postcards with heART

Artwork of four postcards, including a girl hiking and wearing a backpack, two women playing stringed instruments, two young men dancing, and a mural of three smiling faces on a building overlooking a street
Clockwise from top right: The Musicians, Michelle Chen; You Are Welcome, MISS CHELOVE; The Dancers, Michelle Chen; The Journey, MISS CHELOVE.

Project Description

Globally, we are currently witnessing the highest levels of displaced people on record. According to the latest figures from the United Nations Refugee Agency, there are an estimated 26 million refugees worldwide, over half of whom are under age 18. It is with them in mind that postcards with heART was developed. A collaboration between the National Postal Museum, the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA (JRS/USA), and two DC-area artists, postcards with heART allows museum visitors to explore current issues relating to global refugee, stateless, and displaced populations. We invite you to think about and reflect upon the scope of the current refugee crisis and the experiences of displaced people around the world. From there, you are encouraged to download custom-designed postcards featuring original art from MISS CHELOVE and Michelle Chen before writing or drawing messages on the back. Through the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA’s Any Refugee program, these messages of kindness will be mailed and delivered to a child in one of the many refugee populations that the JRS/USA serves around the globe.

Four powerful postcards were created by internationally recognized artists, Michelle Chen and MISS CHELOVE, both of whom adapted work from their portfolio or created original pieces specifically for the postcards with heART project. Individually, each work depicts a portion of the greater refugee experience—the meaning of home and how that can change, the individual cultural identities people claim and how they blend and connect with those of others around them, and the resulting rich and complex communities that are established as a result. Collectively, they illustrate our shared human experience irrespective of resident status.

The National Postal Museum is intimately aware of the value in connecting strangers through the medium of mail which can provide a sense of community or simply brighten the recipient's day. Through postcards with heART, we hope to do just that while also shedding light on the complex and challenging topic of the global refugee crisis. We encourage visitors to deeply explore the resources available on this site about specific locations and groups impacted. Hopefully the background content provided can inspire thoughtfulness and empathy about refugee experiences, which can then be translated into a message on a postcard.

postcards with heART events and programs are scheduled throughout the year. Please see our event calendar for the most up to date information.

Collaborators

postcards with heART is the collaborative effort of many individuals and organizations. We at the National Postal Museum thank them for all of their support in this project.

Global Refugee Crisis Fact Sheet

Refugees are defined by the United Nations as “people who cannot return to their country of origin because of a well-founded fear of persecution, conflict, violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order, and who, as a result, require international protection.”

The term “displaced people” refers to both refugees who have had to cross international borders for any of these reasons and internally displaced people who have had to flee their homes but remain in their countries of origin.

Postcard Instructions

To send a postcard to a refugee child through the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, we ask that you follow the instructions below. Postcards are also available at the Postcard Writing Desk, located in the museum’s Historic Lobby, during normal business hours.

 

Supplies:

  • Heavy cardstock or thin cardboard
  • Printed postcard images
  • Glue or glue stick
  • Scissors
  • 1. Select either the image or PDF file(s) below for the postcard(s) of your choosing:
  • 2. Print out the downloaded image(s) at full size onto an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper. If printing more than one postcard, make sure to print single sided.
  • 3. Cut out both images of your downloaded file.
  • 4. Using heavy cardstock—similar in weight to a greeting card—or thin cardboard, such as a cereal box, cut out a 5.5” x 3.75” rectangle.
  • 5. Glue your postcard images to your cardstock or cardboard, one image on each side. Avoid using clear tape along the edges as this may interfere in the cancellation of your stamp by the postal service, resulting in a delayed delivery time.
  • 6. Compose or draw your message and mail it to Jesuit Refugee Services/USA! Tips and suggestions on an effective note, as well as the mailing address to JRS/USA, can be found below.

Compose a Message

Keep in mind, your postcard could be sent to someone anywhere that JRS works—and they work all over the world!

Please be mindful of differences in background, religious and otherwise, as well as language needs (the recipient of your postcard will be a child learning English). Please refrain from incorporating any indication of religious or political preferences or messages on your postcards.

