Johannesburg & Pretoria, 10 July 2018—This month, JRS South Africa celebrated the graduation of 221 refugees and asylum seekers from the Arrupe Women’s Skill Center and Pretoria Skill Center. These women and men have completed five months of training in their chosen discipline and have received materials to start up their own businesses. Their courses of study include sewing, baking, cosmetology, make-up application, hairdressing, computer literacy, and English.

The Arrupe Women’s Skill Center graduation was a joyful celebration. One hundred twenty-five graduates excitedly cheered for one another, danced, and received their certificates with proud smiles and expressions of gratitude toward God, JRS, and their teachers. One student speaker, from the English class said, “Before coming to the Arrupe Center, I did not speak English. Now I can support myself and I leave here with confidence.” Another student, from the baking class, shared, “In addition to our baking skills, we are empowered by knowledge of business to generate income for our families”. There was a sense of hope and ambition amongst the students, to apply their new skills and support themselves and their families.

At the Pretoria Skill Center graduation, the energy of celebration was in the air. The sewing students modeled their work, including a wedding dress and bridesmaid’s gown. Many of the graduates shared their sentiments of gratitude and determination. One student from the computer skills class shared, “Thank you for giving us this opportunity, for giving us hope. When we came here our lives didn’t have any direction, but now we have a way to go.” Guest speaker, Ms. Michele Mangwaro, a refugee from Zimbabwe who runs her own business in the health and beauty industry, shared strong and inspiring words with the new graduates. She challenged the women and men to identify their values and motivations in order to “regroup, reconstruct, ad reposition [themselves] to move forward”.  The students repeated back her bold words, “giving up is not an option”.

These women and men will go into the community, armed with the skills in their own disciplines, business management skills, materials, and newfound confidence to achieve financial self-reliance. A special and heartfelt thank you to Ms. Tereda van Heerden, Director of both Skill Centers, and all the teachers who invested their time, energy, and care to ensure the success of these 221 graduates. 

Sarah Garwood
Intern Advocacy & Communications Officer, JRS South Africa

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