Interview with outgoing JRS Communications Officer John Mezsia
10 July 2015

John Mezsia completes two years as JRS Communications Officer for South Asia (Antony Arulraj/ Jesuit Refugee Service)
Education ensures that refugees do not see themselves as victims of their circumstances, but rather as people who can re-write their own life story.
India, 10 July 2015 - John Mezsia has just completed two years of accompaniment as JRS Communications Officer for South Asia. Here, he shares his experiences and lessons learned. 

How would you describe your experience of accompaniment at Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS)?  

JRS has been a place where I learned to empathize with the situation of refugees and to share their agony and joy. Being their eyes and ears brought a deeper understanding of their challenges, hopes and aspirations. JRS also gave me several opportunities to grow as I got a chance to initiate activities in the field in collaboration with our teams. 

What has been the key learning from your experiences? 

Firstly, I am grateful for the interactions I had with refugees, with those who are war-affected and with IDPs, because I learned a lot from them — especially when it comes to hope. Hope assures that being forced to live far away from your home, in the poorest of conditions, need not break you. For me, the Chin refugees who made the long journey from Chin province in Myanmar, through Mizoram in northeast India, and onto New Delhi personify this hope. Their unrelenting pursuit for education, jobs and resettlement showed me that you can still stand tall and strong, believing in a better future for yourself and for your children. Hope generates resilience. 

Secondly, my experiences have reaffirmed my belief in the value of education. Education ensures that refugees do not see themselves as victims of their circumstances, but rather as people who can re-write their own life story. Building the refugees’ abilities and confidence rather than just giving them handouts, helps them lead dignified lives in the future. 

In what way do you feel you have contributed to helping refugees? 

Something that resonated with me is the holistic approach of JRS, namely, the establishment of a personal relationship with refugees and the commitment to walk with them in their life struggles – what we in JRS call “accompaniment”. This is something we also try to do with one another – fellow staff members. I became a companion to those with whom I interacted on a daily basis. An incident that deeply moved me was when a child thanked us during a summer camp we organized for Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu. He thanked us for providing him a safe and supportive environment to share his personal problems, something he had never been able to do before. 

Are there any best practices from JRS’ activities which you will incorporate into your future endeavors? 

The freedom to learn and to explore new horizons, while knowing the risk of failure, is one of the invaluable gifts that JRS has given to me. The continuous encouragement from regional and global staff has made me believe that there are no limits to one’s potential, and reminded me that freedom must go hand in hand with a sense of responsibility. This is a lesson I would like to integrate into my Jesuit life, in my personal life and in mentoring youth. With this as my driving force, I hope to grow in the areas of leadership as well as to advocate for the rights of the less privileged in our world.

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