Since the 1980s JRS South Asia has been responding to the needs of refugees and forcibly displaced people. We are serving in four countries, most recently in Afghanistan. Over the years, when needs arise, JRS responds, as in the case of the 2004 tsunami which devastated the Sri Lankan coast. JRS continued to accompany the Sri Lankan refugees during the ethnic war that reached its pinnacle in 2009.
The regional office has been located in New Delhi since 2011, after moving from Bangalore, South India. It is from here that Fr Stan Fernandes, SJ, regional director, and the JRS South Asia team support and monitor the projects in the region.
The two largest projects of JRS South Asia are in Nepal and India (Tamil Nadu), where our staff serve and accompany all the refugees in the camps. In Nepal, JRS works with Caritas to provide education to young people, adults, the disabled, the deaf, and to preschool children. As the camp numbers steadily decrease due to resettlement, JRS works to merge schools and train new teachers as older teachers are resettled. In Tamil Nadu, JRS works in 112 camps for nearly 70,000 Sri Lankan refugees, who have been seeking asylum there for more than 20 years. JRS assists students in getting into Indian government schools and provides supplies and uniforms, as needed. JRS also assists young women who have dropped out of the formal education system by offering them skills and leadership training.
After the war and tsunami that devastated Sri Lanka, JRS has been working to provide education to those who are still displaced from the conflict in the North and East. JRS provides preschool education and scholarships for higher education for persons living in resettlement areas and hopes soon to provide online education to these same communities so they can continue their education past their secondary diploma.
In April 2005, JRS started programmes in education for war-affected Afghans, who had returned to Afghanistan after living for years as refugees in Pakistan or Iran. These initiatives for capacity building have grown, and JRS is presently engaged in educating youth in universities, higher education institutes, schools, and in several remote rural areas.
The most recent JRS South Asia project is livelihoods and language training for Burmese Chin refugees living in West Delhi. Some 110,000 have sought asylum in India since the 1980s after facing persecution at the hands of the Burmese government. About 12,000 reside in Delhi unable to speak the language or find suitable work. JRS is conducting tailoring, computer, teacher training, and English language courses for Chin communities that are too far removed from the UNHCR training centres for the refugees to access.
Each country and every project for the refugees, IDPs, and war-affected has a commitment to education, capacity building, and women’s empowerment. In societies where women often face discrimination, JRS is educating and giving them skills to provide for themselves and their families, and contribute to their communities.
With education enrolment on the rise in Afghanistan, and resettlement numbers growing in Nepal, JRS sees its education programmes succeeding as young people find new hope in their lives. JRS hopes to continue expanding its projects to offer a brighter future to the next generation in all four countries.
Stan Fernandes SJ
+91 11 4310 4661; +91 11 4953 4106
JRS South Asia is one of 10 geographic regions of the Jesuit Refugee Service, an international Catholic organization sponsored by the Society of Jesus. The regional office in South Asia serves Bhutanese refugees in Nepal, Srilankan refugees in the Indian State of Tamilnadu and internally displaced people in Sri Lanka. Services include: education, skill training, economic programmes, healthcare, psychological support, disability centres, community development and emergency assistance. There more than 8,00,000 refugees presently in these four countries.
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