Marcella “Marcy” Michaud Franck ’96 is using the power of the pen and social media to shed light on the humanity behind the refugee crisis.
Franck, who currently serves as communications director at Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, first felt compelled to help when her social media newsfeed was flooded with images of refugees landing on the shores of Greece in overcrowded boats in 2015.
“I had to do everything I could to help people who fled war and terror, especially because the conditions that greeted them were so incredibly rough,” said Franck.
She began by writing stories about grassroots efforts that provide direct aid to refugees, and engaging with volunteer groups on Facebook. “There is a vast international network of ordinary people who connect with refugees and each other, to gain access to information, medical aid, food, supplies—you name it,” she said.
In early 2016, Franck connected with a young dentist living in Syria. At the time, he was experiencing daily missile attacks and street violence. They communicated almost daily and she is now working to bring him, his parents and siblings to a safe life in Canada.
One woman she befriended on Facebook, activist Vania Davidovic, helped Franck by connecting her with other Canadians willing to help, and by fielding questions on immigration policies for refugees.
“It didn’t take long to detect how much passion Marcy has, and what a beautiful heart she has. She reached out to find out how she could help out, and how she could contribute from America,” Davidovic said.
Franck raised $27,000 for this family. Now she is working to secure a Sponsorship Agreement Holder—an organization with a special arrangement with the Canadian government that allows private sponsorship without the United Nations certification.
“She has done an amazing job at fundraising. People in the U.S were responding, obviously moved and wanting to help,” Davidovic said.
Franck also teamed up with volunteers to help refugees in a government-run detention center in Chios, Greece. Guards had refused to provide an adequate amount of formula for the babies there, so Franck tapped her writing skills. “Together we worked to expose this inhumane practice to the media, and shortly after the story was published in [British newspaper] The Guardian, babies received access to the formula they needed to survive,” she said.
Franck is a member of the Facebook group Boston Friends for Refugee Support (founded by Lisa Nowak Wilkins ’03). “I recently coordinated furniture donations for a family who had just arrived. We were able to source everything the family needed to set up their household within four hours of posting the request,” she said.
Last year, Franck visited refugee camps in Chios. She raised nearly $8,000 before her trip for grassroots aid efforts there, and blogged about her experience. “When I was posting almost daily from the camps in Chios, I noticed an uptick in donations. I think this is because the refugee crisis became more personal and it was easier for people to see how they could make an immediate, direct impact,” she said.
Franck, an English writing and literature major, developed an interest in international issues and an ability to cultivate connections while at Wheaton.
She served as summer camp counselor at Robert College in Istanbul, and while traveling witnessed poverty and hunger. “Understanding that life outside the ‘Wheaton bubble’ wasn’t always so cozy ignited a desire to work for the greater good,” she said.
Franck hopes that people see beyond the headlines to understand that refugees are strong and dignified human beings with amazing resilience—persevering in incredibly dire circumstances. She encourages others who want to help to stay connected; support refugee families here and abroad; and dispel negative stereotypes whenever they are encountered.
“But by taking the time to learn stories of the people who risked everything to create a safer life for their families, my hope is that we come away knowing that we have nothing to fear, and everything to learn.”
Follow Franck online:
Huffington Post: huffingtonpost.com/author/marcy-franck