This article is produced by JRS Portugal.
JRS Portugal welcomed 211 Afghan people on November 16, 2021. 58 military personnel, 125 people connected to the world of soccer, and their families. Most of them met members who had arrived a few months earlier and whom JRS Portugal was already accompanying at the request of the Lisbon Municipality. There were adults, teenagers, children and babies, men and women, some of them pregnant.
JRS Portugal staff will always remember this day. It brought the happiness of a reunion that many thought was impossible. It brought immense joy and new encouragement to the daily mission of Accompany, Serve and Advocate for the rights of refugees and forcibly displaced people.
This operation of rescue was quite complex. It required very close work with the Portuguese government, many hours of preparation and anxiety until we could finally see the plane land. It was made possible by funding from the Romulus T. Weatherman Foundation, the collaboration with two other US organizations: Deliver Fund and USAID, and JRS USA.
When they arrived in Portugal, the people went to temporary shelter centers in the areas of Lisbon, Fátima and Ericeira. In the centers JRS guarantees psychological, legal, medical supports and others, like classes of Portuguese. JRS workers work and live in the center to give maximum support to the families. Besides the daily work, JRS is always trying to find ludic activities in order to try to provide as many smiles as possible. That includes the training of the women’s soccer team, walks around Lisbon and Porto, even a Christmas party and some dinners of typical Afghan food. All of this is made with the help of volunteers who have been living the mission as intensely as any JRS staff.
Every month people receive an allowance, but we provide them food, clothing, and essentials, although we are slowly working on their autonomy and financial management, allowing families to buy what they feel is necessary.
At the same time, JRS is working to place the families in independent houses so that they can re-start their lives. For one year JRS Portugal will support the families’ rent and some bills. Besides the financial support, JRS is creating hospitality communities, which are groups formed by volunteers who will provide informal support very close to each of the families. The idea is that in addition to the technical support from JRS, the families will have a shoulder to lean on when needed.
The people who have arrived are extremely qualified, full of dreams, motivation, and a huge capacity to overcome. The truth is that we are having so much fun and we have learned a lot from each other. Of course, it has been a very intense few months, but JRS Portugal could not be happier with the final result: 211 people who are now free and living in a country where Democracy and Human Rights are respected.