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From all of us at Jesuit Refugee Service – Happy Thanksgiving! This year has come with many unexepected challenges, but we are thankful to our supporters, friends, staff, and mostly importantly, the refugees we serve for demonstrating supreme resilience.
As renewed lockdowns have magnified sexual and gender-based violence for many women and girls, refugee families are not immune as they too are spending more time indoors where survivors may be more susceptible to abuse. Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) works in numerous locations within these countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon. The report reveals that cases of domestic violence have soared with more than 70% of the interviewees reporting a rise in intimate partner abuse.
Since 2017, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has served in Bertoua, Batouri, and Garoua Boulai in East Cameroon. JRS provides pre-school and primary education to about 28,000 refugee and Cameroonian children, as well as vocational training and women´s empowerment projects.
Over the last 40 days, more than 400 JRS friends and supporters logged over 17,000 miles in solidarity with refugees. The miles were logged as part of JRS/USA’s virtual walk-a-thon leading up to JRS Day to celebrate our 40th Anniversary on Saturday, November 14.
Forty years ago, Fr. Pedro Arrupe founded Jesuit Refugee Service as a response to the needs of people who have been forced to flee their homes. The global Ignatian Family – including YOU – has been invited to recognize this day as JRS Day.
Fr Pau Vidal SJ first commitment with JRS was in Liberia, where he accompanied refugees and IDPs in their process of returning to their hometowns and rebuilding their country after 14 years of civil war. He then served as pastoral coordinator in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya, and as Country Director in South Sudan, accompanying Sudanese refugees in Maban refugee camps.
Danielle Vella, based in Malta, has been with JRS for about 20 years and currently serves as the Director of Reconciliation & Social Cohesion for JRS, where she leads the organization’s efforts to build bridges, create spaces of hospitality and welcome for refugees and host communities, along with JRS teams around the world.
Ever since I was young, I used to always ask myself, how can I be part of a solution rather than a problem? Growing up, my parents always taught me the value and importance of serving others. When I came across JRS’s mission to accompany, serve, and advocate, I knew deep down inside of me, it was a calling for me to be a part of it.
Rita and Marty Bennett are long-time supporters of JRS who have had many roles serving and leading the organization over two decades, including as volunteers, Board Members, and grass roots organizers. Their work has been to increase awareness of forced displacement and of the work JRS does to mitigate the suffering of the most vulnerable. Now living in Boston, after twenty years in California, the Bennetts continue to express their commitment to JRS and accompanying refugees.