D’Arcy Williams spent 35 hours shoveling away the aftermath of the massive DC snowstorm, and the Wilson High School graduate and Chevy Chase DC resident donated all the proceeds–a not-too-shabby $1,800–to help resettle refugee families in Washington.
Williams says he started planning Shovels for Refugees about three months ago, even before it began to feel like winter and the mild weather patterns kept him wishing for snow.
“Be careful what you wish for,” said Williams of the historic storm that finally landed. “But we’ve had the shovels ready. We were ready for this to come.”
Williams’s friend Sanam Aghdaey put in work for the refugee cause in her McLean neighborhood, and drove in to DC last Monday to help him. Though Williams tried to gather a larger group of friends for the fundraiser, many of his friends were snowed in too far away to join him, making the fundraiser a two-person job at best.
Williams mentioned one particularly daunting task–a neighbor had cleared up a driveway with a snow plow but had piled away the snow “up to eye level” on the sidewalk. Once he had cleared the way, approximately six feet tall and wide, “it felt like the sea of Moses coming in on you.”
But all the hard work was worth it for Williams and Aghdaey, whose lowest donation was $75 throughout the weekend. Williams said that most people would prefer to shovel their own property, but “everyone’s very keen to help” when they find out the money is for a good cause and it helps them do away with a dreaded winter task.
All the money accrued from clearing up sidewalks, front paths, driveways, and cars from snow in Northwest DC will go to the International Rescue Committee’s local offices in Silver Spring. Williams, who grew up in Ghana and studied international development at McGill University in Montreal, said that as a DC resident without a vote in Congress, this fundraiser “is a way to stand up against the anti-refugee rhetoric that’s been going on.”
By teaming up with the international rescue mission, the fundraiser will help displaced families get back on their feet with counseling, job placement, language classes and cultural assimilation.
“A lot of the attention that the refugee problem gets is from the atrocities that are happening overseas and what the refugees are fleeing, but people don’t realize that a lot of the struggle is really far from over once they move to another country,” said Williams.
He hopes that Shovels for Refugees will grow into a greater movement that fundraises during future snowfalls. He said that “the opportunity to raise money for a good cause is literally falling from the sky”
Sure, it was cold, and Williams says his body was tired as he concluded the first installment of Shovels for Refugees, but “lots of bubble baths and Advil” (courtesy of his mother) will alleviate any temporary aches and sprains.
“The suffering that we’re feeling right now doesn’t compare to the suffering that other people in refugee situations feel on a regular basis,” said Williams. “It’s really just a way to show support, as little as we can.”