Opening of the Elliot Garden Room

The 30th October was an exciting day for the JRS UK team as a new multi-purpose space, The Elliot Garden Room, was officially opened at the JRS UK Offices in Wapping. This calm and beautiful space, named after Br Bernard Elliot SJ who first started JRS UK in the 1980s, will be used for one-on-one support and therapeutic work for refugees, as well as prayer and reflection groups and creative activities.

The building was opened by Fr Damian Howard SJ, Father Provincial of the Jesuits in Britain, who led a small service to bless the new room.

Drawing on the reading from Ephesians 2:12-22, Fr Damian blessed the building, remarking that it was not simply the building itself that was being blessed but that the blessing was also for the people gathered, the activities, and the community built within the space. The celebration was closed with a performance from the JRS UK Refugee Gospel Choir who led those gathered in the song ‘I am a friend of God’.

The room takes the name of Br Bernard Elliot who was the Jesuit Brother who first founded JRS in the UK after becoming aware of the harsh conditions faced by the Vietnamese community held in detention at Heathrow. By bringing people together, Br Bernard created a team of dedicated supporters who were serving refugees inside detention and those who had been released.

A creative and innovative man, fondly remembered by many staff, volunteers and refugee friends alike, Br Bernard Elliot’s life exemplified deep commitment to accompanying refugees, people seeking asylum, and people in detention that is central to the mission of JRS.

Sarah Teather, Director of JRS UK, said: “It has been a special day for us, rooted in gratitude for the past but filled with hope for the future. We are blessed to be able to provide such a beautiful space for refugees, and it is thanks to those who have donated so generously to our fundraising appeals over the last few years. The room will provide additional space as we expand the activities we run and quiet space for more reflective conversation. We hope that naming the building after Br Bernard will enable his life and example to inspire us long in to the future.”

A frame inside the room bears a quote by Br Bernard Elliot SJ: “When a person feels at home and secure, then their relationships can begin to grow and they begin to put down roots. They begin to enjoy being human. Happiness breaks through, which in turn gives the power to persevere, even when material requirements are at a minimum.”

The Elliot Garden Room will provide a much needed additional space. In addition to providing a calm space for one-to-one conversation, and therapeutic casework, it will also provide another space for activities at JRS, such as the Drama, Choir, Photography workshops and more. Importantly, it will be a space for staff, volunteers and refugee friends to feel at home and welcome: a space for everyone to simply be.

This article was first published on the JRS UK website.