Why I got involved
I was raised in a family that’s very involved in humanitarian efforts, so it’s been a part of my life since I was young. Over the past couple of years I’ve watched the refugee crisis get increasingly overlooked while exponentially growing each year. It’s not only devastatingly sad, it’s also incredibly scary to see the world overlook it and focus on other things. I’d already been thinking about how I could get involved when SAP – a company we’d already worked with through the band’s Tyler Robinson Foundation (a foundation for children with cancer) reached out to us with the idea of putting out a song, with all proceeds going towards the refugee crisis. I said yes immediately, and the whole thing came together in two weeks.
Why I visited a refugee camp in Germany
Once we’d decided to do the song, I thought if I was going to be involved in this I had to be more educated about it. I wanted to see what it was like at the camps so I could actually speak from experience as opposed to what I’d seen on the internet. I went to a camp in Germany and it was such an eye-opening experience – I realised it was something I had to get more involved in.
Why we can’t turn a blind eye to the situation
This is really pertinent right now. A lot of people are shying away from the topic because of the tragedy in Paris last month – I understand that, but by the same token, most of these refugees are people running away from that exact thing. What they are trying to get away from is terrorism and these people who’ve been taking their lives away. So for us to turn our backs on them? It can’t happen. Awareness is even more important now than ever. Every single time we play a show we talk about this on stage.
We reach 10,000 a night, just hoping to raise awareness – but talking is not enough. I think we need to be actively finding solutions, and someone in the spotlight like myself has the opportunity to write about it, travel to camps and create a video documentary to spread the word. I’m working closely with the UN Refugee Agency.
Why everyone has something to offer
I think everybody’s role is different, and every single person can get involved in different ways. Even if people are politically against the idea of refugees coming to the place they live, that doesn’t mean they can’t help to provide food for where they’re at already.
A lot of these camps have the most dreadful, terrible conditions: they’re overpopulated, so much so that some of the refugees are forced to turn around and go back. Most people, when they know the numbers, want to help, but when it comes to it, many say “Yeah, I want to help but I don’t want them coming into my country.” Some US states are now saying they will not allow any refugees from Syria. Whatever side people are on politically, the one thing I can say for sure that it’s unacceptable to do is nothing; to stand by and just say “Oh, it sucks for them.” Because this is millions of people dying.
This is the single greatest crisis in the last decade, in terms of the number of people it’s affecting, and something has to be done. If you’re looking for ways to get involved, this inspired me: my mum wrote me an email and said that her Christmas gift to the family was not going to be a present – instead, she was going to give money to the refugee crisis. That’s a small thing, but if thousands of people did this it would make a huge impact.
Why the worst thing we can do is stop talking
This is such a hot topic right now but I feel like a lot of people in the industry are afraid to talk about it, because nobody knows what to do. But honestly, I think now is exactly the moment that we have to – the second we stop talking about it, terrorism is winning. They want people to turn these refugees away and that can’t be the answer. I can’t come up with the political answers, but my goal is to become more educated on the matter, do what I can to raise awareness and say “I don’t know what the answer is but there needs to be one”. Whether the timing is right or wrong, we have to talk about it.
Even when we post about the subject [on social media] there are people who will immediately respond and say “Why don’t you talk about things happening at home in the US?” That’s just so strange to me – it’s such a narrow way of thinking. I’m going to do everything I can and, especially after going to the refugee camp, I’m definitely inspired to become as involved as possible.