If you speak any other languages—especially if it’s a native language of one of the primary refugee populations JRS serves, such as Spanish or Arabic—you are welcome and encouraged to write your message in those languages. More information on the locales JRS is currently serving can be found here.

When writing your message, think about why this project exists and the purpose these postcards serve. Why are we sending them? Let that reflection guide what you write or draw. If you need additional inspiration, though, some writing prompts and guiding questions have been provided below.

  • What would you want to say to a child who has been made a refugee if you met in person? What would you want to express?
  • Reflect on the kinds of experiences these children have had, regardless of where they came from in the world.
  • What are ways you find joy in the world around you? How can you share that with a child in another country?
  • What is something that has been said to you that provided inspiration and hope during a personally challenging time? Can you apply the same intentions to your postcard?

Mailing a Postcard

Once completed, all postcards must be mailed to the Jesuit Refugee Service for delivery. Please visit usps.com for current postage rates.

Any Refugee
℅ Jesuit Refugee Service/USA
1627 K Street NW, Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20006

Additional Resources

Contextualizing the realities faced by displaced people may inform messages that are sent on a postcard. To help, detailed information on specific regions and communities impacted by the global refugee crisis can be found below. It should be noted that this is not a comprehensive list and is only intended to introduce museum visitors to the topic. Further exploration into the history and current issues faced by refugees, stateless, or displaced people is encouraged.

The economic recession experienced around the globe as a result of COVID-19 has led to substantial cuts in funding to humanitarian aid for refugee populations, with many countries shifting their focus and directing their resources inward. At the height of the pandemic crisis, 168 countries closed their borders either fully or partially; of those, roughly 90 countries refused to make any exceptions for people seeking asylum. Some countries, such as Italy, closed courts, making new claims impossible to file, and temporarily reassigned immigration offices and their staff towards emergency COVID-19. All of this has resulted in the number of refugees being resettled in new countries taking a sharp decline, but the need for individuals to relocate remains.

Refugee camps—which often struggle with limited access to water, sanitation systems, and health facilities—are in need of essential supplies, such as face masks, hand sanitizer, and access to COVID-19 testing and tracing resources. Overcrowding in camps has made it difficult to implement public health measures such as social distancing. To address this, many camps now require new facilities and more rapid processing of asylum claims to help reduce the population of the camps. Yet, both of these efforts are especially challenging with reduced funds and closed borders that limit the countries accepting applications.

Many displaced people rely on the informal economy, making them particularly vulnerable to the economic effects of COVID-19. Unemployment and loss of housing has disproportionately impacted the community with an estimated three-quarters of displaced people having lost income since the start of the pandemic.

As countries vaccinate their populations against the COVID-19 virus, many worry about refugees and displaced peoples being overlooked. Organizations such as the United Nations Refugee Agency are working to ensure these vulnerable communities are included in vaccine distribution plans.

Map of Afghanistan showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries.

A former British colony, Afghanistan gained independence on August 19, 1919 under the Treaty of Rawalpindi. It has experienced extensive political upheaval since, including five civil wars, an invasion by the Soviet Union in 1979, and the current War in Afghanistan which began in 2001. As a result, for over forty years, Afghans have been fleeing their homes for neighboring countries.

  • Globally, there are more than 2.6 million officially registered refugees from Afghanistan—more than one-tenth of the world's refugees.
  • Political instability and years of violent wars has made Afghanistan one of the most violent countries in the world.
  • Due to a limited number of laws that grant refugees temporary protected status in Europe, Iran, and Pakistan, many face a forcible return to Afghanistan.
  • Approximately 36.6 million people live in Afghanistan and the median age of the population is 18.4 years.
  • The country’s official name is Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, with an estimated 80% of the population practicing the Sunni branch of the faith, and 20% the Shi’ite. Prior to the introduction of Islam in the 7th century, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism were the predominant faiths.
  • Afghanistan is a landlocked nation, about the same size as the state of Texas, that is situated at the intersection of South Asia and Central Asia. It shares a border with the nations of China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • Afghanistan’s location made it a part of the Silk Road (130 BCE - 1453 AD) trade route. This has heavily influenced the nation’s cuisine, which is known for its spices and use of dried fruits and nuts.
  • The Silk Road brought more than just goods to the region--religious exchange is an important part of Afghan history as well. So much so, that the two largest Buddha statues in the world (built around 600 BCE) were located in the central highlands of Afghanistan until 2001 when they were destroyed by the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group.
  • Poetry is beloved in Afghan culture, with the art dating back over 1,000 years. Works can easily be found written in both of the nation’s official languages—Pashto and Daria, a Persian dialect.
  • The world’s first known oil paintings were made around 650 BCE and can still be seen today on cave walls near the city of Bamiyan.

