Choosing To Be Empowered

Thursday, June 11th, 2015
The situation at English class for refugees and asylum seekers, JRS Learning Centre. The class is taught by Laila, a volunteer teacher who is also an urban refugee in West Java.

The situation at English class for refugees and asylum seekers, JRS Learning Centre. The class is taught by Laila, a volunteer teacher who is also an urban refugee in West Java.

Women and children are most vulnerable in regards to various issues arising during conflict and displacement. Often, they are suffering when having to deal with the social, political, educational, cultural and economic impact of war or forced displacement.

This is what happened to Laila, her mother and her sister. Violent conflict in their home country Pakistan resulted in a life full of fear. Laila, a 27-year-old woman was not able to continue her work and education at the university due to the worsening security situation. The traumatic situation of Laila and her 10-year-old sister at the time was further worsened when witnessing their mother being exposed to domestic violence.

Until one day, when the building next to their house was destroyed by a bomb blast, Laila made the decision to leave with her mother and sister.

“The three of us arrived in Jakarta in 2012. We applied for asylum at UNHCR to get protection as refugees. At that time, we did not know how long it would take to get a safer life in a third country willing to accept us.”

In fact, Laila and her family had to wait a year to get refugee status, and until today, more than two years later, they are still awaiting to be accepted by a third country for resettlement.

The long wait is not without problems. When the supplies and savings they had brought from Pakistan run out, Laila and her family found it increasingly difficult to meet the basic needs of everyday life. There were times when they could just sit hungry in their room in West Java with no money or groceries left. Limited access to social and economic activities made the waiting for Laila and her family unbearable and stressful.

In mid-2014, Laila heard about JRS Learning Centre from a fellow asylum seeker. “My friend knows that I can speak English fluently. He advised me to go to JRS Learning Centre and become a volunteer teacher for English classes for other asylum seekers.”

Soon after Laila contacted JRS staff, she began teaching at the Learning Centre. When asked why she wanted to become a volunteer teacher, Laila replied, “In JRS Learning Centre, I am able to meet many people. Otherwise, I would just stay home with nothing to do, except to think and become more and more stressed. With teaching, I feel that I can be a person with a meaning in life.”

Until now, Laila is the only woman from the volunteer teachers at the Learning Centre. Meeting with many people who value education opened doors for Laila, who started teaching children and other adult asylum seekers, who wanted private English lessons. Currently assisted by her daughter, Laila’s mother also started to volunteer in the Learning Centre, teaching other women in handicraft.

Understandably, Laila still feels sad sometimes when reflecting on her situation and what had happened to her so far. “It has been two years now that I lived in Indonesia, and still no news about our resettlement process. I am sad to think that I have lost two years of my life in uncertainty. However, sometimes I also think, wow… I am strong enough to survive that long. Had I known if I had to wait for over two years back then, I would have given up immediately. But it turns out I can get through it.”

Laila’s mother and sister are one source of strength for her to continue to survive and become the backbone of the family. “Sometimes I can teach 5 classes a day continuously even when I have not eaten. I do this especially for my sister.

Maybe there will be no chance for me to realize my dreams. But my sister, she will be able to live my dream when we’ve got a better life later. You know, at this time my only option is to live here. I must try to find the good things that I can be thankful for, because if not, what else do I have?

Courage and resilience often grow in unexpected ways and places. For Laila and her family, acceptance and hope become the fuel that helps them to move on through hardship and uncertainty, and allowing them choose to be empowered.

* Laila is not the real name.

Triarani Utami

(Indonesia) Pastor Thomas Aquinas Maswan Susinto, SJ: Pengungsi Ingin Hidup Damai

(Indonesia) Paus Fransiskus berulang kali mengunjungi para pengungsi, menyapa mereka dan mendorong kepedulian terhadap mereka. Ia bahkan pernah memboyong tiga keluarga pengungsi Suriah ke Vatikan. Bagaimana pandangan dan ajaran Gereja terkait pengungsi? Continue reading

Refugees: An opportunity to grow together

If we, as a human family, insist on only ever seeing refugees as a burden, we deprive ourselves of the opportunities for solidarity that are also always opportunities for mutual learning, mutual enrichment, and mutual growth. Continue reading

Australia: shutting the door in the face of a global humanitarian crisis

Yogyakarta, 20 November 2014 – The Jesuit Refugee Service observes with deep sadness yet another sudden retroactive change in the policy of Australia towards people seeking international protection in Southeast Asia. Yesterday, the government of Australia announced its decision to … Continue reading

Kelud Emergency Response

Together with the Community of United Volunteers Yogjakarta, JRS Indonesia took part in the emergency response in Kelud. The Community of United Volunteers Yogjakarta, comprised of a diverse group of individuals and students from Yogyakarta, work together in humanitarian disaster response, being present and providing support in the form of accompaniment, counseling activities or delivering urgently needed goods. JRS Indonesia provided funds to support the operational and expenditure of urgently need goods, also presence in the field for two days, on February 26-27, 2014. Continue reading

33 Years on, the Needs of Displaced are bigger than Ever

Celebrating 33 years of being with and serving refugees, JRS would like to encourage you to extend your hospitality and support to our brothers and sisters that are here to seek protection. Continue reading

Vatican: Pope Francis appeals for hospitality and justice during visit to Jesuit Refugee Service

“It’s not enough to give a sandwich if it isn’t accompanied by the possibility of learning to stand on one’s own two feet. Charity that does not change the situation of the poor isn’t enough. True mercy, which God gives and teaches us, calls for justice, for a way in which the poor can find a way out of poverty.” Continue reading

JRS joins multi-faith call for refugee protection

The Jesuit Refugee Service joined together with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and representatives of a number of faith-based organisations to call for greater protection for refugees.

The multilingual, 16-page declaration, known as an Affirmation of Welcome, is the first to involve UNHCR and a spectrum of faith-based organisations. Continue reading

JRS Indonesia Accompaniment to Refugees and Asylum Seekers 2013

In May 2013 JRS supported the SUAKA Diplomat briefing on the situation of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Indonesia. SUAKA and JRS participated in a Focus Group Discussion at the National Human Rights Commission discussing and promoting Indonesia’s ratification of the convention on the status of Refugees and its protocol. SUAKA continues to provide legal advice and accompaniment to Asylum Seekers during the RSD process mostly referrals from JRS. Currently a more comprehensive referral system is developed in a collaboration of JRS and SUAKA. Continue reading

Futsal

It was Sunday evening of 9 September 2012. Twelve African men were walking toward a rather big shop in Cipayung. They were some asylum seekers from Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia. Their destination, a place on the third floor of that … Continue reading

31st Anniversary of JRS

Yogyakarta, 14 November 2011 – 31 years is not short measured on a lifetime. After a 31 year journey JRS is proud of the heritage of spiritual insights from Pedro Arrupe who arouse the concern of people for the refugees. This year, JRS Indonesia celebrated its 31st anniversary in many simple ways. Continue reading