Five volunteers attended: Visitation and Judy will go to the Philippines with the Assumption Volunteers; Judy and Matthew are heading for Tanzania with Jesuit Missions; and Peter was flying the flag for the Salesians, and will leave in the autumn to go to a Salesian project in Vietnam, where he will assist with teaching and language support.
Judy, Matthew, Becca, Peter and Visitation (Photo: Rebecca Wall)
As BOVA sends people out throughout the year, separate arrangements are made for those who can’t attend the shared summer orientation. Peter, who is from Durham, said he had decided to take a gap year when he turned 18, and a faith-based programme was important to him. An American post-grad student in his home parish told him about her experience as a Salesian volunteer overseas, “She was so inspirational, I got in touch with BOVA and applied.” he said.
All of the volunteers said their faith was at the heart of their vocation to volunteer overseas, and they were keen to take an active part in the religious life of the communities they will live in.
The week included sessions on social justice, spirituality and prayer, safeguarding, communication and cultural issues. There were also interfaith visits, which included a trip to the Southall Gurdwara. The orientation closed with a moving Missioning Mass.
Photo: Anita Motha
Religious orders sending volunteers on overseas missions take preparation and support very seriously, and LMVN orientation course has been going since 1998, when several religious orders and groups sending volunteers abroad decided to collaborate in an annual joint training course using expertise from all of their members. Today, LMVN members include: Assumption Volunteers, Bosco Volunteer Action, the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre, Columban Lay Missionaries, Jesuit Missions Volunteers, Lasallian Developing World Projects, Mill Hill Associates, Step into the Gap with CAFOD, Ursuline Links, Vides UK, VolunteeringCP and Volunteer Missionary Movement.
Over the years the course has evolved and improved and has become an excellent preparation for cross-cultural volunteering. The team leaders, venue and many of the speakers are provided by the participating organisations which keeps the costs very low for a week of this kind.
This comment from Becca, a religious studies teacher from Liverpool, sums it all up perfectly: “What a joy the past 5 days have been, training and hangin' out with these wonderful people. Among the five of us, two are off to serve in the Philippines for 11 months, one will be volunteering in Vietnam for 10 months and myself and Matthew are off to Tanzania for 6 months. Service and humility are two beautiful gifts and I can't wait to hopefully grow in them both. I just know I'll receive more from the people I meet out there than I could ever give and I'm so grateful for this opportunity (p.s if you could, please keep us all in your prayers and also the communities will be received into!).”