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.
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.
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.
There are cold walls made of cinder blocks.
Children share small, simple beds on the floor.
And there's little room room or money for toys, personal items, or simple comforts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.