40th Anniversary: My team – my strength.

02 December 2020|Qoni Khoiriyah (Onik), Finance officer JRS Psychosocial Support Project, JRS Indonesia (Bogor)

I joined JRS for the first time in May 2008 when JRS was looking for a finance officer for a disaster risk reduction project in Southern Aceh. I was told about the vacancy by a friend who have already joined JRS. I was actually curious when I looked at this friend who seemed to enjoy and really full of spirit when they worked with JRS.

In my first month at JRS, I experienced many new things just from how JRS, as an organization takes, cares of its staff. I remember when I received a phone call from Lino (the HR admin), who was based in Yogyakarta. At that time, he asked me questions “How do you feel? and “Do you feel at home in Aceh and working for JRS?” and “Do you have any difficulties?”. I answered his questions, and he told me at the end of the call not to hesitate to let him know if there’s anything I would like to share.

After the call, I was puzzled because I thought Lino called me to ask about work. When I told my friends, who has worked for JRS before me, they said that the phone call is the cura personalis approach, commonly used by JRS Country Office team for their project staff. I felt amazed that there is actually an organization that does it for their staff. I also felt being taken care of and remembered that I existed.

In 2012, I got another chance to accompany IDPs in Ambon, Maluku. I was thrilled to have another opportunity to learn with JRS and the IDPs who were living in the shelter. These IDPs were also the survivors of the 1999 conflict taken place in Ambon. They had lived in the shelter for about 10 years at that time. The shelter was an old factory not far from Ambon, the city.

In 2013, my journey with JRS moved to Bogor where the context and dynamic was completely different from the previous one. I think, one of the special characteristics of JRS is its approach in building equal relations with people we serve (PWS) by being friend. Home visit was always filled with friendly greetings, laughters over conversations, and sharing moments that helped us to know and learn from each other. I feel the warmth of being a friend with PWS especially when they said “I always moment like this. Your presence now in my house reminds me of a visit made by my families in my country. In Indonesia, we are far from our own family and relative. So, thank you very much for visiting my house, asking how I am doing these days and talk with us”.

Yet, I also realized the hard part of working with JRS at Bogor. One of the most difficult and challenging parts is when I had to do home visits to tell PWS that JRS could not help them with financial support or healthcare services. I had to tell them out of respect and awareness that they deserved to hear this directly from a JRS staff. I knew it put me on difficult situations because PWS could ask questions why JRS decided not to help them. I often received difficult questions that I could not answer too. But I think, even though, I came to see PWS with bad news, the home visit still shows that JRS cares about them just like a friend, although we cannot always help them.

During my first three months with JRS at Bogor, I was so stressed. I experienced insomnia, headache, and stiffness in my shoulder. I felt the pain and was aware of what’s happening. Fortunately, my team at that time supported me so I felt comfortable to share my feelings. Living together with other JRS staff also gave me the chance to learn from their experiences. When they shared their stories about their accompaniment for PWS, it often inspired me, and it felt like I was also part of their experiences. Their stories gave me strength and also the needed motivation to myself. Even after the weekly meetings and office hours, each JRS team member also openly shares how they would release their stress. Sometimes, we spent together by having picnics, going to a salon for a massage and facials, watching movies at a theater or at the office, and also just spending ‘me time’ in our own rooms.

For some people, those memories might seem too simple. But I feel there are so many things I learned from those experiences. I learned how to build trust slowly from a simple honest and genuine greetings during the home visit. I didn’t feel like I was alone during difficult times because I know I had a wonderful team who will always support me and be the source of my strength. I also felt accepted even in a new place. I think this is all because of the gestures I received from all JRS staff back then was the warmth and openness to listen, to share, to remember, and to care.

A few nights ago, I was on a call with my husband. I told him this uneasy feeling that I have. I told him “If I have to put it on a graph, I think I’m at the lowest point now.”. My husband tried to motivate me by saying “I know how much you love JRS. Maybe, you can imagine your relationship with JRS is like our marriage. You accept me as a whole package of my weaknesses and strengths and vice versa. So, when you are feeling like something is wrong or you feel discomfort toward JRS, remember that it’s actually a part of JRS that you have loved the whole time, but you just realized it now because you have just seen the good ones only.”

It’s quite a while that I have spent with JRS. Other than being grateful for the privilege of working here, there is a growing concern inside of me. This concern probably is rooting from my inability to look deep into my own self at the moment. Sometimes, I am worried that the feeling of knowing JRS and understand it well could make myself less creative in serving refugees. I am worried that the feeling would disables me from looking more objectively to know what can be done for PWS in the changing world.  I cannot explain clearly what kind of change, but I feel things are no longer the same to when I first joined JRS. Meanwhile, JRS continues to do its work to serve human, where everyone is different and has their own needs, so every single person is a unique individual that cannot be treated the same.

Thank you for allowing me to use this space as a learning process on how to respect, to support, to care, and to listen, so that I can be a better person and do my work more passionately.