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When I first heard the reports of gay concentration camps in Chechnya, I was in denial. Surely this couldn’t be happening — not in 2017. Sadly, as report after report came out in media outlets like The New York Times and the Human Rights Watch, it turned out to be a sad and terrifying reality. In Chechnya right now, people are being rounded up, tortured and killed. And to cap it all off, the head of the Chechen republic said he has plans to eliminate all gays by the start of Ramadan. This is happening.
When I read stories like this, it’s easy to feel helpless. But about a month ago, before all of this news came out, I was introduced to a group called Rainbow Railroad. I learned about the organization and its goal of saving LGBT people from places where they were subject to death and imprisonment just for being who they are. LGBT people in countries all around the world — from Jamaica to Iran — are sadly still persecuted for being themselves. But Rainbow Railroad is hoping to make a difference by helping them to seek asylum in a safe country.
As an out, gay male who has been given so much and is very aware of how fortunate I am to be living my dream, I can’t turn a blind eye. I feel compelled personally and morally to support this cause. When I met with the people of Rainbow Railroad, they said that travel was a huge part of their expenses. As I write this post right now, there are 30 refugees in a safe house in Russia waiting to get out, but they require the means to do so. TD Bank donated six million Aeroplan miles to Rainbow Railroad. But unfortunately, those miles are almost all used, so they need help.
Rainbow Railroad accepts donations online because what they’re doing isn’t cheap. It costs about 75,000 Aeroplan miles to get someone out of Russia and there are currently 30 LGBT refugees in Chechnya waiting to get out — that’s 2,250,000 miles. It’s a dire situation.
So, I want to open this up to TPG readers by encouraging you to donate. To get a sense of how important this cause is to me, I’m kicking off the donating with $10,000 of my own money that’ll go directly to Rainbow Railroad. And TPG is donating 200,000 of our miles and points. The goal is to get to two million miles, and I would love nothing more than to see the remaining miles raised by TPG readers. You can donate as few as 1,000 Aeroplan miles directly through Rainbow Railroad’s website — every bit helps make a difference in achieving our goal.
Remember, American Express Membership Rewards points transfer instantly to Aeroplan miles at a 1:1 ratio. In addition, you could opt to transfer SPG Starpoints to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio — plus, you’ll get a 5,000-point bonus for every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer. Of, if donating cash is more your thing, Rainbow Railroad accepts monetary donations, and you can earn points from the donation by using a credit card.
This is urgent, so I wanted to get this post up and let you know how dire the situation is for your help now. We’re going to be doing more with Rainbow Railroad down the line, including teaming up with them at D.C. Pride from June 8-11. Stay tuned for details on that and a Facebook Live to raise awareness about this amazing organization. In the meantime, it would mean the world to me if you would donate your Aeroplan miles or cash to the organization. If you do donate, put “TPG” in the comment section. We’re so fortunate to be able to use miles and points to travel for leisure, but this use of miles is a matter of life and death.
Featured image courtesy of Pacific Press via Getty Images.
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