Samoan Immersion: A Personal Experience

hayley joyce

hayley joyceMy name is Hayley Joyce, I am a teacher at Dominic College in Tasmania and I was fortunate enough to attend the recent immersion in Samoa. I feel privileged and blessed to have been given the opportunity to participate in this amazing experience. I am extremely grateful to Dominic College for supporting this immersion.

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge and thank Lauren Bicknell for all her dedication, organisation and leadership. Without Lauren the Immersion would not have been possible. She is an amazing person and was and continues to be a true inspiration for the twelve of us who attended the immersion.

I would also like to thank the other members of the immersion group for their energy, enthusiasm and support; you are all amazing people with such a diverse range of gifts and talents which you shared in abundance with our group and the Samoans. Without such a fantastic group of people the immersion would not have been as successful. I know I speak for all of us when I say it is an experience we will cherish; memories were made and friendships forged that will last a lifetime.

It is hard to put into words my feelings about the immersion. The whole experience was an amazing one from the moment we boarded the plane until the sad and teary eyed goodbyes at the airport in Apia as we farewelled our new Samoan family. One of the things I found that had a big impact on me was the spirit of the Samoan people. They welcomed us into their community, homes and hearts with open arms and made us feel part of their families. The youth had such vibrant energy and had a unique ability to see you and understand you for who you are. The joy of the people was fantastic, from the singing in the Masses, to the smiles and genuine excitement in the faces of the young when we ran activities or spent time with them. I loved every minute with the youth, whether it was spent playing sports, games, cards, singing songs, listening to music, or the moments of quiet conversation with individuals. I really witnessed and experienced for the first time in a community setting the benefits of Don Bosco’s idea of ‘presence’ with the youth. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to stay at the oratory in Leauva’a and develop relationships with the Samoan youth.

Being present with the young was one of the things I found most valuable. I really enjoyed seeing this Salesian spirit in action and it reaffirmed for me the importance of the Salesian values and ethos. The Salesian Priests and Sisters we met in Leauva’a, Savai’i, Moamoa and Singamonga were amazing ambassadors for the Salesian spirit and values. I am sure if Don Bosco was here today he would be very proud and impressed and congratulate these dedicated individuals.

Planning and running the Leadership camp with the youth in Leauva’a was definitely one of the highlights. The camp was a huge success and it was fantastic to see the Samoan and Australian youth working together to run activities. It was a chance to witness the many gifts and talents of the young and see their confidence grow as the weekend progressed. It was a great way to bring the youth together and share new perspectives and experiences.

I really enjoyed visiting the Grade 6 class at St Joseph’s Primary School in Leauva’a and forming connections between the Samoan Grade 6 students and the Dominic College Grade 6 students. I hope to foster and develop this connection between our two Salesian communities.

There were also many personal benefits for me that came from attending the immersion. I found I gained confidence, my spirituality was developed and I learnt new perspectives. The immersion gave me a new focus and energy and I formed new relationships and connections with the Australian and Samoan youth involved. If anyone was thinking about participating in an immersion experience I would thoroughly recommend it.

Overall, the immersion experience is one which I truly enjoyed and I will cherish every moment and every relationship formed. I hope to one day return to Samoa to reconnect with my new Salesian family in Samoa.

 

Source: Salesian Bulletin