11 Ways You Can Help Refugees

Carsten Koall // Getty Images
Carsten Koall // Getty Images

When political upheaval is happening thousands of miles from home, it can feel difficult to know how to help survivors of war and turmoil. But as refugees arrive in the U.S. looking for a better life, there are ways you can make a lasting impact within your own community.

1. STAY EDUCATED.

When you mix in constantly changing political boundaries, military maneuvers, and foreign social norms, it can be difficult understand (and keep up with) what’s going on abroad. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or explore the ever-changing dynamics that impact the lives of refugees. Organizations such as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) can provide human insight to political situations, and collect donations that benefit refugees, too.

2. CLEAR OUT YOUR EXTRA BEDROOM.

An empty bedroom.
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The sharing economy has been a new way to generate profits from unexpected places (like your car or house), but it can also be used for philanthropy. Consider clearing out unused rooms in your home to host refugees in your community. Organizations such as the IRC work with Airbnb to locate temporary housing for refugees. Homeowners are interviewed beforehand to make sure there’s a good fit, as well as setting limits on the amount of time and number of people you're willing to take in. If you're a landlord or property owner, you can also consider connecting with a refugee resettlement agency near you to help provide a safe landing place for families or individuals in your area.

3. HELP WITH THE LANGUAGE BARRIER.

Most refugees are non-native English speakers thrust into a world where it’s the dominant language. You can help them with the daunting task of learning to speak (and read) a new language by donating time with English as a Second Language (ESL) programs. These groups often need patient volunteer tutors and study partners, often regardless of teaching experience. If you're a bilingual speaker, you can also donate your time by providing translation services. To find ESL programs near you, check out the Literacy Information and Communication System website.

4. OFFER TO HELP WITH DAILY TASKS

Imagine moving to a new country with limited language skills and trying to do basic tasks like buying groceries, paying bills, or making and going to a doctor's visit. Simple daily tasks can be complex for refugees thanks to cultural differences. You can help refugees navigate their to-do list by accompanying them on errands or helping with tasks—what some resettlement aid groups call being a "cultural ambassador"—especially in regions where access to public transportation is limited.

5. DONATE MUCH-NEEDED SUPPLIES

A box of clothes to be donated.
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In most cases, refugees leave their home country with few possessions. Donated furniture, dishware, electronics, and tools can help families feel more at ease after arriving. To multiply your impact, consider starting a supplies drive in conjunction with a nearby resettlement agency or community action group. Some organizations even utilize Amazon registries to show exactly what is needed most, making it easier to donate with one-click buying and shipping.

6. HIRE REFUGEES AT YOUR BUSINESS

Many refugees are authorized to work in the U.S. but face employment barriers such as language or job skills. And in some cases, skilled and professional workers have a hard time getting U.S. companies to recognize degrees and certifications from other countries. If you're in the position to hire employees for your business, consider how refugees can bring valuable experiences to your workplace. As a consumer, you can still make a positive impact by patronizing business that choose to hire refugees.

7. VOLUNTEER WITH A RESETTLEMENT AGENCY

Resettlement agencies help refugees find accommodations and jobs, make referrals to healthcare providers, and help refugees adapt to their new home. Because resettlement agencies do so much, they often rely heavily on volunteers for help. Some groups, such as the Jewish Vocational Services in Kansas City, Missouri, ask volunteers to work directly with refugees, helping with the job application process, mentoring, or at community garden projects. Other needs include sorting donated items or providing rides to doctor’s appointments and activities for refugees.

8. BECOME AN OUTSPOKEN ADVOCATE

Advocating for refugees doesn't cost anything but time. Contact your elected representatives to learn more about their stances on refugee resettlement in the U.S., and share your support for welcoming refugees into the country. While emails, letters, petitions, and tweets help, it’s phone calls that make the biggest impact. Emily Ellsworth, a former staffer for two Utah representatives, says calling in your concerns makes more of a connection. "What representatives and staffers want to hear is the individual impact of your individual story," she told The New York Times. "I couldn’t listen to people’s stories for six to eight hours a day and not be profoundly impacted by them."

9. PROVIDE PRO-BONO SERVICES

Some law books and a judge's gavel.
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If you're an attorney, translator, or medical professional, consider donating your services for free. Organizations such as Human Rights First are in need of volunteer professionals who want to provide pro-bono help to refugees. Legal professionals can help refugees obtain asylum in the U.S., while interpreters can help throughout the process. Psychologists, therapists, and other mental health professionals are also sought after to help with the burden of transitioning to a new life, not to mention the psychological stresses of fleeing war and persecution.

