What happens on training weekends?
BOVA training usually takes place over two weekends at Savio House.
Led by James, Fr Martin and special guests (including returned volunteers and other members of the Salesian Family), they include:
- Inter-cultural learning
- Salesian Spirituality and style
- Expectations on volunteers and host communities
- Perceptions of developing countries
and much more.
Training Weekends write up by Vicky and Christina
It was only a couple of months ago when we sent an email to Bosco Volunteer Action; and now we are going away to Swaziland this summer holidays for five weeks!
We are two friends studying at Edinburgh University; who were struggling to find an ethical organisation that could help us volunteer in a developing country during our summer holiday. BOVA was recommended to us by the Jesuit Missions as an organisation that could do just that! Literally jumping for joy around our flat on hearing this news, we filled in an application form, only hoping that we hadn’t left it too late.
Here’s a sneak preview of what could be in store if you do the same:
We arrived at Macclesfield train station not knowing quite what to expect, because neither of us had heard of the Salesians of Don Bosco before. We were greeted there by a smiley Father Bob, who drove us to nearby Savio House, set in the charming Cheshire countryside.
As soon as all nine volunteers had arrived, we had an evening meal together and then launched straight into a frenzy of games, led by the enthusiastic James Trewby. These were so hysterical that by the end of the evening, it felt like we had all known each other for donkeys’ years!
The two training weekends mainly consisted of group discussions and activities. These not only covered the practicalities of getting to and surviving in a country overseas, but also gave an insight into Salesian spirituality and living in a Salesian community. Most importantly, these activities enabled us to reflect about ourselves and life for people in developing countries.
What is particularly brilliant about the BOVA training weekends is that you are not lectured to about “the issues of the third world”. You are given the opportunity to think for yourself and come to realise the preconceptions you may have inadvertently accumulated, being part of a western culture. An example of this would be when we enthusiastically dove into what we thought was a simple Pictionary competition, organised by previous BOVA volunteer, Rachel Wood, to later find ourselves looking at what we had drawn, and finding it riddled with images based on stereotype. Activities such as this (as well as one or two passionately communicated presentations) set the tone for learning that was both pragmatic and relevant, as well as being great fun!
Particular highlights for us include a traditional Indian meal, where we ate on the floor, only using our right hand with no utensils allowed. This was good practice in adapting to a different culture, and highly amusing to see Father Bob repeatedly flick curry into his eye, whilst reclining like a Roman Emperor at a banquet.
It was particularly inspiring to spend time with Father Brian Jerstice, and hear about the work he has done for over twenty years in the East African Province. It made us realise that even though we are only two student volunteers, it can still make a huge difference to the lives of youngsters in host communities just to spend time with them, as this is something that many have never experienced outside a Salesian community.
There is simply not enough space available to write about the masses of information and ideas we gained from these two training weekends. However, one more thing we would like to mention is not to worry if you haven’t had any experience with a religious community before. We both come from different backgrounds from this point of view: Vicky has been educated in a Jesuit school and Christina is an agnostic. Far from causing confusion or discomfort for the latter, she thoroughly enjoyed the training weekends – there was freedom for her to explore what it meant to be a Salesian, without feeling pressured or ignorant of the experiences that were natural to those of the catholic faith. The weekends include introductions to common forms of prayer that may be used in host communities, which is helpful for those who might not have experienced Mass and prayer before. As long as you have an open mind, and don’t mind attending some religious services and prayer, you will fit perfectly into the BOVA program.