Dear Tom and Lisa,
"Education is the key to life." Last January a middle-aged Somali refugee came to the Jesuit Refugee Service team in a large and crowded camp in Northern Kenya, seeking support for his two teenage daughters' education When asked why he felt that their schooling was so important, he quietly but forcibly replied, "education is the key to life." All of us know the truth of those words. But, as we attend out own family's graduation celebrations this year, perhaps this Somali man's wisdom highlights the importance that education plays in the lives of all children. A refugee without education -- whether in Sudan or Thailand, Kenya or Haiti -- is in danger of becoming a functionally illiterate adult without hope in life's possibilities.
A Burmese refugee who teaches at a JRS sponsored school in a camp along the Thailand -- Burma border, expressed it in this same wisdom in a different way: "education is very important for refugees. If you are not educated, it's like being blind. You don't understand anything. We are very poor people compared to another country, but if we are educated we can decide what is good or bad for us. We can improve ourselves and our community."
It is no surprise that refugees and displaced people place a high priority on education. Even in the most desperate of refugee situations -- in the first week or two after being displaced -- refugee families often band together and set up simple schools that represent bot a return to normalcy and an expression of home in their families' future. Frequently JRS staff members arrive at a remote refugee encampment to find a makeshift blackboard erected under a tree and children copying letters with sticks in the sand. Refugees Kenwood that "education is the key to life."
JRS' many educational programs for refugees seek to respond to both the human needs and rights of displaced families and communities. This is why we at JRS/USA constantly request assistance from individuals like you -- as well as from the U.S. government and private foundations -- to support our education programs in Nepal. Sudan, Kenya, and Thailand. This is why I am writing to you today. Please help us by giving the key of life to refugee children!
Thanks you for your past support and your consideration of this appeal. I pray that we may be filled with the wisdom of God's Spirit.
Rev. Kenneth J. Gavin, SJ
To learn more about the Jesuit Refugee Service pleae click... Jesuit Refugee Service
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Jesuit Refugee Service / USA
1016 16th Street NW, Suite #500
Washington, DC 20036-5726
History of JRS
Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ
In the late 1970s, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, then Superior General of the Society of Jesus, was moved by the perilous journeys to exile of the Vietnamese boat people. Although the Vietnam War had ended in 1975, it was not until 1979 that great numbers of people began to leave the country and seek refugee elsewhere through clandestine, risky journeys by sea. At that time Fr. Arrupe appealed to Jesuit major superiors for practical assistance. The spontaneous and generous 'first wave of action' provoked him to reflect on how much more the Society of Jesus could do if its responses to this, and to other contemporary crises of forced human displacement, were planned and coordinated. From that initial sentiment has grown a world-wide service to forcibly displaced people. On 14 November 1980, Fr Arrupe announced the birth of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). See video on JRS and Fr. Arrupe.
The history of JRS is about the lives and hopes of people we know personally. This personal knowledge constantly transforms our understanding. JRS opens a door — beyond transitory and shocking images — into the inspiring lives of people struggling to defend their rights, protect their families and give their children a future.
See a photo gallery of Fr. Arrupe's legacy here.