Google, non-profit Refugees United join forces for world’s first charity ‘Hangout-a-thon’



If you’ve watched a reasonable amount of TV in your lifetime, chances are you’re familiar with the concept of the charity telethon. Some of the more famous ones include Comic Relief‘s Red Nose Day and Sport Relief, and the BBC’s Children in Need. Well over the last little while, the format’s been dragged into the online space thanks to Google.

Non-profit Refugees United will today join Google+, Mashable and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) as one of the partners in the first ever live “Hangout-a-thon,” a 12-hour event on Google+ that will feature content from a variety of non-profits, celebrities, and socially responsible businesses.

The initiative is part of #GivingTuesday, a nationwide effort in the US to inspire people to give back to their communities and to raise awareness about nonprofit organizations that work to give back everyday.

Building on Refugees United’s successful Google+ Hangouts On Air Series entitled #FamilyIs, Refugees United and partners will participate in an opportunity for individuals to give back and donate to over 25 charities directly from a hangout.

This installment will profile Rahma (name changed for security reasons), a Somali native based in Nairobi, Kenya. Rahma reconnected with her brother, father and three sisters after 22 years of separation due to the work of UNHCR and Refugees United. This Google+ Hangouts On Air will also feature interviews with representatives from UNHCR and Refugees United, organizations that work together to connect families separated by war, conflict and disaster.

The first three live family reconnections as part of the #Familyis Campaign are available on YouTube for those who missed it. On November 19th, a Congolese man reconnected with his uncle after seven years of separation. Last week, a Congolese family was together for the first time in six years. And last Wednesday, two Congolese brothers separated for 15 years got a chance to see each other’s face through Google+ Hangouts On Air.

“It’s difficult to describe the feeling of watching separated families see and speak to each other for the first time in years,” says Ida Jeng, Communications Manager for Refugees United. “This is an incredible opportunity for us to share that experience with the public. It sends a powerful message to the 45 million forcibly displaced people who may still be looking for friends and family – that it is possible to find your loved ones, that there are resources available to help. Every person has a right to know where their family is.”

Google Kenya agrees that reaching a wider audience is critical. “Once you see the faces of family members reconnecting after years apart, you’re going to want to know how you can help”, says Farzana Khubchandani, Google Kenya Country Marketing Manager. “The truly transformative power of Google+ Hangouts On Air is that it reminds us that we are really similar, that no matter where we come from, we value the same things – family, community and the safety of the people we love.”

“Every day, all over the world, conflicts tear apart families like this one,” said Melissa Fleming, Head of Communications at UNHCR. “Our staff is on the ground, helping those who flee to find safety, regain hope and restart their lives. We’re excited to discuss the reunifications we facilitated through this Hangout.”



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