See how this moving installation at IKEA is changing hearts and minds.

The situation on the ground in Syria is devastating.

Years of a brutal and unrelenting civil war have ravaged the once beautiful nation. In the city of Aleppo, streets are filled with rubble. Schools, homes, and businesses were razed by bombs, and rubble and dust clog once vibrant districts.

A Syrian boy prepares manakish in the rebel-held side of Aleppo. Photo by Karam Al-Masri/AFP/Getty Images.


The United Nations estimates that 400,000 people have been killed since the conflict began. 4.8 million people have sought refuge in neighboring countries, but another 6.6 million are displaced within Syria, living in fear amid explosions and destruction.

Now, an unlikely brand is stepping up to raise awareness of the situation on the ground in Syria: IKEA.

IKEA partnered with POL, an advertising agency, to set up an interactive installation in their flagship store in Norway. "25m2 of Syria" takes shoppers inside a Syrian home.

GIF via POL/Vimeo.

But unlike the well-appointed, model apartments typical of IKEA displays, this space is based on the real home of Rana, a mother who lives outside Damascus, Syria, with her family of nine.

Image via POL/Vimeo.

There are cold walls made of cinder blocks.  

Image via POL/Vimeo.

Children share small, simple beds on the floor.

Image via POL/Vimeo.

And there's little room room or money for toys, personal items, or simple comforts.

Image via POL/Vimeo.

The tags in the exhibit aren't products for sale. They offer more information about the crisis and suggestions for how individuals can help and support people in Syria.

Image via POL/Vimeo.

Interactive installations like this help people connect and empathize with families half a world away.

This partnership came together to promote TV-Aksjonen, Norway's annual fundraising telethon. Proceeds from this year's event will go toward Red Cross and their work in conflict zones.

Because when all we see on the news are bombs, blood, and know-it-all pundits, it's easy for fear and xenophobia to take over. Any opportunities to see how families live, even in the most dire circumstances, is a much-needed reminder that we are all more alike than we are different.

GIF via POL/Vimeo.

Can't get to Norway to see the installation for yourself? Here are a few ways you can help Syrian refugees.

Learn: Check out books, magazines, and trusted news sources to learn about the long and beautiful history of Syria as well as the current conflict. Don't have a lot of time to read? Download podcasts on foreign affairs from NPR, CNN, BBC, and the United Nations.

Listen: Seek out and really listen to first-person stories of people on the ground and refugees who were able to flee. Signal-boost these primary sources because their stories deserve to be heard.

The United Nations high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi (right), listens to Syrian refugee Samar Barri and her family. Photo by Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images.

Donate: If you have any wiggle room in your budget, consider donating to organizations on the ground in Syria. To operate in the country, aid agencies need express permission from the government. Most never receive it, and those that do are limited in what type of support they can provide.

Hand in Hand for Syria is delivering medication, food, clothing, diapers, and medical equipment to the Syrian people through scheduled aid drops and a network of volunteers throughout the country. ShelterBox provides emergency shelter and supplies to communities effected by natural disasters or humanitarian crises. And be sure to check Charity Navigator to vet any aid group before you donate funds.

Syrians unload an aid convoy of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. Photo by Mahmoud Taha/AFP/Getty Images.

Advocate: Call your elected officials and let your voice be heard regarding the war in Syria and subsequent refugee crises. Mobilize your friends and family to do more, like helping refugee families in your own community or speaking out against xenophobic rhetoric.

Protesters listen to speakers in Parliament Square during a demonstration to show support for refugees in London. Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images.

Once you're aware, this crisis is impossible to ignore.

From our homes a world away, we may not be able to stop bombs or rebuild hospitals and schools. But we can do so much. And we must.

Watch the video for "25m2 of Syria" to see the full installation.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather
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While most 10-year-olds are playing Minecraft, riding bikes, or watching YouTube videos, Justin Sather is intent on saving the planet. And it all started with a frog blanket when he was a baby.

"He carried it everywhere," Justin's mom tells us. "He had frog everything, even a frog-themed birthday party."

In kindergarten, Justin learned that frogs are an indicator species – animals, plants, or microorganisms used to monitor drastic changes in our environment. With nearly one-third of frog species on the verge of extinction due to pollution, pesticides, contaminated water, and habitat destruction, Justin realized that his little amphibian friends had something important to say.

"The frogs are telling us the planet needs our help," says Justin.

While it was his love of frogs that led him to understand how important the species are to our ecosystem, it wasn't until he read the children's book What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada that Justin-the-activist was born.

Inspired by the book and with his mother's help, he set out on a mission to raise funds for frog habitats by selling toy frogs in his Los Angeles neighborhood. But it was his frog art which incorporated scientific facts that caught people's attention. Justin's message spread from neighbor to neighbor and through social media; so much so that he was able to raise $2,000 for the non-profit Save The Frogs.

And while many kids might have their 8th birthday party at a laser tag center or a waterslide park, Justin invited his friends to the Ballona wetlands ecological preserve to pick invasive weeds and discuss the harms of plastic pollution.

Justin's determination to save the frogs and help the planet got a massive boost when he met legendary conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather

At one of her Roots and Shoots youth initiative events, Dr. Goodall was so impressed with Justin's enthusiasm for helping frogs, she challenged the young activist to take it one step further and focus on plastic pollution as well. Justin accepted her challenge and soon after was featured in an issue of Bravery Magazine dedicated to Jane Goodall.

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This article originally appeared on 06.16.15


A lot of parents are tired of being told how technology is screwing up their kids.

Moms and dads of the digital age are well aware of the growing competition for their children's attention, and they're bombarded at each turn of the page or click of the mouse with both cutting-edge ideas and newfound worries for raising great kids.

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