In New Delhi we contacted Jesuits Refugees Service (JRS), an NGO started in 1980 that comes from the order of the Jesuits. They have been dedicated for decades to the attention of vulnerable people, the result of armed conflict or natural disaster, sometimes running many risks. Above all, they are dedicated to assisting people in refugee or displaced camps throughout the world, to assure them a life as dignified as possible, to defend their rights in the countries where they are refugees and to implement development programs for individuals and communities so that they can re-enter society as soon as possible.
JRS covers several areas of attention. They work in education, personal and professional development, economic development programs, health, psychological support, functional diversity centers, emergency assistance, nutrition, and also provide legal and human rights assistance. With 1400 workers, not counting the refugees who train to be teachers, they have helped millions of people around the world, in 60 countries … almost nothing … from the first moment we were surprised by the incredible social and help work what they do, giving hope to thousands of people around the world …
We had already worked indirectly with them in Myitkyina, through Sister Rose Mary of the Sisters of Jesus. We sent an email and we did not take long to receive an answer, Father Stan, director of JRS India, summoned us to speak with us. He suggested that we take a workshop for Myanmar refugees from the Chin ethnic group in Delhi. We accept without hesitation, and agree that it could be the following Monday. In Delhi there are about 2000 refugees of the Myanmar Chin ethnic group, one of the 7 most important ethnic groups in this country.
Chin is one of the 7 ethnic states of Myanmar. It is considered the poorest region with a poverty rate of 73%. 50% of the economic activity in this state is agrarian. In 1962 General Ne Win gave a coup in Myanmar and has ruled the country for 26 years. During this period the government carried out a birmanization of the country for various interests, persecuting all ethnic groups other than Burmese. The Chin ethnic group has been escaping to the Indian state of Mizoram, bordering the Chin state, where they are not recognized as citizens. More than 12,000 of these refugees moved to Delhi, a large city where finding a decent job can be an impossible task.
So the following Monday we went to the place where we had been quoted, a JRS development center where the Chin refugees learn English, basic informatics, sewing, and other activities to give work to people from the refugee camp. We remind that the main objective of a refugee camp is its disappearance, due to the reintegration of its people in a society without violence and that allows them a normal development. However, there are many refugee camps that have been in operation for decades. For this reason, JRS provides resources for personal and professional development, to enable them to earn a living independently.
At the development center we prepared what we had been asked for, a relaxed and fun workshop for the women who attend there … that is, a Clown workshop! Hahaha … We greet Steffi, Jovin and Morning, part of the JRS staff. We entered the room, and there they were, all women. A group of about 20 women between the ages of 20 and 60, sitting on the floor, some with children around their necks. They had no idea what we were going to do, their faces were of extreme shyness !!!! hahahaha … no problem, that’s normal … Hands to work!
We started with warm-up, fun, all motivated and willing, laughing at the sight of their partners. At first it was noticeable that they were not very trained in attention exercises, but little by little the concentration was increasing, getting them to give everything … The timid ones were very shy !!! hahaha … but others pulled the car dragging the group. There was a sense of community, of support among them, and it was evident that they went to the development center to learn.
Between laughter they motivated each other and challenged each other, pushed each other out and laughed together with each other … The improvisation exercises went very well. They were very funny with the nose of clown … that cute … at first they were all super tense, but little by little they relaxed and allowed themselves to enjoy the moment, laughing and commenting, amazed that they could be acting in front of a public …
We all parted with laughter, it was really fun and tender to see them there, enjoying as little girls, offering generously to their companions those scenes of their lives …
It was a great experience, they made a great effort, we had taken them far from their comfort zone, and they had responded very well, with courage and understanding the proposal, two very important values to take a step forward, to be willing to enter a society very different from his … We wish you the best of heart, you have everything to get it!