Vedruna Charism at the service of refugees: a global commitment

In the context of World Refugee Day, we would like to take a global tour, with the help of Sr. Maureen Foltz, of some of the efforts being made to support people displaced by conflict and persecution around the world. With a series of events and solidarity actions, we seek to make refugees visible and assist them, emphasizing accompaniment, education and the defense of their rights.

In the United States, they have a long history of accompanying refugees and immigrants from Central and Latin America. In recent years, they have extended their support to people from various African countries, offering integration services, psychological support and legal assistance. During the civil wars in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, some sisters were in refugee camps supporting health and education projects and monitoring against abuses and violence. Now, after 25 years, they are supporting education and health projects with the descendants of those refugees.

In Ceuta, a key city on the border between Spain and the African continent, the congregation works closely with local organizations to provide humanitarian assistance and legal support to refugees arriving at this gateway to Europe. Temporary shelter, medical care and educational programs are provided for displaced children and adults.

In Taiwan, where 796,700 foreigners resided in 2022 and in Japan approximately 17,406,00. Mainly from Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, specific programs have been developed to support these immigrants. Initiatives include language courses, job skills workshops and counseling services to facilitate their integration into Taiwanese society.

In the Philippines, the Vedrunas focus their efforts on educating young girls about human trafficking as a prevention measure. Through workshops and awareness campaigns, they seek to empower young women to recognize and avoid exploitative situations.

In Algeria, the Vedruna Family works with refugee women displaced by climate change. Floods, drought and scarcity of resources in their home countries have led them to seek refuge in Algeria. Training and support programs are offered to help them rebuild their lives.

In Peru, home to more than one million Venezuelan refugees and migrants, the Vedrunamerica Provincial House, located at the foot of the hills of Lima, works directly with immigrant communities living in precarious conditions. These people have built shacks of cardboard and tin without access to water and electricity, looking for a better life. Here they are provided with essential services, such as potable water and educational programs, to improve their living conditions.

Vedruna presence at the UN

Many of these actions are carried out through UNANIMA International. Today, it is led by the voice of Jean Quinn, who has been crucial in giving visibility to the displaced in international forums. UNANIMA, co-founded in 2001 by the Vedruna Family along with three other congregations, focuses on being a voice for poor women and children, refugees and immigrants, and the well-being of the planet. Jean Quinn has led major initiatives for the eradication of homelessness, getting the UN General Assembly to adopt a common framework to combat it, and is close to achieving the declaration of a world day for its eradication in 2024. You can see more about this last point on the website of the Vedruna Province of Europe.

Three key points highlight the commitment of the Vedruna Charism to refugees and migrants:

  1. Institutional Sensitivity: The founder, Joaquina, was a refugee/immigrant, which imprints a special sensitivity in the congregation towards these people.
  2. Accompaniment on the Road: On all continents, the Vedrunas accompany those fleeing war, famine and violence, softening the brutality of their journey and helping them to maintain their hope and human dignity, in collaboration with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).
  3. Grace in Mission: Sensitivity to mission with God incarnate everywhere is a great grace for the congregation, responding to needs on the margins of the world.

A concrete example of the impact of our actions was shared by Sr. Maureen, it’s Delfina. A young Salvadoran woman who came to the United States as a refugee. With the support of our sisters, she finished her studies, became an accountant and now works with VedrunAmerica, demonstrating the Vedruna spirit of service and deep faith. That service and friendship with our Vedruna Family was a fundamental pillar until, sadly, she passed away of cancer less than three months ago. Her legacy of dedication and spirit of solidarity lives on in the Vedruna community.

For more information about UNANIMA’s work, visit UNANIMA International.