The main subject of discussion during the annual JRS meeting in Portugal was hospitality. Hospitality is the welcome, one of the most important things that we do in JRS.
JRS is going to run a hospitality campaign around hospitality, community and destitution. The word community came up for me. I think it is important being able to form a community for the refugees. For example, through church or through activities like sports. In the UK, we do that with all the activities and workshops we offer such as the creative writing sessions. Through those activities, refugees can become a part of something and belong to a community, in contrast with the isolation they live in when they first come. They feel that they are not out on a limb and more a part of us, as we are part of them, feeling all part of the same community.
I believe we are doing the best that we can in the UK, although we are sometimes limited as an organisation because of the way things are politically here. Hospitality first and foremost is about being a welcoming presence, being a place of safety for people to come to where they feel accepted and safe. It would be wonderful if we had the means, if we could for example provide accommodation for the homeless people who come here. I would love to be able to do that!
The trust that asylum seekers have in us comes quickly, and you can see a change in people thanks to the hospitality we offer. At first, they are apprehensive but later, they see that we are just here to help them and the next time they come they are all smiles.
The Portuguese team put hospitality into practice with us, the participants. They went out of their way to make the everyday really interesting and enjoyable. I felt how I want our refugees to feel when they come to us. It has made me realise even more how it feels for those we see.
From Sister Bernadette