Voices
Part of the mandate of JRS is to help give a voice to refugees. This section is dedicated to just that. Here you can read first-hand accounts from refugees and forcibly displaced persons, as well as from staff and volunteers as they reflect upon their accompaniment of and service to refugees and forced migrants.


Dem. Republic of Congo: out of sight, out of mind
10 August 2014
(Masisi) August 10, 2014 – In this poignant essay, Inés Oleaga shows how accompanying forcibly displaced people can be a very practical way of protecting them and of showing them that they have not been forgotten by all, despite evidence to the contrary.
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Kenya: higher education delivers a learning experience
23 September 2013
Kakuma, Kenya, 23 September 2013 — Liz Lock, the Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins Coordinator at Kakuma camp in Kenya, shares her personal experience working with students at the camp where approximately 120,000 refugees reside, hailing from a dozen different countries. The Jesuit Refugee Service has worked with refugees in the camp since 1994.
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Shared moments as two worlds meet in Chad
18 August 2013
(Goz Beida, Chad) August 18, 2013 — In September 2011, I arrived in Goz Beida, in eastern Chad, to coordinate a Jesuit Refugee Service project supporting primary schools for displaced children. That I was in a Muslim country soon became clear.
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Kenya: Opening opportunities through education
06 August 2013
(Kakuma, Kenya) August 6, 2013 — If you had asked me a month ago what I was walking into when I interned with Jesuit Refugee Service and the Jesuit Commons Higher Education at the Margins program here at Kakuma refugee camp, I honestly could not tell you what I expected, writes Virginia Tech University student Allison Laclede. Read her reflections here.
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Church welcomes urban refugees in Nairobi
16 July 2013
(Nairobi) July 16, 2013 — "People come and knock, and we live according to the Gospel, because in those refugees — according to my own understanding — is Christ. I see Christ in those who are refugees in our country. We don't want to segregate them, we want to bring them into our homes, into our church," says Fr. James Karanja of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.
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South Sudan: JRS accompanies teachers in Yambio
19 June 2013
(Yambio) June 19, 2013 — During a Jesuit Refugee Service visit to a nursery school, we learned some of the teachers did not have a formal training in early childhood education. The teachers shared their challenges with us, and I was motivated to share my experience in teaching as a means to support the teachers.
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Uganda: amazing experience at JRS class
13 February 2013
(Kampala) February 13, 2013 — There is so much in the world that requires human attention, understanding and patience. The English class of 2012, part of the Jesuit Refugee Service Urban Refugee Project in Kampala, Uganda, had 166 learners including children and adults. One could see the eagerness on their faces and the anxiety of learning a new language.
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Ubuntu — Compassion for humanity
14 January 2013
(January 14, 2012) Kakuma, Kenya — The work of Jesuit Refugee Service staff in their delivery of the psychosocial and education programs here would not be nearly so effective without the invaluable help of refugee volunteers, known as ‘incentive staff.' More than 200 volunteers have been trained by JRS to provide support to their fellow refugees in education, counseling and alternative healing.
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Kenya: The meaning of food
12 November 2012
(Nairobi) November 12, 2012 — During an internship with Jesuit Refugee Service, David Mauldin, a student at The Catholic University of America, discovered when food is seen simply as something to fill the belly, it soon appears to be unsustainable. But, the meaning of food lies not solely in the physical aspect, but also in its social, emotional and psychological impact.
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Ethiopia: Jesuit Refugee Service could sense my grief
23 October 2012
(Addis Ababa) October 23, 2012 — Paul, a refugee from Somalia who fled seeking a safer life only to find more trouble on the road to safety, shares with us his journey. Now living in the Ethiopian capital, Paul has found some measure of peace from the Jesuit Refugee Service Emergency Needs Program in Addis Ababa.
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Kenya: A song from Eastleigh
26 September 2012
(Nairobi) September 26, 2012 – Travis Barnwell, a Masters in Social Work student from the Catholic University of America, spent three months working with a Jesuit Refugee Service social worker on the Urban Emergency Programme team in Nairobi, Kenya. Travis shares a reflection of his experiences here.
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Uganda: a long struggle
30 August 2012
Juba, 30 August 2012 – My name is Reuben* and I'm a former refugee, now living back in my home country, South Sudan. I want to share my story about the support JRS provided me over the years.
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Among refugees, my heart found a home
24 July 2012
(Washington, D.C.) July 24, 2012 — Fr. Gary Smith, S.J., author of 'They Come Back Singing: Finding God with the Refugees,' has served refugees as a member of Jesuit Refugee Service since the year 2000. Here he shares some of his thoughts as he prepared to leave his most recent assignment with JRS last month.
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Malawi: the JRS I could see and touch
16 July 2012
Ohio, 16 July 2012 - I remember life in Dzaleka camp in Malawi from 1995 to 1997 both as a blessing and as one of the most stressful situations I've ever been in. It was a blessing because I had a place where I legally belonged. It was home. I was alive, accounted for, fed, clothed and I could see a nurse or a doctor if I became ill. There were no more sounds of guns, grenades or bombs. It was calm; I could actually sleep. Before long, I handed over the tent in which I had been living and moved into a house. Even if many shared one house, a refugee camp with houses was a treat.
