43rd Anniversary: Growing together with refugee in Bogor
14 November 2023|JRS Asia Pacific
Growing together with Refugees in Bogor.
I began my journey with Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Indonesia in July 2020. The journey is not so long, but it’s remarkable. My name is Ajeng Anggraeni Putri. People often call me Ajeng.
It is my third year working with JRS Indonesia. In July 2020, I began my journey as a Health Assistance Officer based in Bogor, Jawa Barat. To be honest, I was so anxious and afraid in this position. What am I afraid of and anxious about? First, I am new in refugee issues, and second, I do not have any background in medicine. Although I am not quite new to working with NGOs, I still feel anxious and afraid. I do believe that we always find blessings in disguise everywhere. In my very first journey working with refugees in Indonesia, I learned many things. I learned about medical terms. Well, it’s overwhelming. Being a Health Assistance Officer was a huge responsibility. It’s about people’s lives or even life-death. When I got a message or health request, I just could not ignore it. The first thing I did was read the letter from the doctor. Many times, I could not read the doctor’s handwriting. So, I asked another acquaintance doctor to read the letter. After that, I did some research on the illness. Next, I would ask about the current condition of the person who got sick or ill. And last, if JRS could provide the support, we would accompany them to have a doctor’s visit. This whole thing was a new experience for me. I thank my colleagues who helped me adapt and supported me.
In 2022, JRS Indonesia changed its approach to serve the refugee community in Indonesia. Its change also influenced the team rotation, especially in the project area. I got to experience a new thing again: a new role as a Community Empowerment Officer. “What does community empowerment mean?” was my first question when I got this chance. I began another small research and learned what community empowerment is about. In short, it allows me to see another perspective on providing service to the refugee by collaborating with the refugee community.
2020 – 2021 was like a roller coaster for me. In contrast, 2022 brought more positive energy to me. At the beginning of the approach change, I felt pessimistic. However, it turned out I learned about strength by working closely with the refugee community in Bogor. I shifted my perspective on seeing the refugee vulnerability. I did not mean to put aside the vulnerability of the refugee, but in a sense, I also found their strength and capabilities to respond to their own limitation. “Each of us is just like a glass of water. It’s not always fully empty or fully full. It can be only half of it. We bring something within ourselves, and we can fill each other like a glass of water.” This saying becomes my weapon when engaged with the refugee community in Bogor. I believe that refugee also has skill and capability that can help them to decide something on their own.
To preserve love
Working closely with the refugee community means that JRS and the refugee walk side by side: respect, trust, and openness to each other, and that is how I define the JRS accompaniment. We learn to share ideas, inputs, and responsibilities to find or even create an opportunity. JRS and refugees cannot do it alone. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ said, “We are all collaborators in creation.” Each of us can give contributions to each other.
Having experience with JRS Indonesia and the refugee community in Bogor gives me opportunities to learn something I am not familiar with. At the same time, I learned how to have good communication: how to respond to messages in a good way – non-violence communication. It’s not merely how to communicate but also how to listen.
During these 3-years, I learned how to listen. Listening is a powerful skill. By listening, I better understand the refugee lives in Indonesia, the challenges they face, and all their limitations. By listening, I better understood their ideas and plans during their transit in Indonesia. By listening, I feel their strength and hope: their determination and dedication to serve the refugee community here. I’m grateful to know and work with the refugee community in Indonesia. It’s truly a blessing. They teach me to be patient: that there is hope in the midst of despair, that we chase after happiness in the midst of sorrow, that we live our lives and fight with all strength.
How could you contribute to a future of peace?
I always imagine the future of peace is a world full of tolerance and no war. Imagining that idea then, I realised I couldn’t do it by myself. It started with ourselves. The things that I can contribute to a future of peace are to keep being kind regardless of the people’s background and listen more. Trust me, listening will open many windows in front of you.
What are your hopes for the future?
I hope people find a safe place in their home country where they can create and pursue their dreams. I hope people are willing to listen more and open to a discussion where they can respect, trust, and understand each other. And I hope we can live together harmoniously with each other and our natures.