Across continents, many LGBT people battle abuse based on their sexual identity.

Rainbow Railroad hopes to raise $600,000 to rescue 60 of these victims by the end of 2020.

The Rainbow Railroad receives thousands of requests for foreign help each year. In countries like Egypt, Russia, Uganda and Indonesia, LGBT people face abuse. The 60 in 60 campaign hopes to help 60 people move to safety and conclude 2020 with a spirit of generosity and mercy.

“During these two months when people are thinking about giving, we think this is a real opportunity for folks to be philanthropic and help us cross the finish line,” Kimahli Powell, executive director of Rainbow Railroad said.

The campaign has raised over $330,000 with contributions coming from a variety of donors.

“It's really a mix of community groups, grassroots organizations, grassroots funding, and some corporate support,” said Communications Officer Eric Wright, who is running this year’s campaign.

The campaign finds donors through Facebook, Twitter and Twitch, a video game platform.

“Rainbow Railroad always has so many people supporting us online, doing fundraisers, doing crafting, doing game marathons on Twitch,” Wright said.

The cost of moving a victim of LGBT violence overseas is around $10,000, according to Powell.

“The primary countries that we resettle folks tend to be in Western Europe, Canada and the United States,” Powell said.

The organization receives around 3,000 aid requests per year, according to Powell. This makes the costs of helping multiple people steep.

The program moved at least 49 people in 2020, according to Impact During the COVID-19 Pandemic, A Snapshot. With the 60 in 60 campaign, the number could be at least 109.

This figure comes out to around $1.9 million in the year 2020.

Rainbow Railroad moved over 800 individuals since 2006, according to the organization's website.

Border closings are unpredictable in the pandemic, often blocking victims from traveling overseas.

“With COVID, borders are opening, closing, and restrictions are happening on a regular basis," Powell said. "But we've been pretty nimble and kind of working around it."

When the borders do close Rainbow Railroad has been moving people to the closest safe area within the country. When borders are open, some victims must journey through hostile countries to reach safer nations.

Victims often risk catching COVID-19 in refugee camps, according to The Impact of COVID-19 on Displaced LGBTQI Persons.

Navigating a map of countries with ever-developing LGBT crises can be demanding. The 3,000 requests for help last year came from 100 different countries, Powell said.

“Uganda is a country during COVID that tried to use lockdowns to target the LGBT community, and so it shifts our job,” Powell said.

“Our role is to kind of identify the shifts as they happen and sound the alarm when these things are happening and, if necessary, mobilize resources to try to focus when necessary.”

There are other issues the organization has handled beyond the frustrations of COVID-19.

“We’ve stalled being successful relocating folks to the United States with this current administration and think there's an opportunity to re-engage with a new administration,” Powell said.

Rainbow Railroad is non-partisan, but according to Powell, the policies speak for themselves.

“The policies of the current administration make our job more difficult, whether it's the travel ban, or the policies at the southern border, or detention practices for asylum seekers,” Powell said.

The obstacles do not seem to daunt the initiative.

“This is just always going to be a complicated tricky time to do our work, and so 60 in 60 helps give us the resources to feel confident we can do it,” Powell said.

The 60 in 60 fundraiser continues through the end of this year. There’s also a virtual benefit concert Dec. 13.

“Come January our fundraising efforts continue in many different ways,” Wright said, “which will include online events, which include storytelling and direct asks to our donors and also just pursuing lots of different leads internally to fund our work.”

Rainbow Railroad remains optimistic about meeting the 2020 fundraising goal.

“I feel confident that, like in the past, people will continue to contribute,” Powell said.

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