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There’s No Such Thing as Other People’s Children

An update on Together Rising’s work with refugees in Europe, written by Glennon Doyle Melton and originally posted on

At the end of last month, you and I and 41,000 of the biggest-hearted people on Earth came together to respond to today’s refugee crisis, the worst humanitarian emergency since World War II. This response—The Compassion Collective—was led by the communities of Elizabeth Gilbert, Brené Brown, Cheryl Strayed, Rob Bell and Momastery. As The Compassion Collective, we joined together to ask these questions:

Should drowning children be saved?
Should starving women be fed?
Should freezing men be warmed?
Should homeless babies be sheltered?

Together, you answered YES. You decided this:


Credit:Emily McDowell

And THEN: This. In increments of 5, 10, 20 dollars- you gave one million dollars in 31 hours. By the end of 2015—our total was $1.3 million. Every penny is going directly to refugee aid.

Thank You! Light WON


Our partners, Help Refugees, asked for their funding to be staggered and our first round —$697,000—hit European soil on Dec. 30th. This is our first report to you about how these funds are being used. Before we jump in, you need to know that the situation is still desperate. The horrific evil, the terror people are fleeing from—it’s real and it’s stunning. Mothers and fathers, people who used to live in beloved communities and own treasured homes and work hard—parents whose dream was to simply raise their children in peace—are now homeless and starving. Their babies are still washing up on foreign soil dead. Families are huddling together for warmth on the sides of roads, and people are sleeping in tents set on barren fields of freezing mud.

The situation is devastating, and sometimes looks hopeless. And to that we say this: People of light do not let the fact that we cannot do everything keep us from doing something. People of light concern themselves with serving instead of fixing. In the absence of long terms answers: we work. Turning away is not an option for people who have committed to the spiritual practice of showing up. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for people of light to do nothing. We can be heartbroken and confused, but we must continue to work while we are heartbroken and confused. When the world is dark: we do not hide. WE BRING THE LIGHT.

This is the lesson I keep learning over and over every day doing Self Healing/ World Healing work: No one is swooping in to save the day here. There is no Wizard behind the curtain figuring out how to fix this. We are the Wizards of Oz. On the beaches of Greece and in crowded refugee camps and in Flint and Detroit and our home communities: We must pull the levers to make love win. The love revolution needed on Earth is not coming from the powers that be down to us. It’s happening bottom to top. Groundswell, grassroots. History is made BY ORDINARY PEOPLE who SHOW UP IN EXTRAORDINARY WAYS. So I’m not waiting for leaders anymore. We are the leaders. Tweet: History is made BY ORDINARY PEOPLE who SHOW UP IN EXTRAORDINARY WAYS. I’m not waiting anymore. We are the leaders. The revolution is you — YOU – there in your home or your office or your car or soccer practice. US. WE ARE THE ONES WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR. And I’m about to prove it to you.

Since we have no boardroom, since this revolution is made up of teachers and moms and dads and kids and coaches and artists, all of whom are reading this on computers all over the world: HERE IS YOUR COMPASSION COLLECTIVE REPORT. We report to YOU. We hope you will find what we’ve done worthy of your trust and your hard-earned donations.

Here are you answers. Here is your compassion. Not in word, but in deed.

Should drowning children be saved?


At the end of December, Amy and I were working side by side in my kitchen and she handed me her phone. She said: Dani from HR just forwarded me this text. We both stared at it silently for minutes. Then we stared at each other. This is a text that was sent out to volunteers working on Lesvos, one of the Greek Islands:


With your gifts, we’re responding by providing funding and supplies for new medical facilities on Lesvos, including a portable hospital tent that can be quickly set up at the sites where it is most needed. We are also providing rescue equipment, heaters and supplies to aid organizations on the Greek Islands, funding their work to save people from the freezing waters.

One of the organizations we are in funding is Lighthouse. Here is what Oz, our translator, says about Lighthouse:

“These wonderful volunteers have saved many lives, they were the first people I met on the island and they were the ones I carried out my first rescue with. Pulling that child off that boat changed my life. Last night I am sure you are aware Lighthouse had another late night beach rescue. Tragedy struck once again this morning as a small girl’s body washed up on shore not far from the Lighthouse camp….The money you are sending helped them buy new medical equipment that will save even more lives.”


Here is Lighthouse’s heated tent to help treat refugees suffering from hypothermia:

Heated Tent

This is the field clinic they’ve set up. Our money is going toward things like oxygen tanks that help save the lives of those who arrive on shore.

Field Clinic

And here is a heated, inflatable medical tent that we’re providing through Starfish, another organization we’re supporting. It will be used in emergencies on the island, and can be put up in 15 minutes and used exactly where it’s needed.

