Ezeonu 2By Grace Amarachi Ezeonu, SNDdeN         UN headquarters in New York was a hive of activity as member states gathered for the 53rd Commission on Social Development, February 4 to 13. Participants included representatives from several civil society organizations with consultative status with the UN. Some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) presented side events on chosen social issues. One such event, co-sponsored by the NGO Committee on Migration, chaired by Mary Jo Toll, was titled: “Giving Childhood Back to Children in Refugee Camps.” Panelists at this event were individuals from various areas of psychology, education, mental health, and human rights. They examined the psycho-social impact of the lack of integration of refugee children in camps into the social and cultural life of their host countries, and the implications of this to both young people and host countries in the short and long term.

Syrian Refugees in Jordan

Photo: UNHCR

One of the panelists noted that the current statistics from UN Refugees ( indicate that there are about 15.4 million refugees around the world and almost half of these are children and youth. Life in refugee camps can be socially and psychologically destabilizing for children who often already have had their own share of trauma as a result of the circumstances which caused them to be uprooted from the safety and security of their family and homeland. They explained that many children in refugee camps suffer exposure to violence, loss of home, identity, family, and peers, disruption of schooling, poor physical health, malnutrition, infection, and several other challenges. In many situations, the children’s suffering is also compounded by a feeling of exclusion or alienation from the culture and social life of their host country, since they are often confined to the camp environment.

Mary Jo Toll, right, panel moderator

Mary Jo Toll, right, panel moderator

The above factors put together, they explained, could have adverse psycho-social effect on refugee children in camps. In turn, this may also negatively affect the host county in the long run because the feeling of being socially excluded by some members of a society can act as catalyst for conflict or violence. Consequently, to avoid or at least minimize this adverse psycho-social effect, one of the panelists suggests cultural contact between the refugee children and their host country as an important alternative for long-term camps in integrating refugees into their host society. She warns that failure to do so might lead to increasing social problems, social unrest and instability. Even though she acknowledged that culture can sometimes be divisive, she also believes that it can act as a building block for psychological resilience and buffer against adversity. Therefore, she recommends that in addition to providing educational and economic opportunities there is also a need to actively provide cultural and psychological integration for refugee children, while allowing them the freedom to retain aspects of their cultural identity from their home country.  Read more:


What is at stake is nothing less than the survival
and well-being of a generation of innocents.
António Guterres, High Commissioner of the UN Refugee Agency


Spending time with our Sisters in Brazil helped me to better understand province coordination and collaboration of social outreach in various ministries.

Brazil 1Sr. Silvania was kind enough to spend several days acquainting me with an amazing variety of programs coordinated by the Sisters of Passo Fundo province. Bombeiro Mirim works with at risk young men who spend time outside of school learning values and skills by participating with city firemen. Segments of the education include horticulture, music, woodworking, technology, and social and psychological skills. Project Transform Ação emerged from a commitment to care for the world in which we live; this amazing recycling project includes capacity building of numbers of adults. Transportation to the site, accounting,  human resource management and work conditions are all a part of two large recycling endeavors initiatives which not only help to lessen the need for landfill, but also provide income for good sized staff. Meetings are held weekly in order to base these projects in principles of sustainability and spirituality.Brazil 2

Santa Cruz retreat center hosts a variety of workshops which provide spiritual, psychological, physical, and professional support for religious and lay ministers. One that was in session during my visit was that of care of the elderly. I joined the group as they culminated their workshop with a visit to Casa Betanía. Here the elder Sisters of the Province are participants in creating their own programs as was evident by their vibrant contributions to the day.

Brazil 3I spent a very full day with Sr. Imelda Jacoby, first at the Passo Fundo prison (built for 150 and holding 600) and the prison for adolescents in the area. I quickly became aware that, like Sr. Silvania, Sr. Imelda is highly respected by municipal colleagues, but must walk a very fine line between critique of the system and cooperation with the authorities in order to help the prisoners as much as possible. Work on social education and restorative justice are two of the capacity building approaches in which Sister has educated herself so that she can educate others. I am also very grateful to the Sisters of the Canoas province for their gracious hospitality during my short stay there.


worldreaderThe proposed Sustainable Development Goals include a focus on Education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Providing books, an important facet of this effort, can make all the difference in a community.

Worldreader is on a mission to bring digital books to children and their families so they can improve their lives. This creative organization has programs in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe where the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur are present. Learn about and be part of this program:


Which of these Sustainable Development Goals are you working for?

UN photo

UN photo


  • Dignity: to end poverty and fight inequalities
  • People: to ensure healthy lives, knowledge and the inclusion
    of women and children
  • Prosperity: to grow a strong, inclusive and transformative economy
  • Planet: to protect our ecosystems for all societies and our children
  • Justice: to promote safe and peaceful societies and strong institutions
  • Partnership: to catalyse global solidarity for sustainable development

For more information on the SDGs, read the UN Secretary General’s 2015 Report: The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet

For an interactive description of the SDGs and how they are related to the MDGs:



We need to be poor with the poor and re-appropriate
a kind and tender relationship with Mother Earth.
Then we will know how to act.
Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN

Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN, posthumously honored in 2008 with the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights, would feel right at home today with the UN’s current efforts to formulate Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). All of the goal focus areas of Dignity, People, Prosperity, Planet, Justice, and Partnership capture well the energy and commitment she brought to social and ecological change for which she was killed in the Amazon on February 12, 2005.

Today the pastureland where she died holds a simple community center, a community school, a tree nursery, and a small cocoa factory. More than thirty families now live there, collaborating to simultaneously protect the forest and provide a living for the people, ideals for which she gave her life.

“When Sr. Dorothy died, there were 35 basic Christian communities; today there are more than 85. Now the people are unafraid in confronting loggers, gunmen, ranchers or local authorities who threaten the planet and the lives of their families. They have learned to do so with strategies and organized strength. The people challenge injustices and sustain a profound and irrepressible hope and belief in the future, their future, a future they remember and reverence as Sr. Dorothy’s legacy to them.”
Jane Dwyer, SNDdeN, Seeds Bear Fruit in Brazil:

Artwork: Margaret Hoffman, SNDdeN

Artwork: Margaret Hoffman, SNDdeN


STOP Trafficking in Persons

Highlight from previous issue (2012):

In New York, the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) through their Stop Trafficking in Persons Committee are focusing on world sports events where sponsoring businesses can make a big difference in stopping human trafficking. In particular, task force members wrote letters to the London Olympics Organizing Committee and all Olympic sponsors asking them to take a public stand against human trafficking. Companies can prevent human trafficking by evaluating their supply chains in order to end forced labor, child labor, and unscrupulous recruitment practices.

The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, UN.GIFT, has as its mission to promote a global approach to the problem of trafficking in persons. Trafficking criminal networks are so extensive that they cannot be dismantled by governments alone. Trafficking is an organized crime so it must be fought in an organized way. UN.GIFT makes an effort to involve all stakeholders — business, academia, governments, civil society and the media – in partnerships against trafficking. For further details, or to support UN.GIFT, go to


What you do makes a difference,
and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.
Jane Goodall


milkcow1-kolpingugandaUganda Kolping Society helps people support their families by making loans of cows. Families use some of the milk for themselves and sell the rest, giving them a small but steady income and keeping everyone healthy. Loans are paid back by raising the calves for a year and then passing them to other families. Microfinancing Partners in Africa and Heifer International have similar projects. (choose your language)


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