Batouri – “I’ve learned a lot, and deepened my faith” says Jeevan James, Jesuit scholastic from Karnataka Province, India, about his experience in Cameroon with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).
Jeevan spent one year between the regional office in Yaoundé and the projects in Batouri assisting refugees coming from the Central African Republic.
In this area, JRS intervention focuses on education by supporting five primary schools and promoting quality education through teacher trainings.
“At first, the schools’ facilities were in very poor condition, and students used to sit on the ground during their lessons,” says Jeevan. Last year, JRS assisted in the renovation of the classes and then provided school materials to the refugee students. “It was satisfactory to see the final result, which was new doors, desks, and benches. The children were happier to go to school too”, he says.
JRS efforts there are also aimed at reinforcing social cohesion through the support of parent-teacher associations and community based initiatives, as well as adult literacy classes. “One of my favourite memories was when we built the class for the alphabetisation course in the informal settlement of Bethanie” he recalls.
This was Jeevan’s, first time in such a place, and his first experience of this kind. “It was challenging. There are a lot of difficulties you must face in your daily life, from the lack of electricity to access to water, but none of this matters there. The focus is constantly on the others: the refugees. I felt my mission was to accompany them” he says.
As a Scholastic used to live in a Jesuit community, it was strange for Jeevan to find himself alone. “I experienced loneliness, but I realised that a Jesuit needs to carry a community with him like a snail carries its home along with it,” he admits.
Jeevan describes his experience in Cameroon as a journey of faith. “You see so much suffering and pain that you start questioning whether God exists. Then you realise that God is present in many indirect ways, including in JRS’ work” he says.