RCM/AGM 2023: Working together towards an integral model of accompaniment
Between March 27th and 31st, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Europe network held its annual Regional Coordination Meeting (RCM) and Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the Seminário Maior de São Paulo de Almada in Portugal. For a week, directors and staff of the 23 country offices and the regional office came together to celebrate accomplishments and share the challenges we face, but most of all, to plan together. The event also had the special participation of the president of the Jesuit Conference of European Jesuits, Franck Janin SJ, the newly appointed JRS international director, Michael Schöpf, the Jesuit European Social Delegate, Filipe Martins SJ, and the representative of Xavier Network, Katrin Morales.
When reflecting on the work done during the week, JRS Europe Regional Director, Alberto Ares SJ, highlighted: “The main takeaway is the encounter. We had the opportunity to share hopes and concerns and an invitation to dream together “. On a similar note, JRS Portugal director and host, André Costa Jorge, emphasized “It was a great opportunity for collaboration with not only moments of networking but also of getting input and views from the different country offices. I am happy that we could get together with a mission to serve as a common body.”
The first three days of the intense week of work were dedicated to the Regional Coordination Meeting (RCM), where the directors of each country office come together to meet with the regional office team. The purpose of said meeting is to update each other on the ongoing projects and priorities, but also to, through sharing and brainstorming, find new opportunities to collaborate. Each country office and area of work of the regional office had time to present the latest developments and open the floor for discussions and ideas. This methodology allows to foster an environment that can create new ideas or refine those already present.
During the RCM, Franck Janin SJ, Michael Schöpf, Katrin Morales, and Filipe Martins SJ helped put the work of the JRS Europe network into perspective and in relation to the mission of the Jesuits in Europe, the global work of JRS, the cooperation with the Jesuits in Mission and the Jesuit Social Centres respectively. This allowed us to see the areas of cooperation that the network has and possible avenues to strengthen them.
The last two days of the week were focused on the Annual General Meeting (AGM), which is the annual opportunity for the staff of the JRS Europe network to gather and engage in workshops related to their areas of work. The objective is to try to build bridges between the work of the different offices and to have an opportunity to reflect on their work by sharing with colleagues. During the meeting, the participants could take part in workshops directed by the specialists of the JRS Portugal team on topics such as Psychosocial accompaniment, Employability, Communication and Advocacy, Hospitality and Reception, and Health and Mental Health.
In addition, the attendees participated in a Workshop on Media and Migration with André Carvalho Ramos of CNN Portugal and a closing activity by Sónia Pereira, Portugal’s High Commissioner for Migration. Colleagues from around Europe also had the opportunity to visit the offices of JRS Portugal as well as some of the daily centres where they carry out their work.
Working together towards an integral model of accompaniment
After an intense week of joint work, reflection and collaboration the 23 offices and the regional office published a joint statement ratifying their commitment to an integral model of accompaniment characterized by a holistic, multidirectional, and dynamic approach to inclusion and highlighting four key objectives for the organization in the upcoming year:
- JRS as place for welcoming, where we promote hospitality communities and models that provide long-term housing solutions that are safe, secure, and dignified.
- JRS as place of protection, where we walk side by side in personal contact with each migrant to support them in a holistic way, especially the most vulnerable migrants.
- JRS as space for integration, where we foster agency and participation through empowerment and educational paths, especially for the youth.
- JRS as a reliable partner, with secure financing and firm institutional capabilities based on the professionalization of our teams and strong partnerships that allow us to provide better and more comprehensive services.
With the hope replenished and new ideas brewing, each colleague returned to their office with renewed energies to continue working towards a Europe where human rights, protection, hospitality, integration, and reconciliation all have a place to flourish within a larger vision for inclusive and welcoming societies.