There are millions of people around the world who have fallen through the cracks and whose voices are not part of the conversation. These roughly 40 million people have found themselves “internally displaced” or “refugees” due to circumstances beyond their control. Some are professors, doctors, engineers, writers, artists, etc. And some were also innovators solving their local needs and running their own businesses before they were forced to leave their homes and are now identified with an ID number and must rely on hand-outs to survive.
This group of extraordinary, resilient people – who didn’t seek to become internally displaced or refugees – find themselves in a foreign country where they may or may not face language barriers. While they have brought their talents and knowledge with them, they are rarely asked to be a part of the solution; they languish in refugee camps wasting away their talents with little or no opportunities to put those talents to productive use.
NGOs are overwhelmed with the continued crises that plague our world, and coupled with donor fatigue this group of brilliant minds is being underutilized. I have met Sudanese refugees who against all odds have become acclaimed music artists as well as super models; Congolese refugees in Tanzania who self-taught themselves English in order not to fall behind in school; Somalis who figured out a way to have an Internet café in the middle of the largest refugee camp in the world and create a business in the middle of the desert; another Somali who has finished Princeton University and is currently finishing his Masters in Finance at EBS; Palestinian refugees who without a roof over their heads have studied hard and are about to begin pre-med at Weill Cornell.
All of them have something in common: someone saw their potential and decided to invest in them. They were given a chance even though they fell through the gaps. But these are exceptional cases and not the norm.
Imagine if this group of people were part of the whole, if they were asked for their opinion and were invited to the problem-solving table. After all, they are the ones who want to go home to the country they were forced to leave behind. They are the ones that would work the hardest at solving their problems if they had access to finance, innovation, health and education.
Author: Lorna Solis is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Blue Rose Compass, and is also a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.
Image: Refugees are seen next to their tents in a refugee camp REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih