Supporting Vulnerable Populations Through Storytelling
By Jeremy Witt, Senior Associate
A series of humanitarian crises have captured our collective attention through the harrowing realities facing displaced populations and the geopolitical struggles that we will confront in the months and years to come. However, through news coverage, social media and non-profit outreach, the knowledge and availability of these stories is powerful enough to make a tangible difference for those that need it the most. One of the most engrossing and humbling parts of our jobs as public relations practitioners is the ability to identify, cultivate and tell stories that help drive meaningful change for vulnerable populations. We are only able to do this alongside our clients, who have the means to utilize these stories for fundraising, programming and humanitarian efforts. While we often focus on the needs of our immediate neighbors, the number of refugees across the United States will continue to expand through refugee resettlement services and the organizations that are changing lives along the way.
I have the opportunity to work with organizations across the country that each have the same mission: to support vulnerable populations. The specific groups that these organizations focus on ranges, but refugee support remains an ongoing theme, especially since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan last summer and with the recent war in Ukraine.
Samaritas, one of Michigan’s largest human services non-profits, was tasked with resettling over 350 Afghan refugees. By the spring, Samaritas had successfully secured permanent housing for all Afghan refugees in both Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, with work continuing in Metro Detroit to support those now living thousands of miles from home.
Samaritas’ strides could not have been accomplished without the help of donors, community partners and volunteers. With our media relations support, we reinforced Samaritas’s position as a leader in refugee resettlement services and support. With over 70 years of experience resettling refugees, Samaritas’ experts participated in radio, print and T.V. interviews on a local, regional and national level. While efforts to support Afghan refugees continued into the spring, a new development captured the world’s attention: the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
But our work supporting refugees wasn’t confined to efforts on behalf of Samaritas. As hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians were forced out of their homes and their country, Beyond Type 1, the largest diabetes organization with a global network (and another Lambert client), knew that many of those fleeing would need access to a vital resource: insulin.
Beyond Type 1 empowers and supports the global diabetes community, and with an estimated 2.4 million people (roughly 7% of the total population) in Ukraine having diabetes, the organization recognized a way that it could support this vulnerable group. With shipments into the Ukraine blocked and restricted, Beyond Type 1 worked with other global organizations, including the International Diabetes Federation and World Health Organization, to promote organizations within and around the Ukraine that were helping to deliver medical supplies – including lifesaving insulin. By amplifying Beyond Type 1’s voice through media relations, social media and an ongoing blog post with ways to help, our team was able to drive traffic to these organizations and, in turn, make insulin more accessible. The work continues, and as a global ambassador and proponent of the diabetes community, the ongoing support that Beyond Type 1 provides will be life-changing and help this vulnerable community.
In March, the Biden administration announced that as many as 100,000 Ukrainians would be resettled in the U.S. Prior to this announcement, many began the resettlement process in countries bordering the Ukraine. The status of the refugees coming to the U.S. remains in progress, and we will have a better understanding of the resettlement process in the coming months, but the need remains the same as it always has: organizations that are providing refugee resettlement services, like Samaritas, will need community support and volunteers as they continue to support this community and our new soon-to-be neighbors.
At Lambert, we are storytellers, and through this work, we are also activists and allies. The stories that we have the honor to share – whether from resettled refugees, educators or non-profit leaders – have a ripple effect that can result in key support for organizations that are making a difference. Because of the potential impact we can have on such vital issues, I am proud to be a storyteller.
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