Joy and Hope School of Don Bosco
By Fr Raphael Lee Hae Dong, SDB
KOR Mission Office
Gwangju, Korea, 27 November 2018 --The ‘WeeSchool’, established by the Gwangju City Education Department as the ‘Joy and Hope School of Don Bosco’ (Don Bosco School principal is Mr Cha Hyunho, with 80 students and 20 teachers) have organised a three day ‘National pilgrimage’ from Kangjin (Wolchulsan - Cholla South province) to Gwangju (Gwanjingu) from 24--26 November, 2018. The pilgrimage, all on foot, was prepared for by two weeks of training, the distance being about 100 km.
Don Bosco School has already established a tradition of 100 km pilgrimages as part of the ‘alternative school’ program in the second semester each year. Students and teachers walk together, building a community sense, fostering closer touch with the beautiful nature of their home province. Each participant has the chance to overcome his limits on the journey and help others with a deep sense of solidarity. He also grows in patience, endurance and nourishes a deep sense of satisfaction.
However, the Don Bosco school pilgrimage program also has another goal: to grow in solidarity with other young people (students) in developing countries who are living in precarious life situations like the trainees in Don Bosco professional training centres (TVET). Don Bosco School students have asked ‘their sponsors’ to donate 100 Korean Won per 1 km walked, that means about 10,000 Won for the whole distance of 100 km (about 10 USD). The parents, friends, relatives of our students as well the Salesian Coooperators have gladly contributed to this goal of the pilgrimage.
Over the past eight years the ‘Don Bosco WeeSchool’ students have already helped the following destinations: South Sudan (Tonj) in 2010, Cambodia (Poipet) in 2011, Papua New Guinea (Children's scholarships) 2012, Cambodia (Poipet) in 2013, PNG (Araimiri) in 2014-2016 and Cambodia (Poipet) in 2017. This year they collected about 6000 USD (6,594,000 Won) for Myanmar (Myitkyina VTC in Kachin State).
Before they left for the pilgrimage, the principal, Mr Cha Hyunho, encouraged the students: “Enjoy the beauty of nature, created by God, your friend, and while walking think about your future life journey. I would like you to make this walk a precious opportunity for reflection! Discover your own image and dream about your future life project! Dear young people, you are our future! And I’m also very grateful to all your fans and well-wishers! Please, walk with a grateful heart, courage and energy and come back well!”
Three days after this initial motivation all of the school students and their teachers returned to school with an experience of friendship, relishing this special time during their school life and the joy of having helped other students abroad, in Myanmar. This way the Gwangju ‘WeeSchool’ bearing Don Bosco's name, cares for students with difficulties, helping them to adjust to the ordinary school curriculum. Since its foundation in 2010, the school continues through education, counselling and a variety of experiences, to offer an integral alternative education through this peculiar pilgrimage experience.
NB: Myitkyina Don Bosco Vocation Training Centre (MYM) is also the suggested project in the context of the 2018 Salesian Mission Day's 'Whispering the Gospel in Asia'