10. OFFER CHILDCARE SERVICES

Imagine relocating your family to a new country, where you struggle to adapt to new cultural norms while seeking out work. For refugees with children, the cost of childcare can be an additional burden. If you are a childcare worker, you may want to consider volunteering your time with daycares or after-school programs that work with refugees. You can also offer to help neighbors or friends with occasional babysitting. Even creating a neighborhood sports team or activity club for children in your area can provide a safe place where they can learn about their new home.

11. BE A FRIEND

Relocating to a new country—and an entirely new culture—doesn't happen overnight. For many refugees, the process is years long, even though help may only be easily available in the first few months after their arrival. It's also isolating. "Coming here is very lonely, and having a friend locally who will have you for dinner or you can have, that is a big thing," Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, told The New York Times. "Many people just want to cook a huge meal for you and stuff you full of food." Sounds fun, doesn't it? Seek out programs in your area—like Hello Neighbor, a pilot program in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that pairs American mentors with immigrants in the area—to see how you can make life-changing friendships. Because no matter where you call home, everyone needs a friend (and a little help).

19 Every Day Things Science Hasn’t Figured Out

Haydar Dogramaci/iStock via Getty Images Plus
Haydar Dogramaci/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Science has enabled humans to complete some pretty incredible feats, like land on the moon, for example. But when it comes to common things like laughter or hiccups, scientists still can’t quite figure out the reason behind them. In this article, which was adapted from The List Show on YouTube, we look at everyday things that are still a mystery.

1. It's still not understood why we cry.

A woman crying.
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Crying is still a scientific mystery. Physiologically, it’s clear what’s happening when someone cries. But, it has been more difficult to figure out the evolutionary reason for tears. We know that babies cry to communicate and get attention. So, some experts believe that adults might also cry for social reasons, like to bond or to warn others that something is amiss.

2. The reason we laugh is still unknown.

A woman talking on the phone laughing.
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Like crying, we also don’t know why people evolved the ability to laugh, but experts guess it has something to do with communication—and not just that we find something funny. One researcher found that only 20 percent of laughs he looked at were preceded by anything deemed in any way humorous.

It's possible we laugh to let other people know that we’re okay or to bond with each other. A study published in 2016 gave evidence for the latter. Researchers found that an outside observer could distinguish whether laughter was produced between a pair of strangers or a pair of friends.

3. Scientists haven't figured out why we blush.

A woman blushing at work.
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Blushing is often telling others things we don’t want them to know, like the fact that we’ve done something wrong or embarrassing. Some experts believe that we may have evolved blushing to show submission to group leaders. Others think it may have something to do with the fact that blushing people have been shown to be considered more likable, so it helps peers look past the bad things we’ve done.

4. It's still unclear why anesthesia makes us pass out.

Doctors putting a patient under anesthesia.
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General anesthesia has been in use in the United States since 1846, but there are still some uncertainties about why the chemicals in anesthetics cause people to pass out. A recent study showed that the drugs affect proteins in the brain and the reason we go unconscious has to do with altering neural activity, but more research is needed.

5. We aren't exactly sure what consciousness is.

A man looking out the window.
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Consciousness is frequently defined as how we feel present and alive in the world. But the question is: Why and how do we feel conscious? It’s of interest in both philosophy and science. Scientists would like to know which part of the brain is responsible for consciousness, but it’s still a mystery.

6. It's unclear exactly how medications like Tylenol work.

A woman taking a painkiller.
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We don’t 100 percent understand how pain relievers containing acetaminophen give us pain relief. We do know that acetaminophens aren’t totally consistent; they’re more effective in some types of cells than in others. So for now, scientists believe the drugs might be a specific type of enzyme inhibitor.

7. We aren't sure why we get hiccups or how to stop them.

A mother burping a baby.
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Scientists don’t know what causes hiccups, what purpose they serve, or how to cure them. A lot of people have favorite techniques, from gargling water to pulling hard on the tongue, but there’s no scientifically-proven way to get rid of them.

In 2002, one researcher tried to get to the bottom of the problem by looking at how 54 hospital patients had been treated for hiccups. They tried multiple treatments, like holding their breath and medication, but none were proven effective.

8. Scientists haven't figured out why tornadoes start.

A tornado in a field.
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We don’t know why only some thunderstorms create tornadoes and others don’t. Generally, it’s understood that tornadoes come to be when cold, dry air interacts with warm, humid air. But the thunderstorms that result from those air conditions only sometimes cause tornadoes.

