A group of students of the English class entertaining guests during the World Refugee Day 2013 commemoration organised by JRS Kampala at Xavier House JRS compound in Kampala, Uganda on 19th June 2013. (Jana Benz/JRS).
Kampala, 27 June 2013 - "You are very welcome to JRS. Please feel at home", sang the students of the English class to welcome invited guests for the World Refugee Day celebrations at Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) on 19th June 2013. Nearly 200 students stood in a big circle holding each other's hands on the grass patch between the offices while the visitors sat on white chairs in front of the offices, surrounding the presenters. The invited guests were from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV), Refugee Law Project (RLP) and from many refugee communities.

The day's theme. A group of boys and young men of the English class then introduced the day's theme 'In one minute a family can lose everything - In one minute you can help them' through a poem written by their teacher Sr. Helen. It tells about their experience of war and flight: "… Tu-tu tutu is the sound, Bompbooo!… The birds are silent, silent, silent." The poem tells about the longing for a brighter future: "…Let the women go free. Let children grow and learn. Remove the stones from your hearts…" - The guests were visibly touched by the poem, some with tears in their eyes.

Borrowing from the second part of the year's WRD theme 'In in one minute you can help them', JRS beneficiaries thanked the government, the international community and many organizations for what has been done for them, but also made their demands by presenting their multiple sufferings as everybody's challenge asking,"what can you do to help me see a brighter future?"

Eye, soul and stomach."Please feel at home", JRS English class said. The class is one big step JRS takes to help refugees, to give them a place where they are welcome and can themselves welcome others. For the first time JRS and its beneficiaries presented the new Community Centre. During the event, the English class presented a comedy while Kindergarten children sing. The arts and crafts class also had its graduation and proudly received certificates from the guest of honour Devota Nuwe from HIAS. Later on, they would showcase their products; shoes, necklaces, tie and dye clothes, all shining and very colorful. Students of the hair dressing class presented very fancy hairstyles as the fashion and design ones modeled with clothes made in a very creative manner, combining traditional and modern African dressing.

It was not only a day for eye and soul, but also for the stomach. Students of the catering class prepared very delicious Pilau (rice dish with meat and different spices) for 350 people. Besides that, they offered snacks for sale in between the programme. They showcased a masterpiece of cookery and logistics. No wonder some of them are already employed though they just graduated in May!

National celebrations. The next day, the national celebration organized mainly by UNHCR and its implementing partner InterAid took place at the Old Kampala Secondary School. The programme included speeches, awards to community leaders, football, music, dance and drama, and exhibitions. This is where JRS came in. Arts & crafts, fashion and design, and hair dressing students exhibited their products. JRS has the most beautiful tent on the whole field. Many items were sold to representatives of the different organizations and to passersby. JRS got a lot of positive feedback and people were impressed by its work!

All in all it was two lovely and successful days on the side of JRS, where our presence for refugees, our approach and mission to accompany, serve and advocate came out clearly once again.

By Jana Benz, Program Assistant, JRS Kampala

JRS has been working in Kampala since 1998, responding to the urgent, unmet needs of newly arrived asylum seekers and refugees in vulnerable circumstances. For refugees fleeing conflict, civil unrest or oppressive political circumstances, the JRS Urban Emergency Programme provides information, food and non-food items, rent and medical assistance, transport and psychosocial support. JRS also offers English language lessons and vocational training courses to increase opportunities to earn a living and support themselves.

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