Vunabosco, PNG, 4 May 2018 -- I am Engr. James Patrick S. Maravilla, a Materials Engineer by profession and I graduated in 2017.
Years before I graduated, my uncle, Fr. Alfred, invited me to PNG. He convinced me to spend some time volunteering after my graduation. I was happy to spend three months in PNG. I would like to shares my thoughts:
Volunteer work and working with the young is nothing new to me. I am a volunteer firefighter back home under the Chamber Volunteer Fire Brigade, and during my De la Salle University days, I also joined different outreach programs initiated by my university, the student government, and even by our student organisation. After graduation, I took up the Basic Occupational Safety and Health Seminar, Medical First Responder course, Hazardous Materials Basic Handling, and Firefighting course.
The 3 months that I spent here in Vunabosco Agro-technical Secondary School, made me realise that working on university based outreach programs is different from working with the young in Papua New Guinea.
As what Andre Gide said, “We do not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore”. Indeed, leaving my comfort zone made me face a lot of challenges, yet I was able to see another aspect of life which will definitely be a part of my life worth remembering. Missing family activities, missing outings with friends, missing a lot of fire calls from our fire brigade and seeing pictures of our family together where I am the only one missing, definitely made me feel like wanting to go home. Mobile phone signal and internet connections are problematic in Vunabosco, and being a person who has been so dependent on the internet, I felt that I could do little without the internet. Being a foreigner I also experienced the language barrier with the people on my first few days since I didn’t know how to speak their language. I spent my 3 months helping in the school particularly assisting the boarders and doing errands for the Salesians. I was able to put into good use my knowledge on occupational safety, health and first aid.
With the Salesian Co-operators, I remember the time when I went with them to Vulavolo for their outreach program. I only knew three co-operators who were also teachers in Vunabosco. I went with them, without even knowing where Vulavolo is or what we are going to do there. I just hopped in knowing that I will be in good company. We animated the kids of Vulavolo and taught them the never-ending chicken dance and helped teach cooking to the mothers. I got to know the Salesian sisters as well and the Salesian Family in Kokopo.
Indeed, this experience in Vunabosco and Kokopo will always have a special place in my heart for a lot of reasons. It was my first international work; it was also my longest time to be away from home. I enjoyed the warm welcome of the people there and the Salesian community. Vunabosco and Kokopo became my home away from home for those three months. The relationship I have developed with the Salesians, students, teachers, Salesian Co-operators and the FMA sisters made my stay in Papua New Guinea truly memorable. Certainly, stories of my stay will be retold after I return to the Philippines, but the experience I had will always be in my heart as important life lessons.
As I return to my reality of practicing my profession as a Materials Engineer and to my passion of fire fighting, I can definitely say that in volunteering to spend 3 months of life to serve others, I have experienced the joy of gratuitous service, gained friends, a second family, a second home in Vunabosco, and above all I have become a better person.