Earlier this week, around thirty staff and volunteers of JRS UK gathered for a three day workshop, taking a deeper look at JRS’s mission of ‘accompaniment’. Led by Danielle Vella, director of the International Reconciliation Programme for JRS International, the group took part in discussions and creative activities, including art and drama, and reflected on the meaning, value and challenges of accompanying our refugee friends as well as one another.
The training was an opportunity to explore the legacy of JRS founder Pedro Arrupe SJ and reconnect with key values of JRS. These values are instrumental to our work accompanying destitute asylum seekers in London and those held in detention centres at Heathrow.
The workshop started by revisiting the letter that Pedro Arrupe SJ, founder of JRS, wrote to his Jesuit brothers after being struck by the plight of the Vietnamese boat people in 1985. His words set the tone for the three days as the group reflected on the difficult experiences of our refugee and asylum seeker friends, thirty-five years after Arrupe wrote his letter, and what impact these have on their lives.
Key themes were present throughout the three days, including justice, communities of hospitality and working together to complement our strengths and flaws.
JRS’s mission of accompaniment stresses the act of patiently ‘being with’ our refugee friends, rather than ‘doing for’ and the group explored the practical and professional application of this in our day-to-day work.
Joanna Biernat, Communications Editorial Assistant said: “I was very moved by the activities and reflections Danielle organised for us. Of particular insight and value to me were the stories shared from some of our volunteers who have experienced the harsh reality of the asylum process and detention themselves. Through the safe, open space of sharing, which was present across the three days, I felt the entire JRS UK family connect with the true meaning of accompaniment. I have walked away from this workshop with a hopeful, positive idea of how we can come together, communally, to improve the way we accompany and serve at work as well as in our personal lives.”