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“Do not put off till tomorrow the good you can do today.

You may not have a tomorrow.”

By Ms Dharlen O. Arnejo, SALVO volunteer office
Cebu-Philippines, FIS

Cebu, Philippines, 5 December 2019 -- I firmly believe that the mission in Phnom Penh was given to me by the Lord because He wants me to strengthen my faith in the Church, in the youth and in myself. I never had any close relationships with a priest or any religious presence before, because I did not have the time and interest to, but I was awakened by how much they have helped me in allowing myself to grow spiritually. Although they had very little time to spend with us because of some important endeavours, they always made sure to make themselves available when they could. All throughout my volunteer experience, Fr. Roel Soto has been a reliable source of spiritual and emotional guidance to me. I have seen how much he tried his best to be with us despite his busy schedule and I appreciate all the times I was able to sit down with him and share my success and frustrations without any rushed judgment. I am also thankful that I was able to be affiliated with the other Salesian priests and spend some time to talk to them and share some meaningful insights.

My experience became more interesting and significant with the presence of my co-volunteers. We had a smooth-sailing and fun relationship because we were newly acquainted with each other. Unfortunately, there were some struggles to understand each other and failure to communicate at some point of the mission. I personally went through a misunderstanding with some volunteers and it has affected me emotionally because I did not want our friendship to be stained just because of a simple miscommunication. Despite everything, I am glad that we are all able to settle some of our differences before we separated. I have learned a lot of things from them, including some unique traditions and practices that I was not aware of before. I have also learned how to understand people, more especially if we came from different countries, because attitudes really vary in every country. They have been a bittersweet lesson for me and without them I would definitely feel that my mission was not completely successful.

I give a lot of my gratitude to the teachers of Don Bosco who I spent my most of my time with while in Don Bosco. They were the reason why I was given the mission in the first place and in return they are also the reason why my experience was as fruitful as it is. We were able to achieve the goals and objectives of the program by working together and doing our best to adjust to each other’s differences. I have learned a lot of essential and significant things from them like valuing our families always and treasuring all the time we can spend with them. Those teachers have been amazing students and despite their age they always do their best to learn the lessons well and do not hesitate to clarify anything.

I also owe a great part of my amazing experience to the Khmer youth especially the boarders at Don Bosco. They taught me a lot of values in life, to being more humble to be happy and contented withwhatever you currently have. Those young people are doing their best to realize all their dreams by putting all their efforts into their study. They also taught me to give importance to friendship despite the distance. These kids have been my best teachers during my experience. I am also thankful that they have expressed how much they have learned from me academically and emotionally. Of course, since I live in the same building where the Besucco boys temporarily reside, I got to spend more time with them. Those boys are very hardworking and dedicated to their studies despite all the hindrances they face. They taught me to always be cheerful whatever problems I deal with in my life. Their innocence, especially the younger ones, has touched my heart in so many ways. They are really eager to learn a lot of things because they want to be successful and help their parents in the future. For me their presence has helped me a lot in enduring my mission.

The presence of the Salesian priests and brothers of Don Bosco in Phnom Penh has been very significant for my volunteer experience. Bro. Nary and Bro. Anthony were very helpful to me when I needed something for my works. Although we did not have so much time to interact and talk with each other, I have seen how much they love the kids they are taking care of and how much they value their vocation. I pray that they will always be guided in their profession and that God will always put them on the right path.

As a common proverb says, “There is always a rainbow after the rain.” I believe that the struggles during my experience have been this beautiful rain because it all came unexpectedly and it soaked me with all the learning and realizations such as not everyone can understand the situation and everyone has their own understanding and interpretations of things. I personally think that those challenges were a blessing for us so we can fully understand ourselves and learn to be more patient and understanding to others.

My experience has taught me so many wonderful things that I will forever keep with me. One of the most important things I learned is that we should always value the time we have with the people we get to be with because not everyone has the opportunity like us. The time I was able to spend with the teachers, students, staff and the Salesians of Don Bosco has made me a better person and made me learn a lot of important things that I can use in the future.

I look forward to how my experience will affect me in my future endeavours. I trust that I will be able to do my best with the help of all the learning I had during the program and the things I will be learning after it.



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