Sami and Mehraj, a gay couple from Azerbaijan, were relocated to Spain in 2019, fleeing persecution – Photo: Rainbow Railroad.
Rainbow Railroad, the Canadian-based international organization that helps LGBTQI people around the globe escape violence and persecution, has launched its #60in60 campaign, which aims to raise $600,000 in the last 60 days of 2020 to save 60 people’s lives.
The campaign, whose tagline is: “You can save an LGBTQI life,” will be releasing videos and other multimedia content telling the stories of some of the people the organization has helped over the years. The campaign ends on Dec. 31, 2020.
Founded in 2006, Rainbow Railroad has helped more than 900 people escape from the nearly 70 countries where homosexuality and same-sex intimacy are criminalized to other countries that serve as safe havens.
Since January, the organization has relocated 49 people and helped provide almost 400 others with shelter, food, and essentials, as well as resources and legal counsel, and support for local partner organizations that serve the LGBTQI community.
Through the annual #60in60 campaign, organizers hope to double the total number of people that Rainbow Railroad is on target to help by the end of 2022. Currently, the organization fields about 3,000 requests for help each year. But their ability can be limited by financial constraints, as the cost of helping one person relocate to another country is about $10,000.
Amin, a gay man swept up in the anti-LGBTQ purge in Chechnya, was relocated to Canada with the help of Rainbow Railroad. – Photo: Rainbow Railroad.
Funds raised from #60in60 will directly benefit the individuals seeking sanctuary, as well as to support services, including food, shelter, and relocation within their home country, for LGBTQI people who are unable to travel due to COVID-19 or other restrictions.
“The intent of #60in60 is to raise enough money to move an additional 60 LGBTQI people facing dire circumstances globally out of harm’s way,” Eric Wright, the communications director for Rainbow Railroad, told Metro Weekly in an interview. “It is intended to rally our global communities in a push to raise more money to help more people out.
“Rainbow Railroad is 100 percent funded by donations, whether that’s individuals giving, corporations, or foundations. We actually receive no government funding, which is kind of a unique thing in the Canadian context, because a lot of nonprofit organizations in Canada actually do receive government funding,” noted Wright. “This #60in60 campaign is just part and parcel of our overall strategy and how we raise money throughout the year. We are always fundraising, getting support from many wonderful foundations, corporate entities, and individuals, whether they’re giving five dollars or a thousand dollars, whatever they can do.”
Asked how the organization determines which clients are in most dire need of assistance, particularly with regard to the need to relocate, Wright said it depends on the severity of the circumstances.
“As we know, in so many countries around the world, people are facing grave threats, like, for example, in Chechnya in 2017, gay men were being tortured and rounded up by police and potentially even killed. So one of our largest interventions ever was to essentially airlift many, many people out of Chechnya into other safer countries,” Wright said.
Wright noted that Rainbow Railroad is not only accepting direct donations, but encouraging supporters to engage in peer-to-peer fundraising.
“We’re asking people to go online, create a fundraiser on our website, rally their communities near and far to the cause of Rainbow Railroad, and raise enough money to help another person escape violence internationally. We want people to give, but we want people also to engage their communities online to help build that international support through fundraisers.”
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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com
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