9. Scientists also haven't figured out why tornadoes end.

A tornado in the distance.
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It’s also unclear why tornadoes die—though experts believe that at least sometimes it has to do with the tornado’s interaction with cold temperatures.

10. It's still uncertain why we need to sleep.

A woman sleeping.
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There are theories as to why we need sleep, but no one knows for sure. It's possible our ancestors slept because it kept them out of danger during the night. Or it could be an energy conserving function. What we do know is that sleep helps us recover from the day, and there’s evidence it changes the connections in our brains.

11. The reason we dream is still unclear.

A woman asleep.
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Similarly, there are no clear answers as to why we dream. Some sleep experts think dreaming doesn’t have a purpose at all. Others have theories, like that we’re playing out threatening situations, like being chased, so that we’re better equipped to handle danger while awake.

12. We still aren't sure why we have the urge to scratch.

A man scratching an itch.
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We often understand why we itch. But, we don’t completely understand why we have the urge to scratch. The body has receptors just for itches that are almost identical to those that convey pain, and it’s thought that scratching might interfere with these signals. But at the same time, it might cause the skin to get more irritated, which causes even more itching.

13. Science still hasn't figured out the cure for aging.

An older person and a younger person.
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Scientists know some things about why we age, but no one has fully figured it out. There’s little evidence for popular hypotheses having to do with things like free radicals and telomeres. Aging is probably the result of a complex group of poorly understood processes, meaning a cure isn’t happening any time soon.

14. Ornithologists still don't know why only some birds migrate.

Birds flying in a v-shape.
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It’s also unclear why some birds migrate while others don’t. The ones that do migrate might do it to conserve energy, which might be kind of confusing, since they’re flying great distances and therefore expending a lot of energy to get to their destination. But it’s likely worth it since they’re probably traveling somewhere with abundant energy sources—a.k.a., plenty of available food. Luckily, thanks to technology like tracking devices, scientists are able to track birds more easily and are now learning much more about migration.

15. Scientists haven't figured out the “nature vs. nurture” debate.

A family sitting at a table.
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The question of nature versus nurture hasn’t been settled yet. Technically, we know that our genes interact with our environment to foster characteristics—but science isn’t sure to what extent. A complicating factor is that it varies by trait and individual person. How much your genes are influencing your IQ, for instance, may be different from someone else.

16. We still aren't sure why the placebo effect happens.

Dark pills with one white pill in a pile.
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The placebo effect is pretty mysterious. It has been proven again and again that sugar pills and other fake treatments can actually make someone feel better. And it’s not just a feeling as scans have shown that placebos affect the area of the brain associated with pain. We still don’t know why. It’s believed that placebos somehow help release endorphins, but experts need more information.

17. It's still unclear why bicycles are able to stay up on their own.

Bikes in a row.
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Have you ever given a bike with no one on it a push and noticed that it stays up on its own? It doesn’t fall over for much longer than you expect, and we don’t know how it manages to balance itself while moving.

18. How skates work on ice is still unknown.

A woman putting on ice skates.
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And another mystery of physics: How do skates work on ice? There is a popular theory. We know that ice has a very thin layer of liquid on it. So, a skate moving quickly on top of ice might make more liquid because the friction causes melting. The skate is actually changing the ice itself, creating a path on which to glide.

19. There still isn't a cure for the common cold.

A woman with a cold.
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We get colds from seven separate families of viruses and those families have sub-viruses. So, to cure the “cold,” there would need to be a cure that acts as a catch-all for about 200 sub-viruses.

6 Surprising Facts About Nintendo's Animal Crossing

Nintendo
Nintendo

by Ryan Lambie

Casting you as a newcomer in a woodland town populated by garrulous and sometimes eccentric creatures, Nintendo’s Animal Crossing is about conversation, friendship, and collecting things rather than competition or shooting enemies. It’s a formula that has grown over successive generations—which is all the more impressive, given the game’s obscure origins. The 3DS version now one of the most popular games available for that system, and the franchise was catapulted into further fame when Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released on Nintendo Switch in March 2020. Here are a few things you may not know about the video game.

