How to reach home without a phone

Refugee Phones turned voicemail from Syrian refugees into radio ads to let moms know their children were okay.
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You know how frustrating a simple phone call to your mom can be, especially if she hasn’t figured out how to use her new phone? Imagine if you were also separated by international borders and a five-year-long civil war.

Refugee Phones is a European non-profit that takes smartphones donated by agencies, media and tech companies and gets them into the hands of refugees so they can get in touch with family members in their home country. However, cell phone reception in Syria is spotty at best, especially with the ongoing civil war doing so much damage to infrastructure like cell phone towers, and many citizens not even having a phone. That means even if they are given a phone, some refugees still cannot reach family they’ve been separated from to let them know they’re even alive.

Swedish agency Akestam Holst launched a campaign to combat this problem. It encouraged people who had been given a phone to call a special hotline and record a message to their family, particularly their mothers. Then, it enlisted the help of Syrian refugees who had previously worked in media, using their connections to buy time on Fuse FM, a Syrian radio station particularly popular with mothers. The messages were then repurposed into 150 radio spots and broadcast on the station during the week leading up to Syrian Mother’s Day on March 21, in the hopes the moms were listening.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to call my mom.


Brand: Refugee Phones
Agency: Akestam Holst
Radio Production: Flickorna Larsson