In a heart wrenching 8 minute audio heard around the world, the sound of children screaming and crying for their families shattered all barriers in the political world. Their sobs and begging were heard by everyone from President Donald Trump, all the way down to US citizens simply scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed.
Charlotte and Dave Willner, a couple who work in Silicon Valley, were just as moved as the rest of the world when they saw a photo capturing the essence of the terror of these children. In the photo, a toddler screams as her mother is arrested and taken away. The face struck home for the couple, because the child looks very much like their own daughter when she is terrified.
They decided to create a Facebook fundraiser to help a single immigrant family reunite with their child. The Willners set the goal amount as $1,500, which they hoped would be enough to pay the bail for one family. The couple felt they had a pretty good chance of meeting the goal with 1,700 friends each on Facebook. What happened next took their breath away.
Within just a few days of starting the fundraiser, they had managed to raise more than 5 million dollars. It has become the largest fundraising campaign on Facebook. While there have been some big donations, including from Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg, the average donation is just $40. They come from citizens who also have seen and heard their own children crying, and responded. People have donated from every single state, Puerto Rico, and even other countries.
All of the money is going to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) based in Texas. RAICES provides lawyers for children and their families, and pays the bonds for those who are currently in jail. The fundraiser couldn't have come at a better time for them. Just a few months ago, they were forced to make the announcement that RAICES would be taking on no new cases due to cuts in government funding. (They still had enough funding to continue old cases.) The money lost totaled $300,000. Their total annual budget is usually under 7,000,000.
Now, thanks to the 20 million dollars raised, they have enough to help every single family currently caught up in the immigration crisis. They are not only hiring on more lawyers, they are also seeking out psychologists and pediatricians to help treat the PTSD no doubt present in the children from this traumatic event.
On top of the donations, RAICES has also been inundated with offers for volunteer work. People all over the globe are offering to fly to Texas to help give them the support they need. When it has largely been just one admin and the rest lawyers, this is welcome help for the non-profit.
Charlotte and Dave Willner will continue to keep the fundraiser open for as long as there is interest in the campaign. The entire amount raised will be released to RAICES by Facebook some time in mid-July. If you would like to donate, you can do so here.