A COMPREHENSIVE SUPPORT FOR ACCOMPANYING NEWCOMERS BY JRS PORTUGAL
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Servico Jesuíta aos Refugiados (JRS – Jesuit Refugee Service) has been operating in Portugal since 1982, offering a large variety of services that extend from legal assistance to social, vocational, medical, and last but not least, psychological support. Through a serious dedication, sincere compassion and profound empathy which drive the work of JRS staff, good results have been achieved.
Claudiá Santos, who is a trainer and a coordinator in charge of instruction activities at JRS Academy, is emphasising the importance of mutual gain that the work with migrants gives to her: “As I am teaching them, they are teaching me things in return – these are life values. These are the values that help us to strengthen our mission when we work with migrants.” She continues: “We just finished a training for 24 migrant women and 20 of them have already found a job. To me this is a sign that our efforts and commitments pay off, and it creates an impact not only for them but also for us. It might be a small boost we are trying to give them, often no more than two-to-three months, but it’s a very important boost”.
The Social Office in JRS operates on several fronts. There are medical services available at the venue, including a possibility to run tests and get medication. There are also legal advisory services which are provided through CLIMB – Local Support Centre for Migrant Integration. CLIMB was born to fill the gap to explain how to obtain legal status and manage relevant paperwork upon arrival to Portugal. Previously, many irregular migrant arrivals could remain in the country for years without documents and a clear understanding how the process works. Today, CLIMB is helping to disseminate this information using a network of 140 centres all over Portugal.
The Employment Office at JRS helps the migrant customers to prepare for their professional life, receive job seeking advice and enter the labour market. The process starts with individual consultations that map the person’s professional capabilities. A lot of factors need to be taken into account. Besides work experience and skills, aspects such as living place, legal status and dependency play an important role to decide if the person is ready for employment.
Carlota Muralha, Employment Office team member at JRS, points out the need to understand the essentials and capabilities of each individual. “We work on empowering each person. We are trying to reinforce his/her skills to make sure they can find employment autonomously”. Claudiá Santos, the Coordinator at RJS Academy adds: “The overall aim is to make the person less dependent on the social security system, and encourage him/her to start contributing to our society. The person should progress from the receiving phase to a giving phase, and help to fill the gaps in our labour market where there are shortages and lack of skilled professionals.”
To accompany access to work, JRS Portugal offers trainings, following a short term methodology, serving as a “push”, to quickly prepare newcomers to the labor market. These DGERT-certified trainings cover three major areas where there is a greater supply of jobs: elder care, child care, and domestic services. As part of their training, JRS also provides Portuguese language and culture courses while guaranteeing and celebrating learning in a multicultural environment.
JRS has an important role in Lisbon to promote social inclusion and help the migrant population to build their life in the city. Carlota Muralha of JPS Employment Office summarises her motivation to work for the organisation: “For me the most gratifying part is to witness the empowerment of people, how they develop their skills and capabilities, and how they gradually recover their dignity to become members of Portuguese society.”
In the framework of the EPIC project, the partners JRS Portugal and the municipality of Amadora, a metropolitan area on the outskirts of Lisbon with a large migrant population (10% of the 178,000 inhabitants), strengthened their cooperation with the common priority of implementing strong, effective and complementary integration services.