skills. They’re accountants, graphic designers, programmers, engineers, teachers, carpenters, with skills that are very useful to the world economy. Beyond financial inclusion, employment provides refugees with dignity and purpose. Western Union has begun hiring refugees in Lithuania and is exploring opportunities to hire refugees in other countries where we have significant operations. In addition, we are looking at ways that we can outsource freelance and contract type work to Refugees.
  • Enablement: We know that in many parts of the world where refugees are hosted, it is difficult for them to access a number of financial services. Yet financial inclusion is critical to participation in local and global economies. Western Union, truly, is uniquely positioned to efficiently and effectively serve the evolving financial needs of Refugees and the organizations that support them through its global network of Agent locations, its money moving platform and its innovative spirit.

In a world where many are willing to help, Corporate Social responsibility has to go beyond grants and evolve to leveraging corporate assets to address critical world issues. This is not only the right thing to do but it also feels right thus creating virtuous cycles of shared value.

I am proud Western Union is one of many leading the way to embrace Refugees. Join me and others in the journey to help those who need it most, Refugees.

Learn more about our efforts

Maureen’s Personal Mission: Blog July 20th

Sixty-five million people forced to abandon their homes are 65 million reasons to act. Join the Western Union Foundation and make a contribution to support refugee children’s education. The Foundation will match your gift. This is just the beginning. Together we can change the fate of a whole generation for better. Start making a difference today.

Western Union® is committed to helping refugees around the globe – we are one of 15 companies who have been recently recognized by the White House for taking significant action to date. And we are just getting started...

In parallel and in support of education programs for refugee children, between July 20 and August 31 2016 the Western Union Foundation® is matching any donation 1:1* e.g. donate $10 and $20 will be given.

Maureen Sigliano, a Western Union employee, knows firsthand how your donation can truly make a difference and why education is so important. She shares her personal experience visiting a refugee Camp in Athens, Greece with her family.

A Global Crisis.
A Personal Mission.

The world is facing its biggest Refugee Crisis ever. There are over 65 million displaced people in the world - the highest number in history. That's more than the population of my home country of France. The media is not speaking about this enough and unfortunately when they do, they often portray refugess in a negative light.

I learned so much when I first visited Refugee Camps in April with other Western Union colleagues. The connections I made with refugee families during that trip changed my life forever. These are real people like you and me with know-how, experience, hopes and ambitions... But there’s one difference between me and them. Their realities were blown up by conflict.

I soon decided to return to a Camp on my personal time with two of my four children. Friends, family and colleagues asked me why are you going? Are you going to volunteer? Do you know what you are doing? Are you not worried about what could happen?

All I could say is that my children and I couldn’t wait. I had several objectives: to teach my children about the broader world; to understand how other global citizens like me could make a difference in just a few days; to better understand the education needs and opportunities in a Refugee Camp. But most importantly to spend quality time with my refugee friends, who since I met them, had been transferred to the Skaramangas Camp in an old Naval shipyard on the outskirts of Athens.

Half of refugees around the world are children

At the school we met an inspiring young man from Syria who had created the school program from scratch. He holds a Masters in Archeology and used to work at the Palmyra Museum in Syria but was forced to leave due to the war. He passionately explained that he immediately realized that education was vital for the children in the Camp. So he and his best friend started going door to door surveying families for their educational needs and then recruited 20 teachers. Thanks to his initiative, most of the children in the Camp now go to school for 2 hours a day. He also has big – and meaningful – plans for his future. He wants to replicate what he has achieved in Skaramangas across Refugee Camps worldwide. And one day he wants to become the Global Minister of Refugee Education. Wow.

Making friends

We met a charming young man from Afghanistan who had proclaimed himself the Camp’s lifeguard. He took his responsibility very seriously by checking homemade buoy systems, keeping the children safe. He told us “I have so much time with nothing to do. So here at least I'm useful. And it takes my thoughts away from all our problems and my sadness”.

We also met a young barber charging €1 for a cut and style. And 8 year olds fishing for dinner.

Entrepreneurship and proactivity driven by brilliant young minds at every turn.

Fishing for dinner

Young barber, Skaramangas Camp, Greece

Preventing a lost generation

My family and I achieved our objectives from our visit. And I am now more convinced than ever that the solutions to this global crisis lie in harnessing the talent of young refugees. Whether it’s education, financial inclusion or job creation, these people can help find the sustainable solutions they desperately need. The private sector must work together alongside NGOs – a crisis of this scale requires innovation and teamwork.

I’m proud to work for a company that’s taking action, and the efforts the Western Union Foundation is making towards education programs for refugee children. I’m proud of my own children for their open-mindedness and compassion. Most of all I’m proud of the refugees I now call friends for embarking on this brave journey with such hope. We must help this hope be realized.

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