Sr. Denise has served the displaced in Cambodia for the past 25 years, being one of the founding members of JRS Cambodia. She serves asylum seekers and refugees who seek protection in Cambodia, including the Montagnard who are not yet registered for the refugee status determination procedure, and stateless Rohigya and ethnic Vietnamese people.
Accompaniment is one of the three pillars of the JRS mission: to accompany, serve and advocate for the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons. To accompany means to be a companion. We are companions of Jesus, so we wish to be companions of those with whom he preferred to be associated, the poor and the outcast.
A Sister of Mercy and a native Australian, Sr. Denise is internationally recognized for her efforts to ban landmines and cluster bombs. She played a key role in the work of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) that led to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, an achievement for which the group shared the Nobel Peace Prize. She sits on the ICBL-Cluster Munition Coalition Governance Board, which advocates for universal acceptance of the treaty, survivor assistance, mine clearance and the monitoring of international law.
Sr. Denise began working for JRS in 1988 in the refugee camps in Thailand near the Cambodian border – one of the most heavily mined areas of the world. Each day she met many people with missing limbs blown off by landmines, an experience that moved and inspired her to become actively involved in the international campaign to outlaw the weapons.
In 1990, JRS and Sr. Denise moved into Cambodia to promote reconciliation and peace in the wake of the brutal Cambodian civil war. An early JRS program was to bring together people with disabilities – many of whom were former soldiers and enemies from the conflict’s four factions who had lost arms, legs and eyes from landmines – for vocational training, and to help them serve as teachers in society.
Based at the Mindol Metta Karuna Reflection Centre in northwest Cambodia, Sr. Denise coordinates programs there helping visitors reflect on the challenges in Cambodia through the eyes of the poor and the lens of interfaith. Outreach activities to improve the quality of life and the protection of rights of people with disabilities in remote areas radiate from the center.
Sr. Denise previously was part of a pioneering Sisters of Mercy group that founded the first high school for girls in Papua New Guinea’s northern region, and also worked in adult faith education in the Brisbane Diocese of Australia.
In 2008 Sr. Denise was awarded the Order of Australia for service to international humanitarian aid.
“I enjoy my work and am pushed by the love of the team and the people we encounter,” Sr. Denise said. “I want the just and loving world God desires for us and I enjoy being part of making it happen.”
JRS supporters and friends are invited to join us for the JRS 35th Anniversary Awards Dinner on Dec. 1, as we commemorate 35 years of service to refugees and the forcibly displaced. The dinner will be held at One West 54th Street in New York.
Tickets and sponsorships can be purchased on our EventBrite page, just click here. To become an underwriter of the event please email or call Pat McDermott at 202-629-5939 or Clare Bonsignore at 202-629-5948.
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA is an international Catholic non-governmental organization whose mission is to accompany, serve and advocate for the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons.
To accompanymeans to be a companion. We are companions of Jesus, so we wish to be companions of those with whom he preferred to be associated, the poor and the outcast. JRS services are made available to refugees and displaced persons regardless of their race, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs. JRS advocatesfor just and generous policies and programs for the benefit of victims of forced displacement, so that those made vulnerable by exile can receive support and protection and durable solution to their plight can be achieved.
JRS/USA witnesses to God’s presence in vulnerable and often forgotten people driven from their homes by conflict, natural disaster, economic injustice, or violation of their human rights.
As one of the ten geographic regions of Jesuit Refugee Service, JRS/USA serves as the major refugee outreach arm of U.S. Jesuits and their institutional ministries, mobilizing their response to refugee situations in the U.S. and abroad. Through our advocacy and fund raising efforts, JRS/USA provides support for the work of JRS throughout the world.
JRS/USA gives help, hope, ear and voice to vulnerable people on the move by being present to and bearing witness to their plight; by relieving their human suffering and restoring hope; by addressing the root causes of their displacement and improving international responses to refugee situations.
In addition, JRS/USA inspires the Ignatian family and others to respond together to the needs of refugees and displaced persons worldwide and forges strong partnerships with like-minded institutions and agencies devoted to the cause of refugees and displaced persons.
JRS works in more than 45 countries worldwide to meet the educational, health, social and other needs of nearly 760,000 refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, more than half of whom are women. JRS services are available to refugees and displaced persons regardless of their race, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs.
In 2014, approximately 142,000 children, young people and adults received primary, secondary, tertiary and vocational education services. JRS places the highest priority on ensuring a better future for refugees by investing heavily in education and training. Further, JRS undertakes advocacy to ensure all displaced children be provided with access to quality education. JRS services are provided to refugees regardless of race, ethnic origin or religious beliefs.
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.