What would you take if you had to pack your life into a single backpack?
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Ad Council - #EmbraceRefugees

What would you do if your whole world was suddenly turned upside down?

Your school was transformed into a bomb shelter. People you grew up with and said hello to at the grocery store are gone, having left or been killed. You don't know what it will be like to leave, but you know you can't stay. You have to part with everything and everyone you know — from family to your home to beloved pets — and hope you'll be reunited one day.

You say goodbye to the life you knew and dreamed of and say hello to an entirely new world filled with both pain and possibility.


For many of us, this is a situation we can't even imagine, but it's a reality for refugees. The Ad Council designed a scenario to show people what it might be like to have their lives uprooted. Watch what happens.

We can try to imagine what it's like, but the truth is, this is a reality for nearly 20 million people around the world — refugees fleeing conflicts they didn’t start and are powerless to end.

For many people, this isn't hypothetical. Refugees are people in an impossible situation. Relocation for them isn't a choice; it's a matter of survival.

Kakuma refugee camp. Image by EC/ECHO Anna Chudolinska/Flickr.

Take twins Paw Lah Say and Paw Lah Htoo who, at 13, fled to a refugee camp in Thailand. 13 years later, they entered America.

Angie Smith, photographer and storyteller, shared their story with the World Economic Forum.

The twins, along with their father and brother, were forced to flee their home in Burma due to religious and ethnic persecution — the Burmese military set fire to all of the houses in their village. With their lives, and the lives of their friends and neighbors, literally going up in smoke, they sought safety in an enclosed refugee camp in Thailand.

Now, here's the thing about enclosed camps: You're not allowed outside of the camp; the camp is your world.

Mae La refugee camp in Thailand. Image via Mikhail Esteves/Wikimedia Commons.

As a result, they were completely dependent on the rationing of resources to survive. There was no opportunity to work or eke out some sort of a living. They were "safe," but they were in limbo.

After a friend from the camp was resettled in Boise, they requested the same opportunity.

After a lengthy and difficult resettlement process, they got their wish — Idaho would become their home.

View from the Boise Train Depot, taken by Charles Knowles/Flickr.

Now in their twenties, the twins live in the United States. They told Angie Smith, "everything is new." After spending half of their lives in an enclosed refugee camp, working hard just to survive, they're given the chance to really begin their lives.

Unfortunately, they had to leave their father and brother behind.

The twins' story isn't unique. There are so many people, just like them, fleeing war and persecution and clinging to hope.

Refugees want the things so many of us take for granted: the chance to work. To laugh. To walk down a street without fearing for their lives. To be with their families. To know that they have a future.

A little girl from Burma and her friend in a refugee camp on the border of Burma and Thailand via Mikhail Esteves/Flickr.

It can be easy to become numb to the refugee crisis when we think of refugees as sheer numbers, rather than people. Their stories are so important because they're so much more than the term "refugee." And they deserve the chance to live their lives, freely.

With nearly 20 million refugees in need of assistance, and so many families ripped apart, there's a lot more work to be done. Find out how you can help families who are in need of the hope and promise that comes with a fresh start.

Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
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The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

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Empathy. Compassion. Heart-to-heart human connection. These qualities of leadership may not be flashy or loud, but they speak volumes when we see them in action.

A clip of Joe Biden is going viral because it reminds us what that kind of leadership looks like. The video shows a key moment at a memorial service for Chris Hixon, the athletic director at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018. Hixon had attempted to disarm the gunman who went on a shooting spree at the school, killing 17 people—including Hixon—and injuring 17 more.

Biden asked who Hixon's parents were as the clip begins, and is directed to his right. Hixon's wife introduces herself, and Biden says, "God love you." As he starts to walk away, a voice off-camera says something and Biden immediately turns around. The voice came from Hixon's son, Corey, and the moments that followed are what have people feeling all their feelings.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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via Witty Buttons / Twitter

Back in 2017, when white supremacist Richard Spencer was socked in the face by someone wearing all black at Trump's inauguration, it launched an online debate, "Is it OK to punch a Nazi?"

The essential nature of the debate was whether it was acceptable for people to act violently towards someone with repugnant reviews, even if they were being peaceful. Some suggested people should confront them peacefully by engaging in a debate or at least make them feel uncomfortable being Nazi in public.

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The English language is constantly evolving, and the faster the world changes, the faster our vocabulary changes. Some of us grew up in an age when a "wireless router" would have been assumed to be a power tool, not a way to get your laptop (which wasn't a thing when I was a kid) connected to the internet (which also wasn't a thing when I was a kid, at least not in people's homes).

It's interesting to step back and look at how much has changed just in our own lifetimes, which is why Merriam-Webster's Time Traveler tool is so fun to play with. All you do is choose a year, and it tells you what words first appeared in print that year.

For my birth year, the words "adult-onset diabetes," "playdate," and "ATM" showed up in print for the first time, and yes, that makes me feel ridiculously old.

It's also fun to plug in the years of different people's births to see how their generational differences might impact their perspectives. For example, let's take the birth years of the oldest and youngest members of Congress:

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