Support from Romulus T. Weatherman Foundation Group allows JRS to welcome players and family members of the Afghanistan National Youth Women’s Soccer Team and additional Afghan refugees
WASHINGTON – Jesuit Refugee Service/USA announced today it had received an extraordinary gift which allowed JRS’ Portugal country office to evacuate and facilitate asylum for 220 Afghan refugees in Portugal over the past two months. This effort was made possible thanks to a generous grant of $1 million from the Romulus T. Weatherman Foundation, which has supported this operation since August 2021, when families were relocated to safe houses in Afghanistan and eventually to Lisbon, Portugal.
Among those who were rescued were 115 players and family members of the Afghanistan National Youth Women’s Soccer Team, individuals who aided Portugal, Germany, and Estonia during the Afghan war, as well as other families referred for asylum by JRS Portugal.
“This is an incredible example of the power of philanthropy. We are grateful that the Weatherman Foundation has taken the long view and is making a significant contribution to JRS’ operations that will allow us to support each family sustainably as they begin to build their lives in Portugal,” said Joan Rosenhauer, executive director of Jesuit Refugee Service USA. “
A critical step to any donation is the implementation and we are so appreciative of the leadership of JRS/Portugal’s Director Andre Costa Jorge and teamwork from our colleagues in Portugal providing exceptional programming in support of the refugees arriving in their country.
Elizabeth H. Weatherman and Andrew P. Duncan, co-heads of the Romulus T. Foundation, said, “It is with great pleasure that we welcome these deserving people to the beauty and safety of Portugal and introduce them to the generous Portuguese people. In addition, the care that JRS/Portugal is giving refugees is outstanding.” Mr. Duncan personally facilitated and oversaw the rescue operation to Portugal, spending eight weeks helping to resettle the Afghans and integrate them into Portuguese communities. The European Union was unable to supply the funds necessary to ensure safe resettlement of the Afghans, and funding from the Foundation was critical to this operation.
The 220 refugees resettled in Portugal represent just a small fraction of the tens of thousands of people desperate to escape Afghanistan, too many to be supported by private foundations alone. Governments, including the European Union and the United States, will need to significantly increase the funding for evacuation operations to help those facing persecution to flee their homes.