I showed up in Bangkok, Thailand, quite clueless. I had found a job teaching English and hoped that I would find a way to help some people out as well. I dabbled in various volunteer opportunities, but didn't feel like anything I did impacted anyone in any substantial way. One day, however, I met Dilan*, a refugee who had fled his country. Because of his religious beliefs and advocacy for a marginalized ethnic minority, the government in his home country had started to harass, follow, and threaten him. When his family started receiving more and more death threats, he fled to Thailand with his wife, infant daughter, and mother-in-law.
In March of 2010, I had to return to the states, but Michael assured me that he would keep Dilan and his family safe, and in May of 2011, a European country agreed to allow Dilan and his family to resettle there.
It still blows my mind how much our little relationship transformed Dilan and his family's lives. We were poor ourselves, but it didn't take much to meet our friend's basic needs.
When I see the impact I was able to have on one family's life, I dream of the impact that more and more people can have. Thousands of refugees live under the radar in Bangkok's shadows, struggling to survive. Thousands of foreigners, without any particular skills, come to Bangkok with vague intentions helping disadvantaged people. Millions more people live outside Bangkok, trying to find people worth investing in.
So that's why we founded Life Raft. We want to give people the opportunity to be a part of giving hope to these families of refugees. It was an incredible blessing for us to be able to walk with Shantha on his journey, and we want to share this opportunity with as many people as possible.
*Not his real name