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What Filipinos are learning in Cambodia

By SALVO former volunteer – Josteno Hernan

Cebu, Philippines, 26 November 2019 -- Another SALVO Volunteer offers thoughts on his experience.

How was your volunteer experience in Cambodia?

I had a chance to render my volunteer service to the Khmer people from 14 February until 21 August 2018 at Don Bosco Technical School, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The experience was indeed a remarkable one; not just a give and take experience but also a self-formative journey. It is interesting to know how the Salesians work in countries like Cambodia with only a small percentage of Catholics. It is fascinating to know the methodologies used by the Salesians to form and share the charism of Don Bosco with the people. Other volunteers had shared with me that offering my time and help to other people is very little compared to the things that I will be receiving in return. Indeed, I can say that those sentiments are true.

What did you learn in Cambodia?

First, the Salesian Preventive system, culture, personal growth and spiritual journey. One of my objectives in volunteering in Cambodia was to know how the Salesians work in the midst of a larger number of non-Catholics and how they integrate the charism of Don Bosco with the culture, beliefs and practices of the people. I have learned that the Salesians work as an NGO supporting and forming a lot of people to uplift their way of living. It is good to know that they work in spreading and sharing the love of God through their actions and service to the young. They serve the young by educating them how to dream and become good and upright citizens in their own country. They use the principles of natural law and find connections to their beliefs and afterwards integrate this into their day to day living which has the same goal of becoming a good person. The Salesian charism is strongly observable and present. The Salesians are working with and for the young.

Surprisingly, the culture of the people with regards to authority is extremely strong. The people have great respect for people involved in religion. The children are not only showing great respect to their parents but also the parents show reverence to the people whom they consider holy like the monks and the priests. And the students treat their teachers with respect and kindness. Gentleness is for me the greatest challenge to possess always when interacting with them. Everybody may seem not capable of understanding and relating with other people. But I can say that they had tried their best to make me feel comfortable and welcome through their simple smiles and timidity. They are sensitive enough to feel what I am feeling and anticipate my actions. Thus, I learn how to be cautions in all my actions.

What change has this missionary volunteer experience made to your life?

The six month missionary volunteering has changed me for the better. It enlightened me to start, stop, continue and change some of my actions and perspectives in life. It enlightens me to start appreciating the care and concerns of others. It convinced me to start believing in myself and make more new friends. And it taught me to continue seeing the goodness, greatness and talents of others. Also the experience taught me how to smile despite the sadness that is reigning in my heart, being optimistic despite the negativities around me, be productive with my time, be patient in all adversities and conflicts, be sensitive to the feelings of others, show concern and love to others and learn how to enjoy. It made me realize that I should stop being a pessimist and judgmental. And lastly it taught me to change for the better.

What wisdom do you bring back to your personal life in the Philippines?

Lastly, the whole missionary volunteering experience was productive and very formative because of His power. During stormy days and crooked roads the only one who sustained and gave me strength to stand and fight back is Jesus. Participating in the Mass, praying the Rosary and offering all my actions to Him every day have helped me to become closer and more intimate with Him. It truly illuminates my spirit to live and love.




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