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Praying with refugees in Nairobi
Saturday, December 01, 2012

Fr. Terry Charlton S.J. , second from right, Assistant Provincial of the Jesuit Province of East Africa joins students and others in celebration after presiding at Mass for the students. Parents and JRS staff joined with the students to cut a slice of celebratory cake inscribed with words from Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." (Joseph Waweru — Jesuit Refugee Service)
(Nairobi) December 1, 2012 — Urban refugees in Nairobi live on the margins of society, not legally allowed to work, and struggling in an already over-crowded city. Fleeing violence, political instability and drought, refugees end up living in economically-deprived areas, desperate to find a place to call home, searching for hospitality in an unfamiliar country.

Despite these challenges, many refugee families continue to dream of an education for their children. The Jesuit Refugee Service Nairobi education programme helps make this dream a reality for more than 200 children every year.

JRS organized a special prayer day for 15 students who were taking their final secondary school exams in November. Successful exam results earn students the Kenya Certificate of Education, a defining step towards a positive future and the realisation of long-held ambitions. The group is JRS' pioneer class; they started their secondary education in 2009. Supported by JRS, they receive school fees, uniforms and books.

Young, new but excited to be joining secondary school, I vividly recall the programme orientation day as the group prepared for their first day at school. The girls and boys were anxious about not being able to cope with the pressures of secondary education and young adulthood.

Four years on, and the students have made us proud with their boundless enthusiasm, dedication and hard work. Continued prayer, guidance, support and accompaniment from both JRS staff and their parents have helped these young people achieve their potential.

The prayer day brought happiness to everyone in attendance. A group of more than 45 younger students watched as their peers lit candles of hope to celebrate their educational journey and to pray for exam success. Parents and JRS staff joined with the students to cut a slice of celebratory cake inscribed with words from Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."

Amidst the joy of the day, a student delivered these inspiring words: "JRS has been more than a sponsor to us. We have received the very best treatment, it has helped change our lives and built our self esteem."


Reflections for Prayer
Our main celebrant for the day, Fr. Terry Charlton S.J., reminded us from the outset about the importance of following the will of God. He encouraged the students to be brave and to grow wings that would help them fly to even greater heights.

As part of the offering, the students streamed to the altar accompanied by their parent or guardian, clutching a lighted candle to symbolise the presence of God’s light in their life’s path. Each parent placed their hands on their child’s head and bowed for dedication prayers, calling upon the help of God to walk along with them.

After the prayer, all 15 candles were ‘planted’ in sand, symbolising the deep roots of faith and God’s love for his children.

One parent explained to me the meaning of the JRS support for her family. “It was difficult for us as parents to figure out how our children could join secondary school in Kenya. But through the scholarship scheme, we have been able to focus on supporting our family livelihoods, while JRS has involved us in continuous planning and discussions on our children’s progress. We thank the Lord for bringing JRS to help us.”

By Virgina Mumo
Education Coordinator, JRS Nairobi


Suggested Reading for Prayer

Ephesians 3:14–21

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.