13 photos show a heartwarming welcome waiting for refugees in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is welcoming its new Syrian residents home with arms wide open.

The U.K. is accepting 20,000 Syrian refugees throughout the next five years as part of its Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, as BBC News reported. And on Dec. 15, 2015, the very first group of 11 families (51 individuals) arrived in Belfast.

From the looks of it, the families received quite the warm welcome.


Because, as is the case when welcoming any new neighbors to your 'hood, there's a few things you should provide, like...

1. Welcome signage.

There's nothing better than a colorful sign to let you know you've finally arrived.

Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

In this case, the sign was in the special welcome center in Belfast, where the families will be staying until they find more permanent homes.

2. Cozy sleeping quarters are vital too.

Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

Pro tip: A splash of color on one wall can only help brighten someone's day. (And if anyone's day could use a little brightening, it's someone whose life has been uprooted by war.)

3. And cards. Cute greeting cards are mandatory.

Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

These were made by local schoolchildren, excited to welcome and greet their new neighbors.

4. ... Seriously, you can never have too many cards.

Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

5. Also, make sure the fridge is kept stocked.

Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

These refugees lived in unstable, dangerous circumstances, waiting for some permanence and safety for months (sometimes, even years). They deserve a cold drink.

And make sure the clocks are ticking accurately, too.

6. And have holiday decorations on display.

Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

I mean, even if you don't celebrate Christmas, I think anyone can appreciate a festive Christmas tree.

7. That includes this adorable Christmas angel.

Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

Let's say it together: Awww.

8. Don't forget to have plenty of seating available.

Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

(OK maybe a little more seating for the next round of guests.)

9. Especially couch seating with soft pillows. (Yes, please.)

Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

For folks who've traveled thousands of miles to make it to the U.K., a comfy seat goes a long way.

10. And, of course, useful kits that cover the basics.

Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

Emergency multilingual phrasebook? Check.

For families who've had everything stripped away from them, little things, like soap and toothbrushes — things many of us take for granted — are much appreciated.

11. And toys.

Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

12. ... Lots and lots of toys.

Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

13. Just like with cute greeting cards, you can never have too many toys.

Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

After all, playing games and being creative may just help children find relief after they've seen the brutal effects of war.

What these families have been through is unimaginable. They need our help.

There are more than 4.3 million Syrian refugees who've been severely affected by conflict in their country according to the UNHCR. That's why — instead of banning Muslims from entering the U.S. out of fear, or building walls to keep immigrants out — we should be finding ways to aid those most affected by terrorism in the Middle East.

(By the way, if you want to help a refugee child in need, here's one way you can do it.)

I gotta hand it to those folks over in Belfast — they know how to be neighborly.

They must have taken a hint from Canada.

Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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