“I have a big dream for my son. I myself wish to be an educated man, and I want my son to become one too. I want him to get opportunities that we couldn’t get,” says Peter, a community organizer from Kachin State, internally displaced in Myanmar.
Peter’s story is the focus of one of several videos the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has produced as part of its Mercy in Motion campaign, launched on December 8, 2015, at the start of the Holy Year of Mercy. JRS aims to produce 25 videos, each between four and seven minutes long, in which refugees in Africa and Asia share about their past, their journey, their situation in the camp or urban setting and the hope that education gives them.
As people living in motion, refugees often face many barriers in trying to access education, from overcrowding in schools to xenophobia in host communities. In this struggle, they lose their fundamental right to learn. Among refugee children, only 36 percent globally go to secondary school and less than one percent have the opportunity to pursue higher education.
Through this campaign, JRS aims to provide 100,000 refugees and displaced people with access to education by the year 2020. The $35 million it hopes to raise will enable it to give refugees the tools to contribute to their new communities, and to rebuild their own by expanding JRS educational projects spanning from primary school to university, and including vocational and teacher training.
In Asia Pacific, the Mercy in Motion campaign will help to strengthen projects in basic and non-formal education for refugees in Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand.
In Indonesia, JRS provides materials to help refugee teachers who are detained in immigration detention centres to hold classes for their fellow detainees. In urban communities, JRS offers space and lesson plans for an inclusive Learning Centre where refugees from different countries can meet. Volunteer teachers from the refugee community teach children and adults to improve their skills in English and Indonesian languages, computer, handicrafts and managing finances. JRS also organises training in teaching methods and translation for refugees who show interest in continuing their education and serving the wider community.
Central to the work of JRS Cambodia in Phnom Penh is providing friendship, education opportunities, shelter, food and legal advice to 300 Montagnards who fled to Cambodia in the wake of religious and ethnic persecution in Vietnam.
In Myanmar, where more than one million people are stateless, JRS promotes education for internally displaced people (IDP) with special attention to young women and girls through improving learning environments and building capacity through teacher trainings, forming boarding house staff and providing educational materials. In 2015, JRS served 536 students, 76 teachers, five IDP boarding house staff and 425 returned IDPs.
Thailand continues to host about 110,000 Burmese refugees in the nine camps along its border with Myanmar. There are more than 14,000 refugees in Ban Mai Nai Soi (Camp 1) and in Ban Mae Surin (Camp 2), where JRS works to improve the formal education opportunities of refugees by supporting the Karenni Education Department in school operations, teacher capacity trainings and curriculum development. JRS also provides financial support to various education programmes in Shan State, which borders Thailand in the northwest.
For information on Mercy in Motion, visit www.mercy-in-motion.org.
Watch this video of Peter, a teacher from Kachin State in Myanmar: