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Giving refugees an ordinary life

New Zealander Michael Smith SJ spoke with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications about his work as International Education Officer with Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Rome.

In this podcast interview, the Jesuit described the work he does as a representative for 184,000 students around the world from preschool education to adult education, and teacher training. He noted the particular benefit of education for psycho-social health. He said: “All we’re trying to give refugees is an ordinary life… so they can have a livelihood.”

Fr Smith outlined JRS’s values of advocacy, service and accompaniment. “The key element is the accompaniment piece. That we’re not just doing things for refugees, but we’re actually walking with refugees. And we’re friends with refugees.”

The New Zealander was struck by a comment from a person who works for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), who said: “When the money runs out, the Jesuit Refugee Service stays”. He was also struck by the strong financial support from Irish Jesuit Missions and the Irish people.

Regarding JRS’s role in advocacy, he said: “It’s hard changing public opinion. It’s difficult, but it’s critically important.” Listen to the podcast for the full interview.