Inflatable tent

Should starving women be fed?


To combat starvation, you’ve continued to feed thousands of people every day in Lesvos and you are in the process of opening up three more food kitchens across the Greek Islands.



In Calais, the garbage-dump turned refugee camp in France, you are funding Calais community kitchens. Leon Aarts, a worker there, tells us, “You are feeding 2500 people on a daily basis, and with your funds you have been able to build, support and supply community kitchens where refugees cook for themselves, giving them healthy and nutritious meals every day. More importantly this allows them to have the food they are used to and to come together as a community.”

Food kitchens

Preparing food

Should freezing men be warmed?


This is a report from Dr. Linda, a doctor we’re supporting through Offtrack Health. She is the doctor who first alerted Help Refugees about the severity of the situation on Lesvos:

“We found this family on the street with two little children aged 2 and 3 years. The 3 year old had a high fever 39c. Their boat was only leaving in 48 hours and they would have been standing there on the street for 2 days in the snow if we had not found them. We treated the child and only because of our medical diagnosis now the family is in a warm hotel.”

Sick child


In France, the refugee camps of Calais and Dunkirk are currently housing thousands of stateless people—people living in tents or unheated shelters though a long winter.

Should homeless babies be sheltered?


To keep people as warm and dry as possible, you’re supplying blankets, sleeping bags and tents throughout Greece, Macedonia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Serbia, and building shelters in refugee camps in France.

Here’s a note of thanks to you from Dr Mohammed Balla, a refugee living in one of the camps:

“We are so grateful to have these shelters to live in while we are in the jungle. A shelter is better than a tent for many reasons, firstly it’s more protective from the cold and rain, and secondly it keeps us away from the rats and the mud. It’s physically easier to enter, allowing us to keep our dignity which is one of the most important things for our happiness, and we are always so happy to have the locks to keep ourselves and our belongings safe.”






I don’t know why this picture got me, but it did. These are your gifts. Small things with great, great love. This is compassion. Compassion is not pity. Pity is your pain in my heart. It just sits there. It heals nothing. But Compassion. Compassion is your pain in my heart and back out through my hands. Tweet: Pity is pain that sits there, healing nothing. But compassion is your pain in my heart & back out through my hands. When you hit donate: that love was an energy. It went into the world. It did this. This is a picture of compassion. Compassion literally keeps people warm.


Friends, you have met needs here: shelter, water, food. But we know—WE KNOW that there is more to living than survival. That more is LOVE. And so, look. You brought LOVE to the refugees. HOPE, JOY—in the form of:

A new Youth Center and a Women’s and Children’s Centre in Calais.

For privacy reasons, we decided not to show photographs of the center. But the incredible illustrator, Miss Magpie Fashion Spy, spent some time in the Women and Children’s Centre and created this picture. We wanted you to see what you made.

Women's Centre

A worker at the Women and Children’s Centre told us this:

“As a way to provide consistent support to the women living in the Calais refugee camp, all female long-term volunteers commit to at least one shift a week in the Women and Children’s Centre. This commitment would not be possible without your ongoing support. As a result of supporting the living expenses of long-term volunteers, the women and children in the camp are able to form stable, trusted and vital relationships with volunteers, providing an imperative support network for the most vulnerable people living in such inhumane conditions. Your funding also allows for the weekly ‘pamper day’ where women in the camp are able to escape the cold and wet for massages and treatments; we have seen how important and transformative this day is for the women both physically and psychologically.”


The youth center is a program providing support, community and structured activities for boys ages 12-18. One of the most popular activities last week was a science experiment–making a parachute out of an egg, a plastic bag, and some string, tape and straws. How many of us remember doing this science project??

Egg drop

Your funds have also provided the centers with new underwear and basic clothes, hygiene products, baby slings and more. In the absence of school, we’re also funding activities for the children, and a playground where they can be children again.


The people on the front lines, the doctors, nurses and midwives working the clinics, the volunteers pulling the babies from water, the teams building the shelters: they have a message for you. They have repeatedly asked us to tell you: THANK YOU, COMPASSION COLLECTIVE. They can’t believe you care enough to have done all of this for strangers. I told them we don’t believe in strangers. They say again and again: Then thank you, FRIENDS. We don’t know who we’d turn to if we couldn’t turn to you.

You are doing this work. Thousands of people—men, women and children—are feeling the light of your compassion every day. You are hope in the midst of hopelessness. You are standing in the midst of darkness and together—you are bringing the light.

Sisters and brothers—let us never forget. We Belong to Each Other. And there is no such thing as other people’s children. Tweet: Let us never forget. We Belong to Each Other. And there is no such thing as other people’s children. @momastery



Click here for more information about The Compassion Collective.

All photos provided by Help Refugees.