ROME — Hundreds of thousands of refugees and forcibly displaced people received support, education and training last year through Jesuit Refugee Service’s on-the-ground initiatives and programs, said its international director.
With the generous help of many donors, JRS also was able to reach fundraising goals one year early and help an additional 100,000 people through the JRS Global Education Initiative, Jesuit Father Thomas H. Smolich said in the organization’s 2019 annual report, distributed in mid-October.
“Through your assistance, we developed innovative solutions to the realities of forced displacement, from training refugees for online employment to girls’ clubs that keep young women in school,” he said in the report.
“Even in the midst of COVID-19, we are privileged to carry on this work with our sister and brother refugees and IDPs,” he wrote.
“If COVID had arrived three years ago, we would have been at a loss,” he said. However, donor-supported investments to strengthen programs have made all the difference, he said.
“Even though many classrooms are closed, and social distancing is a reality, we continue to be with forcibly displaced people around the world,” he added.
Nearly 80 million people are displaced around the world, and in 2019, one in 97 people had been forcibly displaced — an increase of 13 percent from 2018 figures, he said.
JRS teams were active in 56 countries last year, serving more than 810,000 refugees and internally displaced people, Smolich wrote.
Part of JRS’s work includes the Global Education Initiative, launched in 2016, which provides refugees with: Teacher training; professional development; scholarships; greater access to education for girls, women and other marginalized and vulnerable groups; special needs education; and post-high school instruction geared toward expanding job opportunities.
The report said JRS started two pilot programs for developing innovative ways refugees and forcibly displaced people can learn and work online.
For example, it said, 60 refugees and displaced people at a camp in Malawi began courses for certification in high-demand digital skills in 2019, increasing online employment opportunities.
Similar courses, including online certification programs in management, communications and education, will be offered in Jordan and will include partners such as Southern New Hampshire University and Georgetown University.
The report said by the end of 2019, JRS had raised $41 million for the Global Education Initiative campaign and was offering education and training to nearly 360,000 people around the world.
Smolich said that in the 40 years since JRS was founded in 1980 by Servant of God Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe, the organization had accompanied millions of refugees.