BRAZIL: 30 students volunteer in Indigenous villages
UniSalesiano resumes Missionary Volunteering Program with 30 participants
(MissionNewswire) After a pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Salesian university UniSalesiano, with campuses in Lins and Araçatuba, resumed its Missionary Volunteering Program with 30 participants, including Salesian staff. For a week in July, the participants gained firsthand experience working within Indigenous villages of Meruri and São Marcos in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil.
Father Paulo Jácomo, UniSalesiano’s pro-rector for pastoral care, explained that the experience was the result of careful organization. The first phase was registration, and the second phase consisted of travel and work preparation. He said, “We had a good response, 59 registrants, although we could only select 22. Those selected and the organizing team put in a lot of effort with little time available. There was an effort in collecting clothes, blankets and food. Everyone worked hard.” The Salesian School Dom Luiz Lasagna was recognized for collecting more than five tons of food, which was then delivered to villages. by team members.
Some of the volunteers also took the time to share their experiences. Milena da Silva Oliveira, age 20, from the nursing course, said, “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.”
She added, “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.”
João Pedro Sangali Leite, age 23, from the medicine course, noted, “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 university 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.”
He added, “As for me, the main lessons learned were two — to always share and help and 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.”
Given the positive results of the experience, Fr. Jácomo announced that registration for the 2023 Missionary Volunteer Expedition will open as early as this month to allow more preparation time for the volunteers who shall be selected. The university also plans to change some of the methodologies of the project to allow for more engagement from the volunteers.
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Salesian Missions – Brazil
World Bank – Brazil