The refugee crisis is daunting, but Canada offers an inspiring example of how to help.

Mohammad Amini is a bright, determined, 21-year-old living in Jakarta, Indonesia, with his family — or rather, what's left of it.

The Aminis belong to an ethnic group called the Hazaras, who are violently persecuted in Afghanistan. When the Taliban killed Mohammad's older brother for teaching English and threatened the rest of the family in 2014, they fled the country. Soon after, Mohammad’s grief-stricken father died of a heart attack.

Jakarta was supposed to be a temporary stop for the Aminis, who hoped to get to Australia, but they've been awaiting resettlement for four years. Refugees aren’t legally allowed to work or go to school in Indonesia, so Mohammad and his siblings, who range in age from 15 to 23, do what they can to develop their skills and contribute to society while they wait. They spend several days a week studying and volunteering at Roshan Learning Center, a community-based educational initiative serving refugees, and Mohammad studies at Kiron, an online university for refugees.


"I consider myself as a resilient person," Amini says. "I'd rather spend my time In Indonesia learning more skills, practice my languages skills, and build my character, than just waste my time to wait for my resettlement."

The Aminis make the most of their circumstances in Jakarta, but in reality, they are stuck.

Some of the thousands of asylum-seeking families in Indonesia sleep on the streets and in parks in Jakarta, with mosquito nets as shelters. Photo via Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

If they go back to Afghanistan, they’ll likely be killed. If they stay in Indonesia, they can’t work, get an accredited education, or become citizens. Finances are an ongoing struggle, charity is a necessity, and their options for a safe and productive life are limited.

"We are alive with the hope of that one day we will be accepted to a third country," Amini says. "And if there is no resettlement in a third country, our whole life will be destroyed. There is no other option for us." ++

Millions of refugees like the Aminis live in this state of limbo, where chances of resettlement grow more and more unlikely.

In Indonesia, the United Nations recently told refugees that getting transferred to another country could take 15 years or more if they’re lucky enough to be resettled at all. For the more than 65 million people who are currently displaced, and the 22 million of whom are refugees fleeing conflict or persecution, that timeline could only grow longer, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.

While those numbers have increased, the number of refugees the U.S. accepts has been drastically reduced. Obama set the refugee ceiling at 110,000 for 2017, but Trump cut that limit to 45,000 in 2018 — the lowest in decades. And according to the International Rescue Commission, the U.S. is on track to only take in around 22,000 this year — less than half of the limit. For perspective, that's approximately one refugee for every 15,000 Americans.

The numbers don't lie: the U.S. can be doing more to help refugees. And they can look to their Northern neighbors for a resourceful way to make it happen.

Image via International Rescue Committee.

Canada empowers its people to help refugees through an inspiring private refugee sponsorship program.

In addition to government sponsorship like exists in the U.S., refugees can come to Canada through private sponsorship — a process through which a group of Canadian citizens or permanent residents provide funds and mentorship to a refugee family for one year.

The program allows sponsors to choose refugees to sponsor, cover resettlement expenses through private donation, and personally help them assimilate into Canadian society — all at little cost to the government.

About 280,000 refugees have been settled through Canada's private sponsorship program since it began in 1978.

Amir and Nour Fattal fled Aleppo, Syria, when their apartment was bombed in 2012. The Fattals never imagined they would have to leave their homeland — and never wanted to. But war changes everything.

Like the Aminis, they spent years in limbo in a stopover country. But in 2016, they and their young daughter were brought from Turkey to Toronto, Canada, through private sponsorship. Terry Dellaportas, one of the Fattals' Canadian sponsors, invited me to view the Facebook group their sponsorship group used to organize fundraising and logistics. As I scrolled through a year's worth of posts on everything from paperwork, to apartments, to airport pickup, I was struck by the raw beauty of collective human kindness.  

Millions of people have been displaced by the Syrian civil war. Aleppo, once a thriving metropolis, has been reduced to rubble in many areas. Photo via Ameer Alhalbi/Getty Images.

And private sponsorship isn't just about charity.

Research shows refugees have a neutral-to-beneficial impact on the economy, largely because immigrants are twice as likely as the average citizen to start businesses. They also enrich society culturally, especially when their assimilation includes celebrating the skills and knowledge they bring with them.

The Fattals, for example, with the encouragement of their sponsors, started the Beroea Kitchen, which serves Syrian cuisine from Aleppo. "These are the meals our mothers made us when we were children and taught us how to make ourselves," Amir says on the business's website.

And they do more than just sell food. Through a community "Supper Club," Beroea brings people together to share a meal, share stories and ideas, and make friends.

Other countries have started following Canada's lead. The United States should consider it too.

Britain, Argentina, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates all have private sponsorship programs in the works.

"Safety and security" is often lauded as the main reason for limiting the number of refugees America accepts. However, refugees are the most vetted group of people to enter the country and research shows that they pose no greater threat to our safety and security than the average American. Cost and jobs are also used as excuses. However, our economy is in great shape according to the president, unemployment is at historic lows, and refugees aren't a drain the economy or jobs anyway.

The main issues, then, are government spending and concerns over assimilation. Private sponsorship addresses both of those problems.

Photo via Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

The Aminis are so similar to the Fattals  — service-oriented, ambitious, and eager to contribute. But their ability to put those qualities to full use is simply a matter of circumstance.

Scott Smiley, a volunteer teacher at Roshan in Jakarta, says Mohammad and his family are exactly the kinds of citizens that nations want and need. "These people are so incredible," he says. "Countries should be bidding on them."

Developed countries should help change their circumstance.

But in the meantime, the Aminis will continue to do the only things they can in limbo — study and prepare for an uncertain future, try not to lose hope, and wait.

++ Mohammad Amini's name has been changed for the family's security.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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The battle between millennials and older generations isn't exactly a generational war—it's more a case of mistaken generational identity. A decade ago, whining about millennials being young adults unprepared to make their way in the world at least made sense mathematically. But when people bag on millennials now they end up looking rather foolish.

A marketing researcher with a doctorate in social psychology wrote an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune titled "Post-pandemic, some millennials finally decide to start #adulting." And when the Tribune shared it to Twitter, their since-deleted tweet read, "Writer Jennifer Rosner predicts COVID-10 lockdowns will force easy-breezy millennials to grow up."

Hoo boy.

Interestingly, the writer of the op-ed is a millennial herself, but she repeats generalizations about her entire generation that seem like they mainly apply to her own social circle. Read it yourself to decide, but regardless, the tweet of the op-ed itself set off a firestorm of responses from millennials who are tired of being painted as irresponsible young people who don't know how to "adult" instead of what they actually are.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.