1. Animal Crossing’s inspiration came from an unlikely place.

By the late 1990s, Katsuya Eguchi had already worked on some of Nintendo’s greatest games. He’d designed the levels for the classic Super Mario Bros 3. He was the director of Star Fox (or Star Wing, as it was known in the UK), and the designer behind the adorable Yoshi’s Story. But Animal Crossing was inspired by Eguchi’s experiences from his earlier days, when he was a 21-year-old graduate who’d taken the decisive step of moving from Chiba Prefecture, Japan, where he’d grown up and studied, to Nintendo’s headquarters in Kyoto.

Eguchi wanted to recreate the feeling of being alone in a new town, away from friends and family. “I wondered for a long time if there would be a way to recreate that feeling, and that was the impetus behind Animal Crossing,” Eguchi told Edge magazine in 2008. Receiving letters from your mother, getting a job (from the game’s resident raccoon capitalist, Tom Nook), and gradually filling your empty house with furniture and collectibles all sprang from Eguchi’s memories of first moving to Kyoto.

2. Animal Crossing was originally developed for the N64.

Although Animal Crossing would eventually become best known as a GameCube title—to the point where many assume this is where the series began—the game actually originally appeared on the N64. First developed for the ill-fated 64DD add-on, Animal Crossing (or Dōbutsu no Mori, which translates to Animal Forest) was ultimately released as a standard cartridge. But by the time Animal Crossing emerged in Japan in 2001, the N64 was already nearing the end of its lifespan, and it was never localized for a worldwide release.

3. Translating Animal Crossing for an international audience was a difficult task.

The GameCube version of Animal Crossing was released in Japan in December 2001, about eight months after the N64 edition. Thanks to the added capacity of the console’s discs, this version of the game included characters like Tortimer or Blathers that weren’t in the N64 iteration, and Animal Crossing soon became a hit with Japanese critics and players alike.

Porting Animal Crossing for an international audience proved to be a considerable task, however, with the game’s reams of dialogue and cultural references all requiring careful translation. But the effort writers Nate Bihldorff and Rich Amtower put into the English-language version would soon pay off; Nintendo’s bosses in Japan were so impressed with the additional festivals and sheer personality present in the western version of Animal Crossing, they decided to have that version of the game translated back into Japanese. This new version of the game, called Dōbutsu no Mori e+, was released in 2003.

4. K.K. Slider is based on Animal Crossing’s composer.

K.K. Slider with his guitar
K.K. Slider appearing in promotional artwork for Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
2020 Nintendo

One of Animal Crossing’s most recognizable and popular characters is K.K. Slider, the laidback canine musician. He’s said to be based, both in looks and name, on Kazumi Totaka, the prolific composer and voice actor who co-wrote Animal Crossing’s music. In the Japanese version of Animal Crossing, K.K. Slider is called Totakeke—a play on the real musician’s name. K.K. Slider’s almost as prolific as Totaka, too: Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the Nintendo 3DS contains a total of 91 tracks performed by the character.

5. One Animal Crossing character has been known to make players cry.

A more controversial character than K.K. Slider, Mr. Resetti is an angry mole created to remind players to save the game before switching off their console. And the more often players forget to save their game, the angrier Mr. Resetti gets. Mr. Resetti’s anger apparently disturbed some younger players, though, as Animal Crossing: New Leaf’s project leader Aya Kyogoku revealed in an interview with Nintendo's former president, the late Satoru Iwata.

“We really weren't sure about Mr. Resetti, as he really divides people," Kyogoku said. “Some people love him, of course, but there are others who don't like being shouted at in his rough accent.” Iwata agreed, saying, “It seems like younger female players, in particular, are scared. I've heard that some of them have even cried.”

To avoid the tears, Mr. Resetti plays a less prominent role in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and only appears if the player first builds a Reset Surveillance Centre. Divisive though he is, Mr. Resetti was designed and written with as much care as any of the other characters in Animal Crossing; his first name’s Sonny, he has a brother called Don and a cousin called Vinnie, and he prefers his coffee black with no sugar.

6. Animal Crossing is still evolving.

A game once inspired by the loneliness of moving to a new town has now become one of Nintendo’s most successful and beloved franchises. Since its first appearance in 2001, the quirky and disarming Animal Crossing has grown to encompass toys, a movie, and five main games (or six if you count the version released for the N64 as a separate entry). All told, the Animal Crossing games have sold more than 30 million copies, and the series is still growing. In late 2017, the mobile title Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp was released for iOS and Android—it was a big step for the franchise, as Nintendo is famously selective about which of its series get a mobile makeover. And in March 2020, Animal Crossing: New Horizon was released on Switch, selling a whopping 1.88 million physical copies during its first three days on the market.

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