It's hard not to feel helpless as details regarding the more than 2,300 kids who've been separated from their parents at the U.S. and Mexico border continue to come out — including heart-shattering audio from child detention centers.
After brainstorming ways to raise awareness about the harrowing effects of the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" policy, a group of academics came up with a way to help: Writing postcards that accompany donations to help separated families and call on those in power to act.
The #postcards4families campaign is led by Karen Ross, an assistant professor of conflict resolution working in Massachusetts, and Abby Wood, a law professor at the University of Southern California. Both professors are mothers of two and wanted to find a way for their families and others to take action against Trump's immigration policies.
The campaign — which began Sunday — encourages children (and adults) to reach out to people in power at the White House, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, ICE, and other government agencies with handwritten messages stressing the importance of keeping kids and their parents together.
"I know how traumatic it would be for me to be separated from my kids, and when I was a kid, to have been separated from my family, particularly if no one taking me away spoke my language," Woods said.
Woods says she's tried to discuss the family separations with her five-year-old by explaining that some kids aren't allowed to see their parents. She thinks that the postcards can serve as a great parenting opportunity.
"When you tell your kids about it, you can immediately empower them to send postcards to the people in charge of the policy, demanding they change it," Woods explained. "The message is: 'this situation is terrible, but you can talk to the people in charge to ask them to fix it. We should speak up for families like ours that weren't lucky enough to be born here.'"
"This situation is terrible, but you can talk to the people in charge to ask them to fix it."
Each time a child's postcard is shared online with the hashtag #postcards4families, a pledge pool organized through Facebook by Wood, Ross, and others will donate $5.00 to the organization.
"As of this morning we have about that individuals have pledged as donations to RAICES for postcards written," Ross explained. "We'll also use that money to match any direct donations that are part of our fundraiser..."
Woods and Ross created a separate Facebook page for the campaign to keep track of postcards and to collect direct donations. There, they've also listed contact information for the White House, the House of Representatives, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and others postcard writers might want to contact.
Ross, who's discussed Trump's immigration policy with her children, ages 4 and 6, said her oldest was "very troubled" to learn kids are being take away from their parents. "When I talked to him about writing postcards and sharing pictures of the postcards so other kids see them and write postcards too, he told me that he felt happy that he could do something that might help," she said.
"I think all of us can do something to raise awareness about the issue."
Ultimately, the professors say they hope the postcards will make an impact, no matter how small. "It is hard to know what will make a difference. But particularly as a mom, with respect to this situation, I keep thinking, 'What would I want people to be doing if my child were separated from me?'" Ross added. "I think all of us can do something to raise awareness about the issue."
The fundraiser is set to end on Sunday, June 24, but those interested can donate and share postcards online using the hashtag until then.
For more information on how to help families at the border, check out our guide.