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Ethiopia: Still going strong
06 June 2012
(Dollo Ado) June 6, 2012 —Sofia (not her real name) is a Somali refugee living in Melkadida Refugee Camp in the Dollo Ado district of southeast Ethiopia. Like many other refugees here, she is faced with a mountain of challenges. A mother of six children, life does not come easy for her, and this is compounded by the fact that she recently lost her husband.
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Democratic Republic of Congo: fleeing domestic violence in the night
03 May 2012
Goma, 3 May 2012 – A story of domestic violence in a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in eastern Congo, the protagonist, Mama Jocelyne, is an ordinary woman, one of so many forced to bear abuse in addition to living the midst of armed conflict.
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South Sudan: a role model for students and teachers
04 May 2012
Nimule, 4 May 2012 – Esther is a role model for her community. A secondary education teacher of commerce and accounting at Fulla Secondary School, Nimule, and a mother of three, she exudes happiness, confidence and professionalism. However, as a former refugee, the journey to this point has not been easy. She attributes her success to the support of JRS over a period of nearly 12 years, from 2000 to 2011.
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Ethiopia: recreation eases difficulty of camp life
03 May 2012
Dollo Ado, 3 May 2012 – My first experience with refugees was in Mai-Aini camp in northwest Ethiopia. I worked with Jesuit Refugee Service as a Sports and Recreational Activities Officer there for just under a year. Eighty percent of the camp residents were young, male Eritrean refugees, most of whom had fled their country for political reasons. The life-affirming challenges I met there prepared me for my current role in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia.
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Rwanda: education, a new outlook on life for young refugees
29 March 2012
Kibuye, 29 March 2012 – For Benjamin Twizere, an opportunity to participate in the JRS cooking and baking course has given him a new lease on life. One of 65 refugee students in western Rwanda offered a chance by JRS to learn a trade; he grabbed it with both hands.
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Ethiopia: laughing and learning in Dollo Ado
21 March 2012
(Dollo Ado, Ethiopia) March 21, 2012 – Last year, in August 2011, the children in Melkadida Refugee Camp were struggling to survive. They were on the verge of death. I witnessed their agony and I saw the many pits in graveyards prepared in advance. Now, six months later, life is different and I am happy to watch them playing, dancing, laughing and learning.
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Burundi: Pascal's story, one of dignity and hope for the future
20 March 2012
Bujumbura, 20 March 2012 – At the end of 2012, JRS will close its projects in Burundi. After 17 years of providing education and building livelihoods, former refugees assisted by the organisation are now in a position to lead independent and dignified lives with hope for a better future. The family of Pascal Ntirujimana is one of those stories of hope and relative prosperity.
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Kenya: Students’ voices from Kakuma
21 March 2011
Kakuma, 21 March 2011 - Almost 60 refugees now have access to higher education in Kakuma refugee camp, after JRS officially launched a distance-education project with Jesuit universities in the US. While 35 students are enrolled for a three-year Diploma in Liberal Studies course, 21 participate in a three-month certificate course in Psychosocial Case Management. Here are some of their reactions on the day of the launch:
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Kenya: Somali widower counsels community despite caring for five children
25 November 2010
In May 2010 my wife Foos passed away and left me five children, all underage, while I am at the retired age of 64 years and have no other person who can take care of them if I today pass away.
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Rwanda: former refugee shares her story
27 September 2010
I was born in 1979 in the district of Kayonza in Kabare II, a sector of Rwanda’s Eastern Province. In 1994, I fled my country due to the war. After moving to Akagera, I crossed to Tanzania with my parents, one brother and two sisters. We left behind two other brothers: one in Kigali, the other in Cyangugu. They both had to flee to Congo but happily in 1995 they could join us in the refugee camp of Cyabarisa II.
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Ethiopia: I came with empty hands
20 June 2010
In 2005, I fled the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with my wife and three children because of the civil war. It took us weeks to arrive at the Ethiopian border after having crossed Uganda and Kenya. When we finally reached the capital, Addis Ababa, our clothes were tattered and we were weak. We presented our cases and sought asylum.
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Kenya: someone who really cares
20 June 2010
When I fled Somalia I did not do so because of the war. You get used to gunshots and shelling. I fled because of personal problems. My stepfather owed money to a certain man who kept asking my mother for it, long after she had been divorced from him.
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South Africa: success stories of refugee integration
20 June 2010
Being in a foreign country as a refugee, a migrant or an asylum seeker is not as easy as one would think. We always wonder what it would be like to go to another country to seek refuge, safety and protection. We are sure that many people like us asked themselves these questions, but unfortunately today we find ourselves in a foreign country.
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South Africa: fear of the unknown
20 June 2010
My name is Tshela Mukendi and I am a single mother of six from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I have seen death; I have smelt it and I have touched it. Through the grace of God, I was able to survive. I found refuge in South Africa. But today I am afraid. I am afraid of death. I thought I could put the thought of death behind me but here I am today in South Africa living in fear of death.
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