Thursday, 22 September 2011

A Salesian window on the world

Last weekend we attended our second Salesian training weekend. When we attended the first, back at the beginning of June, what I knew about the Salesians was somewhat limited, but both then and this time around I have felt a real connection with the Salesian way of living faith and education, two things very close to my heart, as they are close to the heart of the Salesian vocation.

As humans we are made for communtiy, we are designed to exist in relationships which allow us to feel safe, to have a home and to have a sense of belonging. It is perhaps our very first need and vocation. Learning is important, but after several years in systems where knowledge and skills can seem to be the only thing that counts, I am pleased the Salesians recognise this as only one of the facets of education. Beyond what they can  do or achieve, the Salesians also aim to give the young people they work with a sense of faith, a recognition of a deeper meaning in their lives. It can be easy to become too serious about all this and I am equally pleased that a sense of fun, the chance to play, and they joy of celebrating are also valued.

Together, these four aspects make up the Salesian window, and this window through which the Salesians view the way in which they work with children and young people is a window through which I am very pleased to be invited to look too.

Alongside the introduction to the Salesian charism, there has been plenty to think about in terms of the value of volunteering, and living in and sharing the many faceted story of the experience of life in a very different culture to our own.

So that's the theory (at least as I have understood it) ... and less than a fortnight until we experience what it translates to on the ground!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Getting ready ...

With fingers firmly crossed that the visa is back on time, and an arm full of rabies vaccine, now seems like a good time to reflect on the preparations for our Philippine adventure.

Although our departure is only just over 3 weeks away, and much of our time, in between catching up with lots of family and friends, is taken up with organising all the practicalities of our trip, in some ways it is still feeling quite distant and unreal. Certainly, the fact that we are going to be spending nine months with a completely new set of people we have yet to meet, in a culture very different to our own, seeing and doing things which may take us well outside of our comfort zone has not fully sunk in. Maybe it won't until we touch down in Cebu on 5th October. Maybe it won't until we're back here next June. Maybe it won't, ever.

One of the real positives as we prepare has been to hear others who have spent time in the Philippines speak of their time their with great love and enthusiasm. It is strange how, since knowing our destination, we seem to have come into contact with several people who have also spent time there. Or maybe it isn't so strange, maybe its just that our own forthcoming experience has opened our awareness to the experiences of others. Either way, it is certainly true to say that the overwhelming feedback, whilst not denying a good few potential frustrations and different cultural norms which may take some getting accustomed to, is very positive. I hope that in a years time, I too will be able to say, yes, all things being equal, and if there weren't also so many other exciting things to do in life, I'd go back tomorrow!