Carry the Future’s child carriers are helping Syrian refugees struggling to travel with children. Photo courtesy of Carry the Future
By Laura Fawaz
TMO Contributing Reporter
“I got back on November 9th, and there hasn’t been a day since that I haven’t thought about them,” said Vice President of Carry The Future, Desi Burns-Porter, while holding back tears talking about the Syrian refugees.
Carry The Future is a non-profit organization that began in efforts of helping Syrian refugee families on the move. Based out of California, this group was created just three months ago by Cristal Logothetis. Logothetis is a mother who, like so many of us, was moved after seeing the viral photo of ae two-year-old Syrian boy in the red shirt, whose lifeless body lay faced-down in the sand after drowning. “I saw what could have been my son.” Logothetis told “The Today Show.”
This young boy’s picture had the same impact on Alison Soracchi, Carry The Future’s director of communications. “This was what made us say enough was enough and take action. These are innocent children. As parents, they are only trying to protect them, as any of us would try to do. For parents to literally walk across an entire country and go through all this, shows that they are trying to get into a better situation, and how bad the previous one was,” Soracchi said.
Logothetis started with a modest fundraiser to raise money to get baby carriers to send to her family members in Greece, who would then pass them on to the Syrian refugees coming in. Her goal was to raise just $2500, or to get 100 baby carriers. To date, the online campaigns raised over $279,000 for two non-profit initiatives helping Syrian refugees, and have passed out over 6,700 baby carriers. “It’s not just about the baby carrier, it’s about a connection. Some of the stories that we heard were pretty horrific,” said Burns-Porter.
After Logothetis had collected enough carriers to make a difference, she and ten other mothers headed to Greece where they waited for families coming off the boats, and then taught the parents how to use the baby carriers. There are roughly 5,000 Carry The Future volunteers worldwide. A lot of attention was drawn to the organization after The Huffington Post wrote an article on them. It even drew attention from NBC’s The Today Show where two of their producers flew with the organization to Athens, Greece early last month.
The exposure and touching images helped expand the volunteer base. Each trip to meet the refugees in Europe is made up of a team of about 10 mothers who are there for almost two weeks. Many of these women who go don’t know one another until they meet at the airport, one from France and the rest from the US. The volunteers stay at the border waiting for the 1,000-3,000 refugees arriving. As soon as they are coming off the boat the volunteers approach them “in a caring and loving way. A smile goes a long way to help someone feel welcomed,” describes Burns-Porter.
They have just one fluent Arabic speaker, so the volunteering moms use hand gestures to show them the carriers and how they work. According to Burns-Porter, as soon as they see and understand what it is, they immediately see how much easier their journey will be with it. More Arabic speakers are desired so that they can hear more about the journey these families are on and where they are trying to go. “A few of them speak English, so they were able to get a little bit of their story. Every story really stays with us,” said Burns-Porter.
“What was so overwhelming to us was just a normal day for them. What struck me was when they were telling these stories it was just so normal for them,” shared Burns-Porter.
She describes one family they met who was fleeing Afghanistan through Turkey. They said that their journey through the sea was actually the easiest part because when they were walking they were being shot at multiple times. The father carried their youngest son, who is eight years old, on his back for 10 miles. They paid $1,000 for each person to be on the boat, and when they got there, they were forced on at gunpoint. Each boat traveling across the Mediterranean Sea is a small sailboat with as many people forced on as possible. The smugglers do this so that they can get as much money as possible per trip. The people are forced on because of how unsafe it is. This family explained how easy it is for something to go wrong, not only because the boats are so over-packed, but because they have to travel in the dark, and all the boats are leaving at the same time.
“All they’re trying to do is get to a better place and protect their family,” Logothetis said.
One of the reasons Burns-Porter says their volunteer-ship is so passionate about what they do is because when they are handing the carriers out and talking to these families, they can actually feel and see the impact of what they’re doing. So much so that they started another entity organization, Operation Refugee Child, because they saw first-hand that there is a need for more than just baby carriers for these parents and children.
Carry The Future is even able to get baby carriers at cost. And they are also on the Amazon wish list, where anyone could purchase a carrier and have it shipped directly to their office, just by searching for Carry The Future. Many people around the globe are holding their own fundraisers to collect either baby carriers, or the finances to purchase them. If you would like to sponsor one, or are looking for any information on how to get involved, whether it’s donating a baby carrier or flying to Greece, you can start by liking their Facebook page, at facebook.com/carrythefuture, or by visiting their website at www.CarryTheFuture.org.
New or gently used baby carriers can be sent directly to Carry the Future’s office in Glendale, California. For anyone interested in traveling with the next group to Greece, or wherever the need for the refugees may be at that time, Carry The Future has trips planned from January to April of 2016.