Map of Central America

Gang warfare and violence has escalated dramatically throughout Central America in recent years, especially in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, the region known as the Northern Triangle. The homicide rates in each of these countries is nearly 5 times what the World Health Organization considers to be an “epidemic”. This extreme violence is coupled with a lack of work opportunities, general insecurity, and the effects of a drought.

  • As of 2020, more than two-thirds of those fleeing the region had experienced the murder, kidnapping, or disappearance of a relative before their departure.
  • By the end of 2019, there were an estimated 540,000 displaced people from this region.
  • Between 2011 and 2016, the number of people fleeing the Northern Triangle for neighboring countries increased by 2,249%.
  • Refugees fleeing the region include many families as well as high numbers of children making the journey alone.
  • Many of the migrants from the region flee north to Mexico, which is now making an effort to stop migrants from entering the country. But, claiming asylum in the United States is extremely difficult, forcing many from the Northern Triangle to remain in Mexico while their applications to the US are processed.
  • Human Rights Watch reports an increase in violence against all migrants within Mexico’s borders, sometimes even at the hands of Mexican police and immigration officials.
  • Combined, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have a population of 33.2 million people and a median age of 23.1 years.
  • Although the smallest nation in Central America, El Salvador has the highest population density in the Americas at over 309 people per square mile.
  • Like much of the region, the three nations are former Spanish colonies. They all gained independence in 1821 under the Act of Independence of Central America.
  • The three countries have each experienced political instability at various times since 1821 with the Guatemalan Civil War raging from 1960 to 1996--the longest conflict in Latin American history.
  • The legacy of the Spanish Empire lasts to this day with Spanish being the official language of the three nations, and a combined 86.3% of the population identifying as Christian, a religion introduced by the Europeans.
  • The region's rich history pre-dates the Spanish Empire, with the Olmec civilization starting between 1600 - 1400 BCE.
  • Residue collected from pottery samples found in Honduras’ Puerto Escondido indicates that cacao beverages were made in the area before 1000 BCE.
  • A total of six UNESCO World Heritage Sites can be found in the Northern Triangle, four of which include ruins from pre-Columbian civilizations.

Map of the Democratic Republic of the Congo showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries.

Though there has been ongoing violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960, the current crisis is a direct result of civil unrest in neighboring Rwanda. During the 1990s, a campaign of ethnic genocide against the Tutsi people at the hands of the Hutu majority government in neighboring Rwanda led to instability and armed conflict throughout the region. From 1998 to 2003 civil war plagued the DRC, and violence has continued to be a problem in various sections of the country.

  • Over 918,000 people from the DRC are being hosted in other African countries as refugees and asylum seekers. And an additional estimated 5 million people are displaced within the DRC itself.
  • The DRC is also host to over 527,000 refugees and asylum seekers from neighboring countries, primarily Rwanda, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Burundi.
  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a former Belgian colony that formally gained independence in 1960. Since then it has experienced tremendous political upheaval and crisis, including a 32-year period under the dictator Mbutu Sese Seko.
  • Although French is the official language of the DRC, there are four other national languages which are recognized by the government--Kikongo, Lingala, Swahili, and Tshiluba.
  • Over 200 ethnic groups live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, making it one of the most ethnically diverse nations in the world.
  • There are approximately 105 million people living in the country, the third highest in Africa.
  • The DRC is rich in natural resources such as gold, platinum, diamonds, tungsten, tin, tantalum, iron ore, and uranium that value a combined estimate of $24 trillion. Despite this income, political instability has impacted infrastructure and wealth disruption and the average resident now earns less than $400 a year.
  • In 1988, an archaeological dig site on the Semliki River identified a series of barbed harpoon heads carved from bone that have been dated back to approximately 88,000 BCE.
  • The Virunga Mountains, which span the borders of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is home to the critically endangered mountain gorilla. The species is so rare that it is estimated that fewer than 1,000 animals are left.
  • Less than 3% of the country is cultivated farmland, most of which is used for subsistence farming. The top agricultural exports for the Democratic Republic of the Congo are coffee and palm oil.

