Portrait of the month: Rocky Robenson, a Jesuit at the service of refugees.
22 September 2023
How long have you been in Canada?
I arrived in Canada almost a year ago. Like many refugees and immigrants, I myself experienced the first winter and the time spent far from my home and native land.
How do you see your role within the JRS ?
At the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), I understand that the dimension of welcome must not be just a theoretical formality of propriety. Rather, it’s an act of love that transcends human reality. A very significant dimension that finds its true source in Jesus, who never ceases to invite us to practice love and welcome others. That’s why at SJR we help everyone, without discrimination. We respect everyone’s inalienable dignity, because every person is created in the image of God.
What services do you offer refugees?
When refugees arrive in Canada, we send a delegation from our team, accompanied by the co-sponsor (family member of a refugee already in Canada), to the airport to welcome them. We then make home visits to continue supporting them in their settlement and integration process. After each visit, a report is drawn up to guide the preparation of the settlement report required by the MIFI (Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration).
What’s the feeling you get from these visits?
Home visits are convivial moments of sharing and listening. Our conversations are always very enriching. Refugees tell us about their past experiences, but also about the dreams they have for their new life in Canada.
What do you take away from your exchanges with refugees?
This experience has given me a much broader view of other peoples, but above all it has opened me up to a remarkable human perspective. In the various exchanges I’ve had with refugee families, there’s always this notion of “hope” that comes up. These are people who have had their ups and downs, but at no time do they show signs of despair. Even at the worst moment in their history, they still have the will to move forward.
I’m one of those who firmly believe that a simple gesture, performed with LOVE, can bring a source of joy into the lives of many people, especially those who have had to go through extremely difficult realities, as is the case with refugees and all other forcibly displaced people. At SJR, we want to invest more in this accompaniment so that these people can continue to hope and succeed in realizing their life projects for themselves and their loved ones.