We've been delighted to have Romina Martiniello, Assistant Director of the Cagliero Project, the Australian equivalent of our Bosco Volunteer Action, visiting us for a while. Here, she writes about a Mission Week workshop she and Anita (BOVA) led to help students explore the refugee crisis and our response.
What if you suddenly had to make a journey from Bolton to Paris, with only the possessions you had with you in your pockets? What if there were no cars, train, bus or plane services? What if you couldn’t go home first to tell your family where you are, or gather your most precious belongings? What if you had to walk for 10 days straight, in just the clothes you are wearing now?
These are some of the questions that year 8s and 9s were asked to contemplate during the Mission Week activities at Thornleigh Salesian College. Anita, of Bosco Volunteer Action (BOVA) and myself were asked to be a part of the week’s input by running a workshop aimed at shedding some light on the everyday experience of refugees in the world today. In our jobs, we send volunteers from the UK and Australia to overseas Salesian communities. Our volunteers work with young people in various educational and residential settings, most of whom experience one or many forms of poverty. Many refugees experience poverty as a result of circumstances that are thrust upon them, and often have a very limited support and resources available to them.
Thornleigh students had access to a resource which enabled them to walk through a series of small rooms while listening to an audio recording, recounting the experience of one refugee as she made the dangerous and terrifying journey from her home country to the UK. Through this sensory experience, students were able to reflect upon how it would feel to walk in the shoes of those who are forced to leave their homes and endure the hardship and uncertainty of seeking asylum.
As we asked students to literally empty their pockets onto the tables in front of them, many were hit with harsh realisations, many began to think creatively and many provided very thoughtful reflections on how they might act and feel if they suddenly had to leave their home and flee for safety.
It was important that the students felt as if there was a message of hope that they could take away from the activities and discussions in our workshop. Together, we reflected upon the call of Pope Francis for us to be politicians, thinkers, social activists and to “seek to encounter Jesus in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the friend in trouble, the prisoner, the refugee and the migrant.” It was not at all surprising that the young people at Thornleigh came up with innovative and overwhelmingly compassionate ways in which they could respond to the needs of refugees both overseas and in their communities.
It was a privilege to be a part of the sharing and learning at Thornleigh during Mission Week, and we look forward to hearing more about the other important issues that formed part of the discussion.
By Romina Martiniello
The Cagliero Project
Salesians of Don Bosco