Map of Myanmar showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority who have lived in the Buddhist country of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) for generations. They have faced extreme poverty and discrimination for decades. Before 2017, an estimated 1.4 million Rohingya people lived in Myanmar, the majority of which were concentrated in the Rakhine state, a coastal region in the west that borders Bangladesh. Rohingya Muslims have been fleeing Myanmar in large numbers since 2017 to escape a campaign of ethnic cleansing, targeted persecution, and violence directed against them, known as “clearance operations”.

  • The government of Myanmar refuses to recognize the Rohingya people as citizens, making them stateless, as defined by the United Nations Refugee Agency.
  • As of July 2019, over 742,000 Rohingya have left for nearby Bangladesh, which has received the greatest share of those fleeing. Bangladesh is the second most natural disaster-prone country in Asia and the Pacific, and refugees living in country are particularly vulnerable to the effects of these disasters.
  • Nearly 80% of the refugees fleeing Myanmar are women and children.
 
  • Including Myanmar and Bangladesh, an estimated 1.5 - 2 million people identify as Rohingya around the world.
  • Though the national language of Myanmar is Burmese, the Rohingya people speak their own tongue, also called Rohingya. Closely related to the Chittagonian dialect of Bengali, this language is part of the Indo-Aryan sub-branch of the Indo-European language family.
  • Since the 1940s there have been multiple armed insurrections by the Rohingya people. As a result, they have faced five military crackdowns prior to the launch of the armed forces’ 2017 “clearance operations”.
  • Although polygamy is banned by the Myanmar government, it is still widely practiced in the Rohingya culture. In 2015, it was reported that the Rohingyas had approximately 46% more children than the Myanmar national average.
  • The continuous persecution of the Rohingya people has directly impacted education and literacy rates, with 75% of the community self-identifying as illiterate.
  • Outside of their religious beliefs, the Rohingya people have a lot in common with the cultures of other ethnic groups in the region. Men commonly wear bazu (long sleeved shirts) and longgi or longyi (loincloth coverings that go down to the ankle). Women, on the other hand, often wear a hijab, a common practice within the Sunni branch of Islam.
  • The Rohingya language is primarily an oral language and does not have a standardized and internationally recognized script. A rich oral tradition of poetry in song has developed as a result. Known as Tarana, the recited or sung pieces are meant to keep the community’s culture alive and preserve their unique cultural identity.

Map of Somalia showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries.

As a result of over two decades of violent conflict, combined with the effects of environmental crises and severe droughts, over 870,000 Somalians are officially registered as refugees in other African countries as well as Yemen. Another approximate 2.1 million are displaced within the country.

  • These environmental emergencies have led to episodes of famine in Somalia, with nearly 1 million children being at risk of severe malnourishment as of 2019.
  • The famine and malnourishment crises in Somalia have resulted in an increased risk of exposure to diseases such as cholera, measles, and diarrhea.
  • Many Somalis are forced to move to camps or informal settlements within cities while they seek humanitarian assistance.
  • While dealing with its own issues, Somalia is also receiving refugees from nearby countries, including Ethiopia—where there are issues of violence, access to safe drinking water, employment opportunities, and education—and Yemen.
  • Located on the Horn of Africa, Somalia has the longest coastline on Africa’s mainland at over 2,000 miles.
  • Somalia has a population of nearly 16 million, with an estimated 99.8% identifying as Muslim.
  • There are two national languages in Somalia--Somali, a member of Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family, and Arabic.
  • Somalia has been under a number of European colonial control, including Great Britain, Italy, and France, though the nation secured independence in 1960.
  • Agriculture accounts for 65% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is estimated to employ roughly the same percentage of the Somalian workforce. Livestock, fish, charcoal and bananas are some of the main agricultural exports.
  • Somalia’s location has been integral to international trade throughout history. As a result, the nation’s cuisine has been heavily influenced by other culture’s and varies greatly from region to region.
  • The oldest evidence of burial traditions in the Horn of Africa can be found in Somalian cemeteries dating back to approximately 4000 - 3000 BCE.

