Don Bosco Technical School in Phnom Penh, Cambodia offers holistic education opportunities to the poorest of the poor within one of the poorest nations on Earth.

It teaches students trade skills that are immediately applicable in the workplace, creating a cycle that allows students to gain employment, earn income for themselves and their families, arresting the devastation caused by the poverty cycle.

Over the past 29 years, the schools has received many volunteer missionaries from a variety of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Samoa and Fiji, via the Cagliero Project. These volunteers have been young adults and post-retirement, they have been individuals or entire families, people of the Catholic faith or people of another or even no faith.

During their stay, the volunteers join the Salesian community for all daily activities, such as prayer, meditation, mass and meals. This is the dream of Don Bosco made brought to life; committed Salesians and lay collaborators working together towards a shared mission. This multi cultured, fully-diverse mission is unified by one key thing, the passion and love for Don Bosco’s work.

John was a Cagliero volunteer to Cambodia in 2018

Fr Arun Michael Charles is the delegate for missionary animation for Cambodia. He has found the presence of volunteers within the school to be extremely beneficial to the technical school. “It provides students an opportunity to relate, exchange ideas, play and work with young people from a foreign country. This helps them realize that they they’re not so different and most of them shared similar ambitions in life.”

By welcoming missionary volunteers into the school, the Salesian community receives a great opportunity of gospel proclamation. Living in close quarters with the volunteers allows the community to help facilitate the knowledge of Jesus and Don Bosco within the volunteer.

The volunteers also often enrich the community by bringing in new perspectives and ideals. By committing to a community for a designated period of time, the volunteer is able to join in the common mission of the community, and all grow the more for it.

The volunteers bring plenty of positivity to the students in the school by caring for the library sessions, teaching music, taking charge of sports days and other extra-circular activities but they also bring a great experience of Salesian family spirit to the Salesian community present at the school.

Recently, Fr Bill wrote about wrote about his experience with Keith, a volunteer who volunteered with Salesian Community in Timor-Leste

Naturally, hosting people from such a different lived experience is not without it’s difficulties. Fr Charles notes that in some ways, a new volunteer is like a new aspirant to the community. It is vital that they “be accepted for who they are, so they may grow. Thus, they need continual attention and guidance from a designated person of the community – someone that can answer their questions and they can confide in”

Fr Charles says that lessons have been learned on how to best acclimatize volunteers so that the entire school community get the most out of the volunteer’s time in Cambodia. Each volunteer comes with their own life experiences and expectations of what their missionary experience will be like.

It is up to their host community to respect these two factors, and use them to guide the volunteer into the role that suits them best within the mission that is entrusted to the community – that is, the education of the young people of Cambodia.