Milana Vayntrub has a very familiar face. She's the star of a number of AT&T commercials that you've no doubt seen a half dozen times while flipping through the channels. You'd likely have to do a double take if you saw her in the street.
But Vayntrub is more than just an actor: she's a comedian, a producer, and a former refugee. And now she's speaking out about her experience on the behalf of her refugee assistance charity #CantDoNothing.
She was inspired to found the charity while in Greece for a vacation with her father. There she met a Syrian refugee, who moved her to investigate the full scope of the crisis.
220,000 Syrians have died in the ongoing civil war, half of whom are estimated to be civilians. 4.3 million refugees have fled Syria in response to the danger. Thousands each day are making the trek through Turkey and paying smugglers to let them onto rafts where they make a dangerous voyage across the Aegean Sea to the Greek islands.
Vayntrub became overwhelmed when she realized that she knew so little about the refugee crisis, despite the fact that she could relate to their plight. Vayntrub and her family fled the Soviet Union in the 1980s because of anti-Semitism, but coming to America wasn't easy. They had stints in Italy and Austria before they were welcomed in.
Her personal history is made more poignant by the fact that our current national conversation is becoming ever more distrustful of immigrants fleeing oppression and persecution. Vayntrub is an important reminder that in every city, in every state, Americans already live and work alongside refugees — some of whom might even play our most beloved characters.
"I remember being not American. I remember being an outsider, and the transition that my parents had to go through, learning the language and trying to get work," Vayntrub told What's Trending. "So I definitely feel close to the plight of an immigrant, let alone the plight of a refugee."
#CantDoNothing is supporting "the Syria Fund, Boat Refugee Foundation, and Off Track Health to help everyone spread their voice, time, and money to help thousands of refugee," according to its website. The goal is to encourage people to contribute who would otherwise feel powerless.
"I just felt like I couldn't not do something — 'can't do nothing' so summarizes how it felt for me," she told Elite Daily. "I felt like there are people that need help, and I have things that I could contribute. Even if it's just me being there, just me hugging people or changing diapers — I could do that and maybe it would make a difference in the world."