India at the heart

Jesuit Volunteers remain Jesuit Volunteers, even after their assignment: With creativity and commitment, the returnees Hannah and Samira support projects worldwide: “their” school for marginalized children in South India and relief actions for children who fled to Europe.

Once JV – always JV? Even if our returnees are back in their home country after “living differently for a year” and everyday life catches up with them, most of them still carry the people at their places of work firmly in their hearts.

Early farewell because of Corona

Our JVs from last year only had half a year left in the projects before the Corona pandemic put a damper on their plans: “When I had to go back in March after only eight months, I was at home a lot and was looking for ways to get involved with India,” reports Hannah. She was a JV at the Loyola Higher Secondary School in Kuppayanallur, South India. There, children of the “Dalits” – “untouchables” in the Indian caste system – learn and find a way out of the vicious circle of poverty and oppression through education.

Art for Kuppayanallur

Jesuit volunteer Hannah after her return home, in front of one of her print motifs. Photo: Jesuitenweltweit

After the Corona lockdown, Hannah, who is now studying in Vienna, went to Würzburg, where Samira lives, Hannah’s predecessor in Kuppayanallur. “At her house I came across a poster by an Indian artist that inspired me a lot,” she says. Soon the idea was born to produce and sell posters – the motif of the Indian as well as her own designs – and to donate the proceeds to the project. Hannah: “I always liked to draw and soon found a workshop to make screen prints.” Meanwhile she has already sold 30 of the high-quality posters – for a total of over 1,000 Euros! “I would like to use the money to finance scholarships for students in India,” she explains. Sending a child to school costs between 45 and 70 euros per month, depending on the grade level.

15,000 notebooks for refugee children

Her friend Samira and Janik, who went to Peru as a JV in 2017, also remain close to those who are disadvantaged because of their origins. Both are involved in the NGO “Hermine” in their place of study, Würzburg. Hermine fights for the basic rights of refugees in Europe, such as the right to protection and the right to be provided with the most basic necessities. Samira, who is now responsible for the logistics of Hermine, knew about her connection to Jesuits all over the world and the “Mercy in Motion” campaign. Schoolchildren from the global South had designed the envelopes of exercise books in 2016 to create 100,000 school and training places for refugees in facilities of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) worldwide. Together with the JRS and other partners, we have succeeded in doing so. This left us with about 15,000 exercise books.

Samira with exercise books designed by children from the Global South. Photo: Jesuitenweltweit

Thanks to Hermine, they are now being sent to refugee camps in Southern Europe, bringing a bit of normality to refugee children and helping them to exercise their basic right to education. For Samira and her comrades-in-arms, however, this means first of all: a lot of work in a drafty warehouse at Würzburg’s main train station: sorting, packing, shipping.

Why do they do this? “It is about humanity, commitment and cohesion”, says Samira: the values of her voluntary service as Jesuit Volunteer.

 

The original article in German was originally published on the Jesuitenweltweit website.

Banner photo: Jesuit volunteer Hannah at her place of work in Kuppayanallur, South India. Credit: Jesuitenweltweit.