The Community Impact of On the Move

28 May 2024

Around the United States, students and parishioners make up an integral Jesuit network committed to upholding Jesuit Refugee Service’s mission to accompany, serve, and advocate on behalf of refugees.

This network includes over 25 JRS Action Teams that carry out fundraisers, service work, and events like On The Move, is a joint program between JRS/USA and JRS Canada. On the Move provides resources for communities to host two different types of refugee educational experiences: Walk a Mile in My Shoes and Journey into Exile.

The Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Manhattan, Jesuit High School in Sacramento, and Walsh Jesuit High School in Northeast Ohio, all recently hosted an On the Move event. Several students and teachers offered reflections about how the experience impacted them, what they learned, and how they hope to respond to situations of displacement going forward. Hear from them below.

Anthony Lucarelli is a student at Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx, New York. He and his mother participated in the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s iteration of Journey into Exile. Tevfik Karatop, Project Manager at JRS Canada, traveled to the city to guide participants through the event where each person receives an identification card and is asked to make several decisions refugees are forced to make.

Anthony wrote a reflection-essay published in his parish’s newsletter. In the reflection, he said:

“Within minutes of my arrival, I was no longer a privileged, Upper East Side kid. I had become Mohammad, a 49-year-old refugee from Somalia looking to flee my country as soon as possible. I sat in my assigned camp with eight other simulated refugees, including my mom who had become a 72-year-old widow from Burundi with no education or money. All eight of us campers had different stories, talents, and economic situations. But we all had one common goal. We needed to leave our country as soon as possible!”

It opened my eyes and perspective on my views regarding refugees, the borders, and allowed me to open my heart to the suffering going on so far in the distance of my small bubble community!

Then Tevfik traveled to Northeast Ohio where he facilitated Journey into Exile for staff and faculty at Walsh Jesuit High School during their training day. The activity was a part of their social justice-focused session.

Afterwards, some teachers offered how they felt about the experience. “It opened my eyes and perspective on my views regarding refugees, the borders, and allowed me to open my heart to the suffering going on so far in the distance of my small bubble community!”

Another teacher added, “Tevfik was a great presenter, he involved everyone in the experience and hearing the true stories of others was very impactful.”

Lastly, Jesuit High School in Sacramento, California hosted Walk a Mile in My Shoes, an event in which participants walk from station to station, learning about the different experiences of refugees such as what kind of access they have to water, food, health care, and shelter in different situations of displacement.

“I went through the Walk a Mile in My Shoes event. We played the role of refugees, and I was placed in a family of six people, and we had to visit many stations,” one student, Ryan said.  “I grew more open to growth. I used to feel uneasy about the amount of people let into the country without background checks, but I learned how desperate these people are to protect their children…They are just like any of us, trying to find a place to live and prosper as a family.”

Another student, Jaden, commented: “A few of my friends and I traveled around campus attempting to arrive at each of the locations on our passport for things like food, water, and education. I grew in my capacity to be loving by empathizing with people fleeing their countries and being committed to doing justice by taking the responsibility of being educated and up to date with refugee information and advocating for their rights.”

These two educational experiences offer the opportunity to raise awareness in your community about the plight of refugees in an approachable, heartfelt way. Visit our resource page, On the Move, to learn more about how you can host Journey into Exile or Walk a Mile in My Shoes today.