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Finding purpose by serving refugees
April 17, 2012

Finding purpose by serving refugees
“I believe so much in the Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins program,” Giner said. “Being able to meet with people to transmit the passion that all of us have has been great.” (Rhonda Sheya — Regis University)
"My father just told me that when I was four apparently on the playground I was just getting everyone to come with me, I don't know maybe it’s just a personality trait," she said. "I don’t know what led to that. When I do things I want to do them well. That might make people think that I’m passionate."

(Denver) April 17, 2012 — Ever since she was a child growing up in her native France, Clotilde Giner knew she had an interest in migration and refugee issues, while always looking for opportunities to advocate and to make a difference.                 

As an 18-year-old she began the pursuit of higher education that would give her the necessary academic tools to achieve her goals — earning a dual bachelor’s degree (in French and German) in political science and European studies, a master’s in forced migration at the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University. A couple of years ago she earned a doctorate from the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at Warwick University. While studying she also completed internships at the International Organization for Migration in Budapest, and Network-Migration in Europe and Humboldt University in Berlin.

The now 28-year-old Giner is in the midst of achieving what has no doubt become her purpose, albeit now on the international stage.

For the past 14 months the petite — she proudly admits to standing 4 feet, 11 inches tall — powerhouse of intelligence, enthusiasm and personality has successfully served in a challenging role as Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins (JC:HEM) site coordinator at the Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi. 

As site coordinator, Giner oversees a staff of 14, handling logistical issues and providing support for teaching teams, while striving to bring Jesuit higher education and a better life to a camp with 16,000 refugees. It's a role she relishes because it gives her that direct opportunity to combine her interest in migration and refugee issues, education and unquenchable desire to make this world a better place.

"The job description fits me perfectly," Giner said. "I give a lot for things I believe in. Migration and refugee issues are something I'm always been keen to work on and therefore any opportunity I have to advocate to defend their view or give my own views I do."

From March 4-8, 2012, Giner joined 120 Jesuit Catholic education leaders and innovators, and Jesuit Refugee Service staff members from around the globe to participate in the first international Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins 'Think Tank,' designed to envision and chart the future of a program that for the past two years has been providing online education to refugees in Kenya, Malawi, and Syria. 

JC:HEM is an initiative of the Society of Jesus that brings Jesuit higher education to those at the margins of society. JC:HEM work with Jesuit Refugee Service has enabled more than 300 refugees to study courses online and on-site in partnership with a global network of Jesuit universities. Those refugees can earn a diploma in liberal studies and pursue community service learning tracks for a certificate of completion that benefit daily life in the camps.

Giner was right in the middle of the ongoing dialogues, discussions, debates and presentations conducted during the JC:HEM think tank. In addition, Giner and fellow site coordinators Luis Amaral, S.J. of JRS Eastern Africa and Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, and Anne Ziegler, from JRS Middle East in Aleppo, Syria, provided updates on their respective refugee camps.

Giner is proud of the accomplishments she orchestrated during her watch as JC:HEM site coordinator in Dzaleka Refugee Camp. She noted three areas that she was most proud of included increasing participation of women in the diploma education process, setting up a volunteer system, and establishing a community garden.

"That's the great thing about JC:HEM, we have a lot of freedom to set up projects as we envision them," Giner said.

At the Dzaleka Refugee Camp the first two diploma cohorts have attracted 54 students, while 92 have attended the CSLT certificate offerings. Diploma courses offered to date include: From Cohort 2 — Bridge to Learning, English Composition and Interpersonal Communication; and from Cohort 1 —Bridge to Learning, Adult Learning, Interpersonal Communication, Persons and Conduct, Global Business, Logic and Knowledge and Intercultural Communication. Certificates offered include Community Health, Special Needs, Community Counseling, Business and Entrepreneurship, ESL Train the Trainer and Community Development.

Giner, whose husband Liam is an economist for the Malawi government, says she loves to teach and use to teach JC:HEM students in the camp, but adds that she "has much less time to teach now."

Before becoming the site coordinator at Dzaleka, Giner worked as a monitoring and evaluation consultant in Malawi. She’s also worked as a part-time lecturer for bachelor students in Early Childhood Studies at Warwick University, been a co-editor and writer of a book on newly arrived refugee children and young people in France and Europe, and an assistant to the French edition of the Forced Migration Review at the Refugee Studies Center at Oxford University.

Giner laughs when discussing why people believe she is so passionate about issues relating to migration and refugees, and where that passion originated.

"My father just told me that when I was four apparently on the playground I was just getting everyone to come with me, I don't know maybe it’s just a personality trait," she said. "I don’t know what led to that. When I do things I want to do them well. That might make people think that I’m passionate."

In addition to charting the future of JC:HEM and focusing on current JC:HEM education programs in Kenya, Malawi and Syria, attending the JC:HEM Think Tank offered attendees development and problem-solving discussions on topics such as curriculum, Ignatian pedagogy, human and fiscal resources, organizational structures, and technology. 

Giner says she was expecting that the think tank would provide an opportunity to "show what we are doing on the ground and the impact we're having." And although that opportunity only occurred partly, she strongly supports JC:HEM, gained knowledge and insight from the direct interaction with attendees and had a wonderful and productive experience.

"I believe so much in the JC:HEM program,” Giner said. "Being able to meet with people to transmit the passion that all of us have has been great." 

By Donnie Veasey

Regis University


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