Challenges Beyond Our Own

Satellite image of a boat passing in front of my New Orleans home

I’m usually not keen about covering my support of various causes on this blog, and I’m rarely personal. But I’d like to share why I feel a connection and have signed on as a Blue Key Champion for USA for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

As someone who lived in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina, I know a bit about being displaced. Fortunately, my husband and I had evacuated by car prior to the storm, but after it hit and the floodwaters surged, all residents were prohibited from returning to the city for a full month.

Our cell phones stopped working, and anyone with a New Orleans-based email address lost that way of connecting, too. There was no way to know where friends had landed, and if they were OK.

Even after residents were allowed to return, few of us were able to do so for more than a day or two at a time. There was no electricity, running water, or gas, and water damage made most houses unlivable for months (many were camping out in survival gear in their back yards while they assessed the damage). Personally, my husband and I lived in limbo in Memphis for six long months. I never saw my (just remodeled) home again – we sold it “as is” in the spring of 2006 and moved to Atlanta.

Does this sound like a difficult situation? It was. My neighbor across the street committed suicide. Many friends’ marriages did not survive the stress. But I don’t tell this story to get sympathy for me (we came out of it perfectly fine, unlike many who suffered the loss of loved ones and experienced financial ruin). I wanted to share my story because as challenging as this period was for me, it is nothing compared to the devastation many of the world’s refugees deal with every day.

Though my world felt topsy-turvy for many months, I was able to spend this time in a clean, dry apartment. We had plenty of food and emotional support from family and friends (not to mention well-wishes from people nationwide). Of interest to Solo PR Pros, I continued working the entire time (so when I say we can work from anywhere, I mean it!). I never once had to doubt whether I would be OK – I always felt confident we would land on our feet.

But what must it feel like if you’re not only displaced, but face such persecution in your homeland that you’re willing to risk death to escape (as thousands of Libyans, crowded on boats, recently did)? Or to run from deplorable conditions caused by disasters like earthquakes, with no idea where your children will sleep that night?

The UNHCR is one of the lead agencies working to address the international refugee crisis, with more than 6,000 UNHCR staffers worldwide providing services to over 26 million refugees.

The Blue Key campaign is a program of USA for UNHCR to support this work, and for a donation of just $5, you’ll receive a free Blue Key pin or pendant—symbolizing our power to help refugees open the door to a new home and a new future. I’m touched by this symbolism and the small price to pay, which will have a direct impact on the lives of others. Please help spread the word using the #bluekey hashtag, and thank you in advance for any support you can offer.

What are some of the most challenging situations you’ve ever faced? Do you have any examples of how the support of others helped?

  •  Thank you for your touching story, and your support. We’re proud to have your help as a #bluekey Champion! 

  •  Thank you — glad to have a forum to share.

  • Kellye; Wow, I never knew this about you. I am really glad you came out as you did from this situation as you did. I agree that the #bluekey program is a worthy one, which is why I am joining it as well. This post, however, really is a side benefit of the program. I feel I know you better.

  •  Thank you for sharing your story. I can’t quite articulate how it touched me as present, thinking about your question about challenging situations, and how you’ve phrased it in the past tense. I’m still going through my challenging situation… but the difference is that I have options. Refugees around the world, home and abroad, need our support. 

    Like others, I periodically drown in the despair that comes with looking at the sheer magnitude of people in need, frustrated that it seems we can’t help them all. But I’m starting to see that differently – we can all focus our efforts into one person, family, situation, charity, volunteer project… and it makes such a difference in the lives of the people you CAN help. What a reason to wake up in the morning…

  • Thanks, Kami! I don’t talk about this topic very often, because I never wanted to be defined by this experience. But it was a formative period in my life that I’m happy to share with my friends here.

  • What a terrific comment, Tinu! Sorry to hear that you are currently in a challenging situation, but love your attitude. I agree that things often feel overwhelming, but programs like the bluekey campaign allow us to make a small effort that– when combined — makes a big difference.

  • Amazing story Kellye, nice to see you using it for the campaign this way.. very good of you to give back. BTW, I didn’t know you can to ATL by way of New Orleans. I was born there, still have family and friends in the Gulf Coast region. FWIW.

  • I should have known someone as cool as you had New Orleans roots! It’s a wonderful place, and continues to be.