JRS and its works with the vulnerable

Sunday, 30 December 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Indonesia is part of the Rome-based JRS International founded by Fr. Pedro Aruppe SJ in 1980 which has networks in 50 countries. JRS Indonesia started its activity assisting refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia in Galang Island in the late 1980s but concluded the mission after the government of Indonesia closed the island. In 1998, JRS Indonesia was reinitiated in West Timor following conflict in the neighbouring East Timor province (now independent Timor Leste) and soon worked in Ambon to deliver medical aids and service for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). In 2004 the West Timor project was concluded and now JRS works in two regions: Moluccas (post Muslim-Christian conflicts) and Sumatra including Aceh (post tsunami), to work with the refugees and take care of their lives.

Website of Jesuit Refugee Service Indonesia
http://www.jrs.or.id (viewed 20/03/2007)

In addition to the refugee-related issues and concerns, JRS Indonesia is also actively involved in the “Ban Landmine” campaign to pressure the government of Indonesia to ratify the Mine Ban Treaty. As result of this campaign, Indonesia, which signed the treaty in 1997, finally ratified it on 7 December 2006 marked by the Indonesian parliament signing the draft law (bill) on the Ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty which was then signed by the President.

Started with only 40 staff and volunteer altogether in West Timor and Moluccas projects, the number has now more than quadrupled to some 176 permanent staff and around 140 volunteers working in different localities across the country and a headquarter in Yogyakarta. The annual turnover soared too: from IDR100-300M (USD12.5-37.5K) to IDR100B (USD12.5M). Running an organisation of such scale and working on such issues covering the areas from the east to the west part of the archipelago, using Internet has been a strategic, deliberate course of action for JRS Indonesia.

The main reason for JRS Indonesia to adopt the Internet was actually very simple: to save the communication cost because it was (and is) very expensive to maintain communication to manage projects of such big scale over the conventional phone line (be it landline, mobile or let alone satellite phone). That is why email was the first to be adopted and it was proven to dramatically save the communication cost. As the use of email intensified and spread across the organisation and projects, JRS Indonesia gradually realised that it could also be used for other purposes, not only as a means of communication.

Working in different locations thousands kilometres away apart from one each other and from the headquarters, with some customisation and in the way it is used, email has somehow shifted from a mere communication instrument into a management tool, including a medium for various important, and sometimes classified, decision making in the organisation. Preparing proposals, or planning and monitoring the execution of projects are often done collaboratively by means of email, as well as most of the communication including discussion and even project reports.

However, in JRS Indonesia, email is also used as a medium to strengthen commitment of staff and volunteers and to increase the organisation’s cohesiveness. Not only are regular ‘happy birthday’ emails sent by the headquarter to all staff and volunteers, but stories, real experiences of the staff and volunteers when they serve the refugees in the field, and even reflections are also exchanged using emails. With this kind of use, staff and volunteers are helped to “realise that they do not only work for the sake of work itself, but that they live a value when serving and accompanying the refugees and that they feel ‘humanised’ in their relation with other staff and volunteers” (Kristanto, interview, 15/11/2005).

Source: Observation and in-depth interview with Kristanto (15/11/2005)
(PhD Thesis, Nugroho, 2007:208 – Box 6.3.)

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