After so many life-changing, inspiring and challenging experiences from all over the world, it seemed a shame to let that all slip by as we fell inevitably back into the rush and busyness of life. A ‘returned volunteers weekend’ was therefore arranged for us to revisit those experiences, to share them and to hear those of others. This weekend was filled with stories, reflections, memories which gradually became a platform for us to become re-engaged with the passion and excitement of working towards change in our world and justice for those with whom we had spent time with on the various projects. One volunteer commented that “I came away from the weekend with a new lease of energy and inspiration for justice and peace work” and this is exactly the point of such a weekend. The idea is that this isn’t a one off occasion but will become an ongoing opportunity for idea sharing and a time for reinvigoration!
As always, it wasn’t just all work and no play. The weekend kicked off with an evening of welcoming and games that enabled those present to get to know one another BOVA-styley!
On Saturday, a session on Salesian spirituality by Fr Martin enabled a time of reflection. Our visitor for the weekend, Dan from Progressio, facilitated a space for us to start to recollect our experiences; to work out how we felt before and after – was it what we expected, was our time there long enough, how challenged were we by our experience? We then shared stories of our trip, each story personal to the teller but many surprisingly similar: “I thought it was wonderful to listen to the stories that the other volunteers had brought back. The differences between the numerous projects were interesting, but what was amazing were the similarities we discovered were commonly shared between our various experiences.” This collective sense that what we were experiencing across the world and in so many different projects is not so different after all, gives us a hope that what we face isn’t so great a hurdle to overcome but the same aim is being achieved in so many different places.
However, the main aim of the weekend was to look at ways in which we could pool our ideas, resources, skills and time to come up with a way in which we could push forward the energy, excitement and hope that was kindled over the course of the weekend.
There was the idea to hold a competition for photos for a calendar and Christmas cards that would advertise the work of BOVA and raise awareness of the Salesians’ work around the world.
It was suggested that there is a need for more Dev Ed training and so Bravo/Encore was proposed as a way in which a weekend could be dedicated to exploring and discussing and learning more about the issues and injustices that affect the communities with whom we stay.
With an aim to better prepare prospective volunteers, ‘mini communities’ could be started which would be a point of contact for anyone with questions about a possible placement or about fundraising initiatives or about resources that are available to use.
Other ideas were about reaching out to other groups of people, for example retired volunteers, or working with disabled children.
It was suggested that collated articles and messages home could form a book which could then be a resource used to advertise BOVA and the work that it achieves, giving a very real insight into a volunteer placement.
It was noted that there are bodies of people where there is a need for a presence of volunteers to tell their stories and encourage more people to get involved with the work of BOVA. These groups are our local communities, our schools and our parishes as well as the proposal for holding an action day which can be accessed by many different people that will be a way for them to have an insight into the injustices that we have seen and to look at ways in which these injustices can be overcome.
A group will look at ways to tell the stories of young people gathered from host communities.
These are very exciting opportunities for us to become continually involved and fired up for making a difference so if any of the ongoing projects inspired you, don’t let the chance to be involved pass!
“I was inspired by the amount of energy and passion people brought to the weekend. Not only did we come up with loads of ideas, but people committed to seeing them through. There was also a real interest to see more weekends like this in the future, which I’m really looking forward to.”
“It was fab, wasn’t it?”
“Thanks again for a fantastic weekend. It was really great.”
“I enjoyed the ‘Salesian-ness’ of the weekend, coming together, sharing responsibilities, stories, fun and games. It was a great opportunity to reflect on our experiences abroad and just to have a good chat with people who had been there and knew what we were talking about.”
“I was excited to be amongst so many passionate and caring people which then inspired me to rediscover my feelings and desires for social justice and peace. A very enjoyable and inspiring weekend.” “The weekend was brilliant!”
“I’m already looking forward to the next one”