As always the end of the year is a time to look back. This is the first full year of Prosper and we’ve come a long way: from John founding Prosper in Brighton at the end of 2015 to launching an open database and search of over 2500 refugee projects. Prosper is now an international community of digital workers, direct aiders and migrant rights’ activists. We started with high ambitions of a nimble team that could take on a multitude of useful projects. But we soon realised that this ambition was shared by many and what was really missing was a focus on bringing all of us concerned about the refugee situation together.
A lot of work from a number of volunteers has gone in into building our search tool, in partnership with Metacollect, designed to get more people involved more easily and allow different refugee aid projects to work together more effectively. Right from the start Prosper set out as a community, and it quickly became clear that building that community was going to be the crucial part of our mission. That’s why we stopped running our tool under a separate name and domain, and what was RefugeeProjects.com is now our Prosper search on our main site. We’re still just as committed to using technology to help amplify and improve the response to the hardship facing migrants but embed this deeply in a wider community of partner organisations and indefatigable volunteers who work with refugees on the ground, every day.
So in 2016 we’ve continued to try to reach out, broaden our network and make those connections to help get people on board with the Prosper message of collaborating more. We’ve attended a number of conferences in France and the UK, including VivaTech Paris , Encampment at the Southbank centre, EmTech France, Premier Digital, CloudConf, and TedX IEHParis.
In France we’re in the process of setting up Prosper France, as the first pilot for countrywide networks. Next year, we will be trying out hosting regular meetings in the UK together with Solidarity with Refugees. In October we all met together for the first time in Paris, with our friends from Migration Hub in Berlin, IISA, Love without Borders, Migration Exchange, Swixboard and others.
Despite the difficulties along the way, the frustration with wanting to go faster, wanting to do better, we feel proud of what can be achieved through working together. But we can’t live in our bubble and pat ourselves on the back. The reality is that the situation for refugees in general, for Syria in particular, has not got better. The human cost of the war in Syria increases by the day. In November the remaining escape routes out of Aleppo were cut off entirely, and evacuations were delayed in December at the cost of even more human lives. EU deals were struck to keep refugees out. “Populist” politics is gaining ground everywhere, and by that we mean politics with distinct nationalist overtones that is overtly hostile to refugees. Dubs is still not enforced, with too many children abandoned, alone, and cut off from their families. We still have too many people living in improvised camps in terrible conditions, fearing for their futures and their lives.
Despite an increased mobilisation of numerous individuals all over Europe in refugee aid, Gaëlle and her organization Act for Ref in the Rhone-Alpes-Auvergne region are seeing an ever larger number of families and young children sleeping on the street. It’s proving a struggle to even provide the basics of food and shelter, and the larger their network grows, the more the scale of help needed becomes obvious. From the side of the government administration, support and resources are glaringly insufficient.
Danica, in Paris, has witnessed the regular demolition of the camps in her city as well as of course the clearing of Calais. Instead of questions being asked of the institutions that should prevent the kind of humanitarian misfortunes developing on the street, there is public pressure to fight the symptoms. And this means the refugees themselves and their makeshift living spaces. It can be devastating working where there is so little improvement on the horizon and instead hostility is increasing ‒ a frustratingly emotive response not rooted in the facts. (With the French currently hosting around 6% of European refugees the country’s burden is a long way from disproportionate). In France, all of this is against the backdrop of apprehension of the presidential elections to come.
Setbacks are a common theme and Kayra, who has been working in the Nea Kavala camp in northern Greece, has had to watch as the school built from the ground up burnt down again.
In early 2016 she was working with Drop in the Ocean, side by side with the military, to revamp the entire distribution. The camp now has a market, its inhabitants are learning to speak English and at least as importantly lasting friendships have grown within this community, amongst refugees and volunteers.
Despite the difficult situations, all the the amazing volunteers are unanimous in their determination not to let let this make us lose faith but to take this as motivation to work harder. Work harder to mobilise those who do care, work harder to connect with each other across all borders to do what we can, work harder to be more than powerless victims and witnesses to this inhumanity. There could be no better inspiration for continuing with Prosper’s work.
In 2017, that is exactly what we plan to do. We hope to bring you more news soon on our next steps as an organisation and active local chapters in France, UK, Germany, Hungary, and Portugal to name just a few ‒ We’ll tell you more soon! Nothing feeds our hope like seeing everybody working towards the same goal. So with that in mind, we wish everyone a
Happy New Year * Frohes Neues * Bonne Annee * Buon Anno * ευτυχισμένο το νέο έτος * سنة جديدة سعيدة * *שנה טובה * * с новым годом