It can be difficult, here in Ann Arbor, to come to grips with the magnitude of the current refugee crisis, going on in what seems like a world away. But when confronted with the human cost of the crisis — hundreds of thousands of families fleeing, often a great peril and with uncertain reward, to find refuge in the European Union — a group of Ann Arbor-based moms took helping into their own hands.
A grassroots charity organization, Carry the Future, and a chance connection on the Mom2Mom Sales Facebook Group has brought four women — Kelly Ganamet, Kim Gardner, Keri Bennett, and Tina Carmichael — together to organize a used carrier donation drive around greater Washtenaw County.
Along with the Ann Arbor Babywearers and the Canton Babywearers group (including local volunteers Liz Thomas, Kate Gillespie, and Mandy Austin), the group of women have already successfully completed the first week of the drive at The Little Seedling in Ann Arbor and My Urban Toddler in Saline.
“I think that we all have an opportunity to contribute to our own community, however you define that. I think that’s a shared responsibility, and I think that ideal is really shaped by my faith,” said Carmichael, a mother of three and one of the volunteer organizers of the carrier drive. “And what really hit me was that God loves everyone. And whether we live in close proximity or not, or whether we have the same beliefs as them, if I believe that I know who God is, then I have an opportunity to be used by him to help reach out and care for others in the same way that I’ve been cared for.”
Carry the Future is an charity organization with over 3,000 volunteers across the globe with the primary goal of providing relief to refugees families seeking asylum. The organization specializes in outfitting families with babies and toddlers with baby carriers.
After noticing Carry the Future posts on social media, and connecting on Facebook, Ganamet, Gardner, Bennett, and Carmichael leveraged their local business contacts to start a baby carrier drive in Washtenaw County.
Carmichael, who had been following the refugee crisis closely all summer, was motivated not only by her faith, but by the shared desire, as a mother, to protect her children.
“I think there is a desperation I’ve seen around this crisis, and fear, and heartbreak. There was picture of a little boy that had died on a voyage, and someone had picked up his body. That really evoked a lot of emotion. You could identify with that – that where I live isn’t safe, and I want to protect them and take them somewhere where they can sleep at night and they can have hope,” said Carmichael. “I saw a post someone put on facebook from Carry the Future that had a Q&A about a donating your future baby carriers, and it just felt like this is something really tangible that I can do.”
Adds Gardner: “My driving factor comes from being a mom of two small children and wanting to help other families during their crisis situation. These families are trying to get away from awful circumstances that I can’t begin to imagine and are doing it so their children can live somewhere safer. When it comes to to it no matter where we come from or what we believe we are all just humans.”
Carry the Future is looking for soft structured carriers with clasps, harnesses, or ties that families can use while traveling with a minimal amount of instruction. In addition, kids mittens and small hats that can fit in the pockets of carriers are also being accepted.
The second round of the drive is going on from December 5 to December 20. Drop-off sites include Elephant Ears (located at 436 S Main St, Plymouth Charter Township) and Indigo Forest (4121 Jackson Rd. in Ann Arbor). Beth Barbeau, owner of Indigo Forest, is offering a 20% off any item coupon with the donation of a carrier.
In addition, personal notes may be including by clipping it to donated carriers, and donation towards shipping can be made at the counter of both stores.