Map of South Sudan showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries.

Vice President Riek Machar declared his intent to challenge President Salva Kiir Mayardit’s authority in 2013. Promptly fired, Machar and his supporters fled to neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo to establish the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO). A civil war erupted and for the next seven years, the SPLM-IO clashed with government forces. Due to these violent conflicts, almost 2.3 million people fled South Sudan by the end of 2020, and 1.87 million people still remain internally displaced in the country. In 2013, two years after the establishment of South Sudan as a country, violence broke out that led to an armed conflict, economic decline, hunger, and disease.

  • The South Sudanese refugee crisis is believed to be the largest such crisis in Africa and the third largest in the world, behind Syria and Afghanistan.
  • Children--many of whom have been separated from their parents--make up approximately 63% of those fleeing South Sudan.
  • Most South Sudanese refugees are living in the neighboring countries of Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • After many years of internal disputes, a referendum was passed in 2011 to separate from the Republic of Sudan, making South Sudan its own independent nation. It is also the most recent sovereign state in Africa that has widespread and international recognition.
  • Vice President Riek Machar declared his intent to challenge President Salva Kiir Mayardit’s authority in 2013. Promptly fired, Machar and his supporters fled to neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo to establish the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO). A civil war erupted and for the next seven years, the SPLM-IO clashed with government forces.
  • South Sudan is a landlocked nation and relies heavily on access to Port Sudan in the Republic of Sudan for the import and export of resources. In 2012, the nation experienced devastating inflation rates at over 300% when they were forced to stop all oil production over a dispute of port access and revenue sharing with the Republic of Sudan.
  • The Abyei region is still in dispute and a symbolic, non-binding referendum vote was held in 2013 by the Ngok Dinka people. Over 99% of the ballots cast were in support of joining South Sudan, but the results are not recognized since only one of the two predominant ethnic groups of the region participated in the vote.
  • South Sudan’s population is estimated to be just below 13 million, 60% of which identify as Christian. Approximately 20% of the population practice traditional faiths, one of the highest rates in Africa.
  • The nation's constitution states that “...[a]ll indigenous languages of South Sudan are national languages and shall be respected, developed, and promoted…”. As a result, there are 60 national languages recognized, making it the most multilingual nation in Africa with English as the official language.
  • With so many ethnic groups living in the country, South Sudan is home to a wide variety of traditions and arts. The Ngok Dinka people, for instance, are known for their folk music that integrates poetry, and the Zande culture is noted for its storytelling practices.

Map of Syria showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries.

The conflict in Syria began with a violent government crackdown on public demonstrations in 2011, and soon escalated into a full-scale civil war that is still ongoing. Now a multi-sided war, the struggle involves numerous groups that oppose the current political regime as well as each other. The Syrian war has caused the largest mass displacement since World War II.

