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JRS/USA Executive Director Joan Rosenhauer plays with children at Oinofyta camp in Greece.

Washington, D.C. 3 May 2018 When I met Azra* she was beaming. She had just started a job at a company who saw how special she was; instead of giving her the position at a call center for which she applied, they offered her an elevated position in their business function. She was proud of herself for securing this job. Azra did not have an easy journey to Greece, where she currently lives in the JRS Greece facility. 

Azra came to Greece from Pakistan, where her family, including her husband, found themselves threatened by the Taliban. When her husband and brothers were murdered, like any mother, her first thought was about her daughter. She took four-year-old Aleena* and fled, seeking safety but leaving behind all their positions and support systems. Their journey was long and dangerous. They made it through Turkey and paid smugglers to help them get to a Greek island, and eventually to Athens, where they found themselves sleeping on the streets. 

When Azra met Fr. Maurice Joyeux, SJ, Director of JRS Greece, she had been staying in a one-room apartment with more than a dozen men, had been robbed and assaulted, and was out of options. She had to get herself and Aleena to a safe place, and Fr. Maurice, though there was no formal room left at the JRS Shelter, turned his conference room into an apartment for Azra and Aleena to live in. “He just trusted me” she said of Fr. Maurice, who gave her a home and the safety she had long been seeking. 

As she told me this story, Azra asked Aleena to go play so that she would not hear about what her mother had gone through to make sure she was safe. Even after they had found themselves in a more stable place, Azra was still protecting Aleena from the tragedy they had experienced. 

As a mother of two, I recognize that instinct – an instinct to protect our children from both harm and fear. I would have done the very same thing. When my children were little, I worried when they were sick with ailments like chicken pox or the flu, when they had their feelings hurt by friends, and when they struggled with a challenging lesson in school. I was lucky that we did not have to protect our children from trauma or violence, but my dream is the same as Azra’s - to create a hopeful future for my children. 

With her new job, Azra is now in a position to move out of the JRS shelter and into her own apartment. Grateful for the shelter and safety that JRS provided her, she is looking forward to creating a future with Aleena in Greece. 

This Mothers’ Day consider a gift to JRS to help mothers like Azra, refugees who want to create a hopeful future for their children. 

*Names have been changed to protect privacy

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