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20 June 2016

World Refugee Day: an entrepreneurial response

World Refugee Day: an entrepreneurial response

by Deborah Paul, founder of i61 Clothing

Very few people will be able to forget the images that sent shockwaves around the world. A young boy, escaping war torn Syria, where he had been born five years earlier, washed up on the shores of a Turkish beach. His name was Aylan Kurdi and he died with his three-year-old brother Galip and mother Rehan. Their father, Abdullah, survived.

It was this image that seemed to be burnt on my heart, that made me finally sit up and really pay attention to the refugee situation that was in the process of unfolding. Living in London, it seemed to be so far away and easy to look at and read about, but remain removed from.

At the same time the refugee crisis was increasing, I was becoming more and more aware of the homeless on the streets of London. God had put a burden and a passion on my heart for them and for their situation, and I was beginning to get involved in practical ways to try to do my bit to ease their suffering.

On that morning, back in September 2015, thinking and praying about the little boy, I realised that the refugees were homeless and while their stories may be different, they and the homeless on the streets of London faced similar circumstances; they had no homes, and very few personal possessions to call their own. Through war, through addictions, through heartbreak, through circumstances often beyond their control, these people had lost everything. They were at the mercy of whoever received them.

Jesus says in Matthew 25:35 that when we feed the hungry and clothe the naked, we do it for him. We do it with him. I determined to do my part, to play my part, however small that would be.

I have often had the sense that God is asking me to use what I have in my hands to help others. I decided to use our clothing company i61 Clothing to produce a t-shirt that would raise awareness and money for the situation, both here and abroad. We called it Love Has No Borders. While we realise that physical borders need to exist, love doesn't have to be restricted by them. Our love can cross borders, class and religious divides and touch lives.

100 per cent of the profit of this t-shirt goes directly to help the refugees in camps abroad through the inspirational organization, Samara's Aid. We also partner with Glassdoors, here in the UK, who run over 17 homeless shelters around London.

The refugee crisis is one that is not going away, with more than one million migrants and refugees entering Europe last year alone. At this time of writing, there are approximately 59.5 million forcibly displaced people - people having to leave their countries due to conflict and/or persecution. In 2014, more than 1.66 million people applied for asylum.  The number of homeless refugees in the UK is also set to rise.

We believe that if you have something in your hand to use, that can make a difference in the lives of others, then we must use what we have. We are aware that our t-shirts will not solve the issues. But we believe that when many come together to help impact world issues, then together, as one, we can be the change that we wish to see in the world.

To find out more, and to see the t-shirt, visit the i61 website here