  • Since the beginning of the conflict, more than 50% of Syria’s population has been displaced, half of which are children.
  • In late 2020, there were 5.6 million Syrians who left their homes as refugees seeking safety in neighboring countries. Another 6.2 million internally displaced Syrians remain in the country but cannot return to their homes.
  • Nearly 12 million people in Syria require humanitarian assistance of some kind.
  • As many as 70% of Syrians live in extreme poverty, meaning they experience “...severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education, and information”, as defined by the United Nations Refugee Agency.
  • Most Syrian refugees are hosted in Egypt or neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq. It is estimated that approximately one in four people living in Lebanon in 2020 were Syrian refugees.
  • Around 10% of Syrian refugees live in refugee camps; many others live in urban areas, villages, or tent-settlements that have cropped up spontaneously, often in extremely crowded conditions.
  • In 2015, at the peak of the migrant crisis, 1.3 million Syrians requested asylum in a European nation.
  • Syria officially gained independence in 1945, making it the largest Arab nation to emerge from the Ottoman Empire’s provinces in the region.
  • Located at the intersection of Asia and Europe, Syria has been invaded by external forces for millennia, bringing with them their culture, customs, and language. Because of this, the Syrian dialect of Arabic, the official language, includes words borrowed from Turkish, Kurdish, Armenian, Syriac, English, French, and Persian.
  • By 640 AD Islam arrived in Syria as a result of an invasion led by Khalid ibn al-Walid. Today, roughly 87% of the population identify as Muslim.
  • Bashar al-Assad was named president of Syria in 2000, establishing what some political scientists have deemed a personalist dictatorship. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Politics identifies personalist dictatorships as more repressive than other forms of dictatorship.
  • The Bashar al-Assad regime has been publicly condemned and criticized by the international community for human rights abuses that include the imprisonment and execution of political opponents, chemical attacks on citizens, and violations of the Geneva Convention, some of which may constitute war crimes.
  • On November 25, 2018, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, a village named Jinwar was officially inaugurated in northeast Syria. Jinwar was founded for, and populated by, women (and their children) whose husbands have died in the civil war, women that have voluntarily chosen not to wed, and women seeking to escape the prescribed gender roles of their home villages or towns.
  • The capital city, Damascus, is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Carbon dating indicates that the city has been occupied since 6300 BCE.
  • Syria is home to some of the earliest examples of written text, including 1,800 complete tablets and 4,7000 fragmented tablets dating to approximately 2500 BCE, discovered by archaeologists in 1974.

Map of Ukraine showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries.

Following internal political strife, Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. Shortly thereafter, Russia formally annexed the Crimean Peninsula, citing a need to protect Russian citizens in the region. Russia formally annexed the Crimean Peninsula shortly thereafter. Since then, continued tensions and clashes between the two countries has resulted in the displacement of over 2 million Ukrainians.

  • One million Ukrainian people have sought asylum in neighboring countries.
  • Despite a 2014 ceasefire, there are still many Ukrainians living under the threat of violence and in dire living conditions.
  • 3.5 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, 30% of which are elderly--the highest proportion in the world.
  • According to the World Health Organization, those living in areas affected by the conflict in Ukraine are at a higher risk of contracting HIV and tuberculosis.
  • Ukraine is the largest country found entirely in Europe (233,062 sq. miles), the majority of which are plains or steppes. The Carpathian Mountains are along the far western border and account for approximately 5% of the land area.
  • Not including the nearly 2.5 million people living in the contested Crimea Peninsula, Ukraine is home to over 41 million individuals, 87% of the country practice Christianity, 67% of which are affiliated with an Orthodox branch of the faith.
  • Nearly 80% of the population identifies as Ukrainian and 17% as Russian. The highest percentages of native Russian speakers are found in the Crimean region, at approximately 77% of the population.
  • Agriculture is an important part of the Ukrainian economy, accounting for the country’s largest export industry. Grains, such as wheat, corn, barley, and rye, helped establish Ukraine’s reputation as “the breadbasket of Europe”.
  • Ukraine is considered the poorest nation in Europe, with the per capita annual household income estimated to be at $2,180.84 in 2019.
  • The first modern human settlement—that of the Gravettian culture—was in the region's Crimean Mountains around 32,000 BCE.
  • Mitochondrial DNA research has shown that the domestication of horses originated in the steppes of modern-day Ukraine, southwest Russia, and west Kazakhstan.
  • Examples of traditional folk art can be seen in pysanky, or Ukrainian easter eggs. Thousands of years old, the technique includes using wax to prevent dye from adhering to select sections of the egg shells. By repeating the application of wax, it allows for multiple colors and intricate designs to be created.

Map of Venezuela showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries.

A socioeconomic and political crisis began in Venezuela in 2010, and has continued since. The resulting economic collapse has led to rampant inflation, and shortages of food and medical care, as well as increased crime rates.

