Malawi: Pastoral Care, Furthering JRS’s Mission of Accompanying Refugees
19 November 2015

Father David Mashikini SJ, JRS Pastoral Care Worker, in his office at Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi. (Gushwell F. Brooks/Jesuit Refugee Service)
Pastoral Care has proven itself to be essential for the social fabric that keeps the nearly 25 000 people at Dzaleka together as a unified community.

Dzaleka, Dowa District, 17 November 2015 – Jesuit Refugee Service’s (JRS) mission is to Accompany, Serve and Advocate for refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people. In fulfilling this mission at Dzaleka Refugee Camp, JRS has assisted in the establishment and the continued running of education at pre-primary -, primary -, secondary -, and tertiary education level.  JRS has also increased the skills pool and empowered refugees and asylum seekers through Vocational Skills’ Training programmes, assisted marginalised and often discriminated against disabled children through its Respite Care programme and saw to the needs of traumatised and people through psycho-social interventions.

JRS has therefore provided for the physical and mental needs of those that live at Dzaleka Refugee Camp, however, we recognised that another important pillar in many people’s lives is their yearning for spiritual sustenance and this need we cater for through the Pastoral Care programme. 

As a Faith-Based Organisation (FBO), JRS’s ethos is based on a faith-based system of beliefs. It is faith that moves us in fulfilling our mission. However, JRS deeply respects the fact that different people, from different cultures, nationalities, traditions and faiths – or lack of belief in faith – equally require our assistance without favour or prejudice. For those that through their own volition approach JRS to provide them with spiritual sustenance we have setup a programme through Pastoral Care.

Father David Mashikini SJ co-ordinates and caters for this need to feed the spirit. He therefore sees to the continued and regular observance of Catholic Sacraments such as Sunday and other daily Mass celebrations, marriages, baptisms and funerals. In fact he celebrates up to 3 Masses every Sunday, accommodating for the diverse population that constitute Dzaleka Refugee Camp. The different Masses are held in Kiswahili, Chichewa, and English or French.

On a private, person to person basis he also provides individual pastoral counselling and some group counselling activities.  “Caring for a person who is struggling with a difficulty, being present during a time of pain, praying with someone is absolutely necessary.” he says.  Pastoral Care is about ministering to people through a personal touch, which is also just as important. In offering Pastoral Counselling and/or Spiritual Direction to Dzaleka residents who wish to have this, Father Mashikini SJ also refers refugees with symptoms of post-traumatic stress to the psycho-social program, thus strengthening the opportunity for the detection and diagnosis of mental and psychological concerns that may need intervention. 

Pastoral Care also serves the broader community through programmes aimed at groups. He explains: “An ordained Catholic Priest often has had the variety of training to enable him to be uniquely qualified to engage all these different activities.” Father David Mashikini SJ, fulfils that role at Dzaleka. The result of this multifaceted program of Pastoral Care has been to significantly improve the refugees’ experience of reconciliation with the current reality and with each other.  It provides for important growth of individuals and communities that the other activities of JRS cannot. 

As one example, Father Mashikini SJ teaches ethics in the secondary school for 2 school academic terms of 3 months each, and 1 Community Service Learning Track (CSLT) through Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins (JC: HEM) for 15-20 weeks, especially on forgiveness and reconciliation, each year. Youth are particularly focused on and their participation in Pastoral Care programmes is relevant and appealing to their age group.

Youth clubs and activities that focus on social justice, social responsibility and community’s outreach have thus been organized through Pastoral Care.  Through these clubs and activities Pastoral Care gives 12 workshops and 12 seminars for the whole year. Pastoral Care also extends to JRS staff as they are trained in JRS’s mission, vision and values as an FBO that is inclusive to all. This gives staff an opportunity to reflect on their work in the light of these, thus deepening their engagement with their work. 

Pastoral Care ensures that outreach extends to the marginalized in Dazleka through locating, visiting and creating awareness the elderly, the sick and the disabled. Pastoral Care deepens the impact JRS has as an FBO working with displaced people. Through unique programmes such as Pastoral Care we ensure that all needs of people are met. Pastoral Care has proven itself to be essential for the social fabric that keeps the nearly 25 000 people at Dzaleka together as a unified community. 

Press Contact Information
Gushwell F. Brooks
+27 11 618 3404