11/25/2013 07:23 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

Education Provides Refugees Hope for a Better Future

(Washington, D.C.) November 25, 2013 -- "Education is a key in combating the evil of hatred, violence and war. I'm ever more convinced of that," says Fr. JRS International Director Fr. Peter Balleis S.J.

"Learning is a way to nourish, in a situation of utter despair, the hope in people, the hope in children. It is so important to get (displaced and refugee) children into school, to establish a routine of life. It is important to keep learning, it is a form of trauma healing in the midst of a conflict."

Education provides refugees hope for a better future

Jesuit Refugee Service enables approximately 280,000 children, young people and adults to receive primary, secondary, tertiary and vocational education services each year. JRS places the highest priority on ensuring a better future for refugees by investing heavily in education and training. A UNHCR partner and an international non-governmental Catholic organization, JRS services are provided to refugees regardless of race, ethnic origin or religious beliefs.

Kakuma refugee camp in northwestern Kenya is home to more than 119,000 refugees from more than a dozen countries. JRS has been accompanying and serving refugees in the camp since 1994.

Jesuit Refugee Service and our partner Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins, have a unique program providing tertiary education to refugees in the camp. The project currently supports students working toward a Diploma in Liberal Studies. There are two fully functional computer labs containing more than 60 computers for diploma students to use.

Additionally, refugee students also have the opportunity to take three to six month certificate courses in what is known as the Community Service Learning Track (CSLT). These focused courses help develop skills the students will be able to use directly. It is also intended to build their self-confidence and leadership skills.

JC:HEM and JRS have similar programs for refugees in Malawi, Jordan and Thailand, and plan to expand the program in the coming years.

"Forcibly displaced and frequently living on the margins of society, we have seen how education offers refugees the intellectual nourishment to become the leaders of tomorrow. In the midst of conflict and instability, education can be a form of healing to refugees hungry to rebuild their communities," said Jesuit Refugee Service International Director Fr. Peter Balleis S.J.

In addition to education needs, JRS strives to meet after-school needs as well. Refugees in camps often must deal with an enforced idleness as there are no jobs or other activities to fill their days. This enforced idleness often adds to the despair of their situation; having already been forced to flee their homeland and trek through harsh environments to seek safety, refugees find themselves 'stuck' in a camp with little to do.

For example, JRS accompanies and serves refugees in Ethiopia's Mai Aini refugee camp, home to more than 14,000 refugees from Eritrea. JRS provides library services, and offers music appreciation and drama classes in addition to intramural sports to promote the mental and physical well being of the refugees.

Jesuit Refugee Service works in more than 50 countries worldwide to meet the educational, health, social and other needs of approximately 700,000 refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, more than half of whom are women.

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law, please click here to support our work.

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA is a member of the NGO alliance InterAction and a partner in #GivingTuesday, which will take place this year (2013) on December 3. The idea behind #GivingTuesday is to kickoff the holiday-giving season, in the same way that Black Friday and Cyber Monday kickoff the holiday-shopping season.