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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.

[rebelmouse-image 19347057 dam="1" original_size="448x307" caption="Image via International Rescue Committee." expand=1]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.

Nature

Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave that’s been closed for 70 years

You can only access the cave from the basement of the home and it’s open for business.

This Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave.

Have you ever seen something in a movie or online and thought, "That's totally fake," only to find out it's absolutely a real thing? That's sort of how this house in Pennsylvania comes across. It just seems too fantastical to be real, and yet somehow it actually exists.

The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

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Health

Oregon utilizes teen volunteers to run their YouthLine teen crisis hotline

“Each volunteer gets more than 60 hours of training, and master’s level supervisors are constantly on standby in the room.”

Oregon utilizes teen volunteers to man YouthLine teen crisis hotline

Editor's Note: If you are having thoughts about taking your own life, or know of anyone who is in need of help, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 200+ crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 9-8-8. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

Mental health is a top-of-mind issue for a lot of people. Thanks to social media and people being more open about their struggles, the stigma surrounding seeking mental health treatment appears to be diminishing. But after the social and emotional interruption of teens due the pandemic, the mental health crises among adolescents seem to have jumped to record numbers.

PBS reports that Oregon is "ranked as the worst state for youth mental illness and access to care." But they're attempting to do something about it with a program that trains teenagers to answer crisis calls from other teens. They aren't alone though, as there's a master's level supervisor at the ready to jump in if the call requires a mental health professional.

The calls coming into the Oregon YouthLine can vary drastically, anywhere from relationship problems to family struggles, all the way to thoughts of self-harm and suicide. Teens manning the phones are provided with 60 hours of training and are taught to recognize when the call needs to be taken over by the adult supervisor.

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Pop Culture

Buffy Sainte-Marie shares what led to her openly breastfeeding on 'Sesame Street' in 1977

The way she explained to Big Bird what she was doing is still an all-time great example.

"Sesame Street" taught kids about life in addition to letters and numbers.

In 1977, singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie did something revolutionary: She fed her baby on Sesame Street.

The Indigenous Canadian-Ameican singer-songwriter wasn't doing anything millions of other mothers hadn't done—she was simply feeding her baby. But the fact that she was breastfeeding him was significant since breastfeeding in the United States hit an all-time low in 1971 and was just starting to make a comeback. The fact that she did it openly on a children's television program was even more notable, since "What if children see?" has been a key pearl clutch for people who criticize breastfeeding in public.

But the most remarkable thing about the "Sesame Street" segment was the lovely interchange between Big Bird and Sainte-Marie when he asked her what she was doing.

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Family

Mom shares her brutal experience with 'hyperemesis gravidarum' and other moms can relate

Hyperemesis gravidarum is a severe case of morning sickness that can last up until the baby is born and might require medical attention.

@emilyboazman/TikTok

Hyperemesis gravidarum isn't as common as regular morning sickness, but it's much more severe.

Morning sickness is one of the most commonly known and most joked about pregnancy symptoms, second only to peculiar food cravings. While unpleasant, it can often be alleviated to a certain extent with plain foods, plenty of fluids, maybe some ginger—your typical nausea remedies. And usually, it clears up on its own by the 20-week mark. Usually.

But sometimes, it doesn’t. Sometimes moms experience stomach sickness and vomiting, right up until the baby is born, on a much more severe level.

Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), isn’t as widely talked about as regular morning sickness, but those who go through it are likely to never forget it. Persistent, extreme nausea and vomiting lead to other symptoms like dehydration, fainting, low blood pressure and even jaundice, to name a few.

Emily Boazman, a mom who had HG while pregnant with her third child, showed just how big of an impact it can make in a viral TikTok.

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The cast of TLC's "Sister Wives."

Dating is hard for just about anyone. But it gets harder as people age because the dating pool shrinks and older people are more selective. Plus, changes in dating trends, online etiquette and fashion can complicate things as well.

“Sister Wives” star Christine Brown is back in the dating pool after ending her “spiritual union” with polygamist Kody Brown and she needs a little help to get back in the swing of things. Christine and Kody were together for more than 25 years and she shared him with three other women, Janelle, Meri and Robyn.

Janelle and Meri have recently announced they’ve separated from Kody. Christine publicly admitted that things were over with Kody in November 2021.

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Finally, someone explains why we all need subtitles

It seems everyone needs subtitles nowadays in order to "hear" the television. This is something that has become more common over the past decade and it's caused people to question if their hearing is going bad or if perhaps actors have gotten lazy with enunciation.

So if you've been wondering if it's just you who needs subtitles in order to watch the latest marathon-worthy show, worry no more. Vox video producer Edward Vega interviewed dialogue editor Austin Olivia Kendrick to get to the bottom of why we can't seem to make out what the actors are saying anymore. It turns out it's technology's fault, and to get to how we got here, Vega and Kendrick took us back in time.

They first explained that way back when movies were first moving from silent film to spoken dialogue, actors had to enunciate and project loudly while speaking directly into a large microphone. If they spoke and moved like actors do today, it would sound almost as if someone were giving a drive-by soliloquy while circling the block. You'd only hear every other sentence or two.

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