Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get tips and tools to tell your data story better.

No, thanks

 In Current Events, Data Journalism, Team

I can’t really help but notice the approach of Valentine’s Day. Stores beckon me with ads for lingerie, chocolates, and perfume. Red roses spill out into the streets in front of florists and market stalls alike, and the dining apps on my phone keep prompting me to make a reservation for a meal with someone special. Online is no different; there are hearts and love stories everywhere I look.

Given all that, my choice of topic for today’s blog post — helping refugees — may seem a little surprising, but I hope that you’ll read it anyway. And I hope that, by the time you’re finished reading, you’ll agree that this is, in fact, a post about love.

Discovering the Need for Love in Data

Our team at Datassist has been working hard with the Ontario Syrian Refugee Resettlement Secretariat for several months now. We’re labouring to develop new and innovative ways to measure the success of refugee resettlement — here in Ontario, across Canada, and around the globe. The hours spent poring over these datasets and listening to personal accounts of refugees has changed us, both personally and professionally. It has roused a sense of empathy for our fellow humans, and it has highlighted how important love is in all aspects of data science and storytelling.

The Syrian refugee crisis has dominated the news and is likely at the forefront of our minds when we think of helping refugees. After all, 13 million of the 23 million people who call Syria home are currently displaced. But they are only a small fraction of the approximately 65 million people forcibly displaced by crises around the world today.

  • Last week, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees appealed for $96.4 million to assist 1.2 million refugees and former refugees in the Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and the Central African Republic.

These people — and their data — need to be treated with love.

Counting and Recording is Not Enough

If we’re serious about helping refugees, we need to bring all our data science tools — impact evaluation, improved data collection methods, data storytelling and nuanced statistical analysis — to understand which supports are working for refugees. Simply counting how many people are displaced and recording where they go is not enough.

We need to focus on how we can most efficiently and effectively help the world’s most vulnerable people to resettle, stabilize their lives, and stabilize the lives of their children and families.

The Refugee Rights Data Project aims to incite political action towards solving the world's refugee crisis.


In the UK, the Refugee Rights Data Project has recognized the need to go beyond counting who ends up where. They are working to fill information gaps relating to refugees and displaced people in Europe, with the goal of inciting political action towards a long-term solution to today’s humanitarian crisis.

Their report, Hidden Struggles, details the particular trials of women and girls arriving in Europe as refugees. It is an outstanding example of the careful and loving use of data to help refugees by painting a clear, compelling picture of the day-to-day experiences faced by these people.

Another beautiful but haunting example of using data to pull on our heartstrings and push us to help refugees are UNICEF’s Unfairy Tales — animated true stories of children affected by crisis.

“None of these stories end. Even after surviving gruesome escapes the children now face the challenges of living in foreign communities that may harbor hostile sentiments towards them. By leaving the films open-ended we’re implying there is action you can still take. You can show a child an act of humanity.”

-180LA executive creative director Rafael Rizuto

Helping Refugees at Home

Here in Canada, our country has welcomed close to 40,000 Syrian refugees over the last two years. A little more than half of them were government-sponsored, while nearly 14,000 made their way here under private sponsorship.

Some of the media is working to use data to create stories that help us understand what daily life is like for refugees who make it here. At Datassist, we’re working on ways to use carefully collected data in meaningful ways to help provide these individuals and communities with the support they need to build a new life.

What can you do?

Not everyone has the time, resources, or necessary skills to undertake a humanitarian project or use data to help refugees. This Valentine’s Day, if you’d like to show some love to someone who really needs it, consider some of these options:

  • Volunteer with an organization in your community that helps refugees and newcomers
  • Donate to nonprofits that provide housing, goods and services to newcomers
  • Share this post so more people will get involved

Happy Valentine’s Day from Datassist. Choose love. Help refugees.

Recommended Posts

Start typing and press Enter to search

Looking back at the first ever World Data Forum, we examine how close we really are to a data revolution in sub-Saharan Africa.The ecological fallacy occurs when you try to tell data stories in the wrong direction.