Humans are designed to seek out companionship. Regardless of social, economic, or cultural backgrounds we desire accompaniment. For many, companionship is the sole method of coping, even in the most adverse of scenarios. Recently, staff members from JRS/USA were able to witness this firsthand in Ecuador. JRS operates across six (6) territories in Ecuador: Esmeraldas, Carchi, Sucumbíos, Pichincha, Guayas, El Oro. In these territories, JRS is able to provide shelter support, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) services, and legal support with funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).
Asylum-seeking families go through Esmeraldas, Ecuador for a variety of reasons, but mainly for the number of opportunities that a bigger city can provide. Colombian and Venezuelan families make up the primary migrant populations, in search of better lives for their families. While there, the women, looking for financial opportunities, have created a space for themselves to empower one another mentally and emotionally.
The group, or sorority, provides support during their migration journey. They share experiences in support of newly arrived women and console each other as they cope with the similar traumas they have faced. One woman described not knowing she had depression until she received support from this group. The feeling of having a ‘safe space’ has encouraged healing amongst the most vulnerable.
These groups are unique to JRS, with participants stating how ‘rejuvenated’ they’ve felt afterwards. While many organizations have a presence in the area, they don’t always provide opportunities for women to meet in solidarity. For many, when they arrive in Esmeraldas, they arrive with no family. Some of the women have described feeling as if they now have one because of this support group.
The MHPSS services also provide women with the tools to effectively work on their sense of self, after having lost much of it in the process of migration. In a session with a JRS staff member, one woman discussed feeling that with a higher self-esteem, she was able to move forward and handle any adversities.
Participants in the sorority are provided with opportunities to learn a trade. Depending on their needs, they can participate in financial literacy courses, develop business plans, learn how to successfully market their business, then receive seed capital to create and strengthen their business ideas. This allows for future successes regardless of their end location.
These services that JRS provides take a holistic approach to accompaniment. They allow refugees and other forcibly displaced persons to heal from their traumas while creating space for opportunity. The migratory process can take a significant toll on mental health and these visits from JRS and PRM assess the needs and solutions for beneficiaries. Each location is vastly different as are the individuals, and together, JRS and PRM assure that they are treated as such.