Fr Michael Pastor volunteered with JRS in the UK for six months moving on to undertake his Jesuit tertianship in Chile.
We begin accompanying from the experience of being accompanied. JRS helped me to cross the foreign language obstacle when I came to the UK. Moreover, my crossing this barrier has given me a better understanding of this experience for refugees. I took the place, several times, in the feelings that two young Moroccan guests had to feel in my own Bilbao community back in Spain.
Then, I realised the importance of walking with someone, being present either at lunch or in the day centre, even more when visiting someone. Our presence, before doing anything, says something very important: “Here I am. We appreciate you, you are worth something”.
When a refugee feels that he or she is helped and appreciated (accompanied) in our warm, friendly space at the day centre, he or she begins crossing a bridge to go into a new place. This is what JRS UK is doing in either visiting the detention centres or setting up peer support groups such as Women4Women and Men4Men. As well, this is the service they need: to share whatever they are living in their hard situation. All of us need this space to share our lives with someone who listens to us.
But the thing that has taught and touched me more is the hope and strength of human beings when we feel that we ourselves have value. At the third Men4Men meeting, I learnt that life has the strongest power if you are able to listen to and share. And of course, instead of listening to for a while in those meetings, if you offer to a refugee your home, you will feel even more this hope and strength. “At home” we accompany, serve and become advocates of them. It is worth it!!
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