JRS/USA’s Response to COVID-19

13 March 2020

Message from Joan Rosenhauer, JRS/USA Executive Director

In this unprecedented moment, we want to assure you that more than ever, at JRS we are committed to our mission to accompany, serve, and advocate with and on behalf of the forcibly displaced. Refugees and forcibly displaced people are particularly vulnerable at this moment and to the spread of COVID-19.

We have taken steps to continue to serve those who depend on us while protecting our staff and doing our part to support the global effort to slow the spread of this virus.

Here are some of the steps we’re taking:

  • JRS global security staff is providing regular information to our staff around the world about the risks of the outbreak as well as instructions for hygiene and group practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (click here to learn more about our global response). In our programs where people are especially vulnerable, gatherings are canceled whenever possible, additional hygiene supplies are being provided and education on hygiene practices is being implemented. Here in the U.S. our chaplains are essential personnel and continue to serve people being detained by the US government in five detention centers and we are ensuring that they have access to n95 masks and appropriate hygiene materials.
  • Our annual spring Advocacy Day, in Washington on April 2 has been canceled. A note will be sent to those who have RSVP’d today. There will still be opportunities to virtually participate.
  • JRS/USA staff in our Washington, DC office have begun working remotely and have been instructed to avoid in person meetings and postpone all travel.
  • All of this means that some of our programming may be delayed and timelines for grants and programming may have to be adjusted. We are grateful for the understanding of our supporters.

We are also responding to immediate needs presented by the global pandemic, including:

  • Helping hospitals transport supplies to those in greatest need.
  • Continuing to distribute medicine, cash support, and basic needs assistance and are providing other essential services while incorporating education and social distancing into these programs.
  • Continuing help for those in greatest need, especially vulnerable women who need protecting and people with special needs.
  • As much as possible, distributing hygiene supplies to both our staff on the front lines and the refugees we serve.
  • Using technology to provide legal help where offices are shut down.

Please remember that if you’re also doing your part and limiting social contact, you don’t have to limit your support for refugees. We encourage you to continue to take action and to learn and share the stories of the forcibly displaced.

I’m reminded of the words of Dorothy Day, as she watched her community come together in response to an earthquake – “It makes one think of how people could, if they would, care for each other in times of stress, unjudgingly in pity and love.” We care for you and hope you stay safe and healthy.


Joan Rosenhauer
Executive Director
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA

P.S. During the time our staff in DC are remote, we may be delayed in opening and responding to mail sent to our office.