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Brazil – Salesian Missionary Volunteering: the UniSALESIAN experience

August 02, 2022 10:00 PM | Por admin
Brazil – Salesian Missionary Volunteering: the UniSALESIAN experience

(ANS – São Paulo) – Taking advantage of the break from academic and school activities, many Salesian realities of different Provinces in Brazil are used to organizing youth mission experiences during the summer period. These are experiences that deeply mark all those involved, both the communities visited and those involved in these projects of animation and sharing, in an exchange that leaves everyone richer. Today we present the experience carried out in the indigenous villages of the State of Mato Grosso by young people and the academic community of the “UniSALESIANO” university, with campuses in Lins and Araçatuba, belonging to the Brazil-Sao Paulo Province (BSP).

After two years of interruption due to the pandemic (2020 and 2021), the experience called “Missionary Volunteering” of UniSALESIANO resumed this year, for its fourth edition. About 30 people participated, including members of the Rectorate, coordination and student body, who for a week in July got to know and experience on their skin the culture of the indigenous villages of Meruri and São Marcos, while bringing their desire to help and their enthusiasm.

Fr. Paulo Jácomo, UniSALESIAN Pro-Rector for Pastoral Care, explained that the experience was the result of careful organization. The first phase was registration: “We had a good response, 59 registrants, although we could only select 22,” he explained.

Responsibility for selection fell to the coordinators, Prof. Juliana Mitidiero (Physical Education) and Prof. Mirella Justi (Psychology). The second phase consisted of travel and work preparation. “Those selected and the organizing team put a lot of effort, although with little time available. There was an effort in collecting clothes, blankets, food… Everyone worked hard,” Fr. Jácomo emphasized. 

The last phase was the executive phase, with the presence of the university students and the team in the indigenous villages.

Given the positive and satisfactory results of the expedition, Fr. Jácomo announced that as early as this August, registration for the 2023 Missionary Volunteer Expedition will open, so as to allow more preparation time for the volunteers who shall be selected.

The Director General of UniSALESIANO’s Araçatuba campus, Fr. Erondi Tamandaré, SDB, highlighted that new methodologies are being proposed for the year 2023 with the goal of involving university students more and better in Missionary Volunteer actions. And for the 2022 edition, he emphasized the great charitable efforts of the students of the Salesian School “Dom Luiz Lasagna,” who alone collected more than five tons of food in favor of the indigenous peoples of Mato Grosso, which were then delivered to them by members of the expedition.

“I imagined I would find something very different in the villages, but upon arriving there I could see the humility and simplicity of these people. They are very reserved people, but with an open heart to share their stories and customs. The children, then, are enchanting. Being able to experience these eight days in the villages made me understand the ‘meaning of life,’ and gave me a good understanding of how indigenous people have always been in our country. They live with hardship and do not have easy access to health care. Yet, they possess one of the most beautiful cultures I have ever seen: dances, rituals, songs. The greatest lesson I will take with me after this trip is knowing that a simple hug or a smile can transform anyone’s life. True happiness lies in the humble way of living. Despite all the differences, we are the same and we must enjoy the simple moments, dedicating ourselves to others,” testifies Milena da Silva Oliveira, 20, from the Nursing Course.

For his part, João Pedro Sangali Leite, 23, from the Medicine Course, points out, “After learning more about the work done together by the Salesians in the villages of Meruri and São Marcos, I decided that I really wanted to participate in the Missionary Volunteer Program so that I could learn and get to know the culture of these people and also to see and be part of the incredible selfless work that the UniSALESIAN Institution does in these villages. I experienced unique moments that I will carry with me forever. I think those people, despite all the problems they face, are the happiest and most loving people I have ever met. It is a place where with little you can do a lot and where, despite having almost nothing, you have everything, because fraternity, companionship, solidarity, and friendship prevail over any other problems that may arise. This is the true meaning of family.

As for me, the main lessons learned were two: to always share and help; to be grateful for every opportunity life gives us. I experienced a huge reversal of values, because, many times, we end up giving importance to some things that don’t deserve even half the attention we give them, while others, which should have much more care, end up in the background.”

Monique Bueno

{gallery}BSP – Volontariato Missionario UniSalesiano 2022{/gallery}