  • Approximately 5 million Venezuelans have fled since 2014.
  • It is estimated that about 4.2 million have remained in Latin America and the Caribbean, with Colombia receiving the largest number at over 1.8 million.
  • According to government sources, political instability and international sanctions resulted in Venezuela’s inflation rate reaching 10,000% in 2019.
  • Because the nation’s health system has collapsed, diseases such as measles, diphtheria, and malaria have been spread within Venezuela as well as the countries Venezuelans are migrating to.
  • Although more than 650,000 Venezuelans have filed asylum claims, most of them currently in neighboring countries do not have any documentation, leaving them without guaranteed access to many basic human rights.
  • The word “Venezuela” is believed to date back to 1499 when Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci saw stilt houses in the Lake Maracaibo region, reminding him of Italy’s Venice. He began referring to the area as “Veneziola”, or “Little Venice”, which translates to Venezuela in Spanish.
  • In 1811, Venezuela declared independence from Spain, thereby starting the Venezuelan War of Independence. Violent clashes between the two sides lasted for another twelve years, ending in 1823 after Venezuela’s victory at the Battle of Lake Maracaibo.
  • Following independence, Venezuela opted to continue using Spanish as the official language. Under the nation’s constitution, though, over thirty indigenous languages are recognized.
  • In Venezuela, petroleum is essential to the economy, accounting for approximately 30% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 80% of the country’s exports in 2016. The political instability and international sanctions that resulted in rampant inflation led to collapse of the fuel industry, resulting in reduced production as well as the government’s end to the practice of subsidizing fuel costs for Venezuelans. Prices have since skyrocketed, increasing from as little as $0.01 per gallon to as much as $10.00 per gallon on the black market over the past few years.
  • Approximately 93% of Venezuela’s population of 28 million live in the urbanized areas of the north, while only 5% of the population live south of the Orinoco River which totals approximately one-half of the country’s area.
  • Archaeological evidence suggests human habitation in modern-day Venezuela’s western and northwestern regions goes as far back as 15,000 years.
  • Containing many different types of ecological habitats, Venezuela is one of only 17 megadiverse countries, a term used to identify nation’s that are home to the majority of the planet's species. As a result, over 50% of the territory is protected for conservation efforts.
  • Canaima National Park is famous for two natural sites. Mount Roraima was formed when Africa and South America split, making it part of the oldest geological formations on the planet. Angel Falls is the world’s highest waterfall at 807 feet, or roughly 57 stories high!

Map of Yemen showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries.

Beginning in 2014, years of violent civil war have forced over 3.6 million Yemenis to flee their homes in search of safety. Only around 200,000 of these have left Yemen as refugees, the rest remain internally displaced.

  • Although agriculture accounts for less than 10% of Yemen’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), it uses 90% of the nation’s available water supply. The ongoing civil war has impacted people’s access to safe water, with as much as 80% of the population struggling to secure water for consumption and personal hygiene.
  • There are also extreme shortages of food, sanitation, and adequate healthcare in Yemen, which has led to outbreaks and many deaths as a result of cholera and diphtheria.
  • It is estimated that 80% of the population, or around 24 million people, are in need of dire humanitarian assistance.
  • With an average household income of only $2,213, two-thirds of Yemenis can’t afford to buy food.
  • The second largest sovereign state in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen is roughly 214,000 square miles with over 1,000 miles of coastline.
  • Yemen is home to over 28 million people, nearly all of which identify as Muslim. Approximately 65% of the nation practices the Sunni branch of Islam, and 35% the Shi’ite branch.
  • In 1950, Yemen's population was only 4.3 million. With a national average of 4.45 children per woman, the population is estimated to reach 60 million by 2050, which translates to an increase of almost 1300% in only one hundred years!
  • The current water shortages have not always been the case, and Yemen was once extremely fertile. The Romans referred to the area as “Arabia Felix”, or “fertile Arabia”.
  • The kingdom of Saba, established around 1200 BCE, is thought to be the Biblical Sheba. However, the existence of the famous Queen of Sheba, portrayed in the Old Testament and the Torah as bringing gifts to King Solomon, is disputed by historians.
  • Yemen is home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Old Walled City of Shibam. Nicknamed the “Manhattan of the Desert”, Shibam is known for its 16th-century mud-brick buildings and fortifications, some of which reach as high as 11 stories tall.
  • The capital city of Sana’a is currently home to 2.5 million people, and is one of the oldest, most continuously populated cities in the world. The Old City—another UNESCO World Heritage Site—has been inhabited for over 2,500 years and still boasts 103 mosques, 14 hammams (public bath), and over 6,000 homes built before the 11th century.