Determination to succeed


Today Jesuit Missions has launched its first regular enews bulletin.  This is just one of the inspiring stories you can read about their work.

Jesuit Missions supports JRS MENA (Jesuit Refugee Service Middle East and North Africa) helping refugees and internally displaced people build new lives and look to the future with hope. JRS began its work in response to Iraqi refugees fleeing conflict in their country and now provides emergency relief and support to Syrians both in Syria and in neighbouring countries Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. 

Fr Cedric Prakash SJ, a Jesuit Priest living in Lebanon, shares with us a story about a Syrian refugee living in Iraq who has benefitted from the services provided by JRS MENA in Iraq.

There is a steely determination in Zozan. As one listens to this 25-year old woman, one cannot but feel that she will go places. In a very casual way, she shares what she would like to do most in life: to learn new languages and to travel to distant lands.

In some ways, Zozan Hassan Khalil has begun doing both. She has already crossed international boundaries as a refugee. When the war in Syria became too bad, together with her parents, brother and sister, in February 2013 Zozan fled their native town of Al-Hasakah, in northeast Syria. It was not an easy journey. The vehicle driver who brought them had the ‘right connections’ at the various checkpoints. They eventually made it into the Kurdistan area in North Iraq. Carrying their few possessions they walked through the mountainous terrain to Dohuk. It was not easy, but they now felt safer.

Zozan looks back at the days in Al- Hasakah. She was a student doing her engineering studies when war broke out. Life was comfortable until then. Al- Hasakah a city with a historic past was home to an ethnically diverse population of Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians and Armenians. She is filled with nostalgia as she remembers her home of her childhood and teenage years. A wave of sadness overwhelms her as she thinks of the violence that has gripped so much of Syria,  “there is too much killing; it will take a long time for peace to return to Syria.”

Her family finally settled in Ankawa in Erbil, the capital of Kurdish Iraq. Adjusting to a new city, culture and environment is never easy. Nevertheless, Zozan took everything in her stride. Her elder sister is married and settled in Ozal, about 25 kms away from Ankawa.  She called Zozan one day to inform her that a team from JRS centre had come to visit her family. The JRS team had informed her that they were conducting various programmes for refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s). At that time, Zozan was looking for opportunities to do something in life. She immediately contacted the JRS centre in Ankawa and from then on, she began a new chapter in her life.

She enrolled, for not one, but for three courses at the JRS Centre: English, Kurdish and Computer Education. Rupina Khachik, the JRS Project Director says, “We allowed her to do all three courses because we saw that she was determined to do so! Zozan came out with flying colours in all of them. We are proud of her!”

Zozan says she enjoyed doing the courses. The JRS centre soon became a second home for her. She was given a sense of belonging and acceptance, “I was never treated as someone different: as a Syrian or a refugee. I was made to feel that I belonged here! I have made many new friends coming to JRS, from different religions, nationalities and ethnicities.”

JRS also helped her through some short-term courses, ‘How to write a CV’ and ‘Preparing for a Job Interview’. Zozan feels that JRS empowered her and enabled her to get a good job, as an Administrative Assistant in a Company. A couple of months ago her father died due to a painful illness. She misses him. However, for Zozan life goes on.

Zozan has dreams of going back to Syria one day; of using the skills that she has learnt from JRS with others in her country, who are less fortunate. As she shares her dreams, an endearing smile lights up a face. Given her strength and determination Zozan is bound to go places; her hopes will surely become a reality one day!

Jesuit Missions is supporting JRS with its work in Chad, South Sudan and the Middle East. Here in the UK, JRS UK accompany refugees living in the UK. JRS UK work to improve refugee’s quality of life by lobbying and raising awareness of the hardships they face as asylum seekers in the UK, working towards the dignity of refugees by providing the opportunity for proper communication through their day centre and improving conditions for those who find themselves in the UK.

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(photo: Kristóf Hölvényi/JRS MENA)