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.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

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The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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