How to help Syrian refugees? These groups you may not know are doing important work

The World
Updated on
A Syrian refugee from Aleppo holds his one month old daughter moments after arriving on a dinghy on the Greek island of Lesbos

EDITOR'S NOTE: The information in this article has been adapted for Thanksgiving in an app that sends you to the various vetted charities mentioned in this article.

The fate of refugees in Europe has gripped the world’s attention following the publication of the image of the body of one victim: a 3-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach.

When confronted with this latest “viral” image to come out of the Syrian conflict, many people have expressed shock, horror, grief and anger. And many have also tried to help.

See also: If you've been moved by images of Omran Daqneesh, the young boy pulled from rubble, here are some organizations working to save people in Aleppo.

Migrant Offshore Aid Station, a charity that runs a fleet of rescue boats to save refugees at sea, told the Guardian that their donations had increased 15-fold in the 24 hours since the photo was published. Dozens of independent online fundraising efforts sprang up overnight, and calls to give or sign petitions began to trend on Twitter and Facebook.

But who to give to?

There are many well-established charity organizations helping the thousands of migrants flooding into Europe, most of whom are fleeing violence in Syria and Afghanistan or the brutal oppression of Eritrea’s dictatorship. The big charity groups are well-known: UNHCR, UnicefMédecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam, the International Red Cross and Save the Children

But there are other, smaller groups doing incredible work on the ground, every day. Here are six, smaller groups we’ve vetted that you can help right away. Suggest other groups in the comments or in our Facebook chat.

1. Migrant Offshore Aid Station

This charity exists to save children like Alan Kurdi, with a fleet of rescue boats patrolling the Mediterranean to save migrants lost at sea.

2. Refugees Welcome

Dubbed as a kind of “Airbnb for refugees” this German nonprofit matches people with spare rooms with refugees in need of housing. If you don’t have a spare bed in Germany, you can still donate here.

3. The Worldwide Tribe in Calais

A group of social activists documenting stories in the Calais migrant camp, they also raise relief funds.  

4. Small Projects Istanbul

Provides classes and cultural enrichment and scholarships to Syrian children in Turkey.

5. Karam Foundation

A US-based charity that works in Turkey and is also focused on educational opportunities for Syrian children, currently raising funds to rebuild schools in Syria.

6. Hand in Hand for Syria

One of the few organizations that directly provides aid on the ground in Syria, including food, clothing, water, sanitation and crucial medical assistance to “help people to stay in Syria instead of fleeing to another country.” They accept donations via their page on

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As for the bigger organizations, a useful tool to consider when evaluating them is their ranking on independent charity watchdog sites like GuideStar or Charity Navigator which evaluate what percentage of donations go directly toward aid versus overhead, among other factors.

Charity Navigator has a list of highly ranked charities currently helping Syrian refugees. We reached out to them to find out more about they are doing and will update this as we get responses.

International Medical Corps

International Medical Corps has had teams on the ground providing direct medical assistance to Syrian refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. One example of their work: In the Turkish city of Gaziantep, not from the war torn Syrian city of Aleppo, IMC helps run a service center for Syrian refugees that provides medical care, classes and job training.

IMC spokesperson Rebecca Gustafson says the group hasn’t seen any increase in donations to their Syria response efforts, but their “work to help those affected by the conflict continues and is more critical than ever.”

Medical Teams International

Medical Teams International focuses on health and dental care for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.  Their volunteers “monitor chronic disease patients in their homes and provide families and communities with vital information on chronic disease recognition, management and disease prevention.”


Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps  provides direct aid to Syrian refugees in the form of food and supplies, and by increasing access to clean water and sanitation, shelters, and safe spaces and activities for children


Save the Children

The charity provides emergency food for Syrian children, and supports education in Syrian refugee camps among other things.

While not directly related to their relief efforts, this poignant, and viral Save the Children PSA imagines a British child enduring an experience very similar to a Syrian refugee.



ShelterBox has been providing emergency shelter and supplies to families affected by the Syrian crisis in Iraq Kurdistan, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, including clothing, stoves and, water filters.



The UN agency focuses on assisting Syrian children by providing healthcare, nutrition, immunization, water and sanitation, and classes.



Oxfam is provides aid to Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. In Jordan's Zaatari Camp, home to 83,000 refugees, the nonprofit provides clean water, sanitation services, and hygiene education to help ward of cholera and other intestinal diseases.



US: 'Do we need to do more? Yes.'

How come Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE haven't accepted one refugee?

Icelanders want their government to accept more refugees

Jillian E. York: A few recommendations to help Syria's refugees

What do refugees carry on their journey? 

CBC: Canada's top 'refugee' search – 'How can I sponsor a Syrian?'

Canada prime minister promises travel ban to areas controlled by terrorists if re-elected

How can you help Syrian refugees? Join the conversation on Facebook.
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