Since 2000, when the UN designated an international event to draw attention to the situation of displaced people, events have been held around the world encouraging people to focus on the strength and endurance of those who’ve been displaced, express solidarity with them, and determination to build a culture of welcome in our societies. Schools holding fundraising events on the day would be raising awareness, as well as helping to give a little happiness to at least some of the young people seeking sanctuary in our country.
Danny Sweeney, from the Salesian Youth Ministry team, said, “Our new summer camp aims to provide a Salesian Oratory experience for displaced and vulnerable young people in the UK, giving them time for respite and recovery from negative experiences of forced migration. They will be alongside Salesian Animators, participating in recreational activities to provide an experience of belonging, meaning, learning, and celebrating together.”
The Valdocco in Britain project is inspired by the Salesian charism and named after the place where Don Bosco established the permanent home for his ‘oratory’, giving hope and joy to excluded young people. It's a response to Pope Francis' calls for compassion towards those seeking sanctuary, and to 'recognise and welcome the Lord Jesus among the smallest and most vulnerable.' The project has also been shaped by the Rector Major's request to the Salesian family in Europe to seek practical ways to offer assistance in the refugee crisis, paying 'particular attention to unaccompanied minors and young people'.
Exclusion, uncertainty and, sadly, hostility, have severe impacts on young people especially, and they can become trapped with limited opportunity to rebuild their lives. A holiday offers a sense of freedom and normality that young refugees and asylum seekers rarely experience. Salesian Youth Ministry hopes that Valdocco will have long-term effects too, in providing a foundation for young refugees and asylum seekers 'to build their lives in a positive way and be able to fit themselves responsibly into society,' as called for in the Salesian Youth Ministry Frame of Reference.
“We’re asking schools to use World Refugee Day to fundraise to support us in this new venture,” said Danny. “Our hope is that a non-uniform day will be a straightforward, easy to organise event for schools to do, in what we appreciate are already fully packed timetables.
“Part of World Refugee Day is celebrating the diversity in our societies; students could take advantage of the day to adopt traditional dress from their own culture, to learn more about another country where displacement is currently taking place, or explore the history of countries and cultures which have been shaped by, or shaped migration to the UK,” he added.
The pilot project this summer, to be based in Liverpool, will be quite small, and will take the form of a day camp. The city was chosen as it is one of the areas of the UK to which asylum seekers are dispersed to after raising their claim with the government, and members of SYM’s network are working in schools which have large numbers of asylum-seeking young people attending.
Danny said, “Rather than asking young people to come to us, we’re going to them and basing ourselves amongst the communities where they are living. We have a programme of activities planned, including quad biking, kayaking, outward bound activities and a visit to a theme park.”
The long term aim is for the Valdocco in Britain summer camps to become a regular feature in the Province’s calendar, with day camps offered in communities where many young asylum seekers are present, as well as residential camps hosted by Salesian communities, where young people from across our network can come together to enjoy a holiday, a break which they otherwise may never experience.
You can donate to the Valdocco in Britain project using this link to the JustGiving crowdfunding page, and if your school or youth group would like to create a non-uniform day or other event on World Refugee Day to support the project, the funds you raise will be gratefully received by Sue at Salesian Youth Ministry. Please contact her if you need more information.
Please pray for the new project, and for those who will deliver and receive it.
Thank you for your support!