There are different types of volunteer service, but the SMVS has been defined in a very specific way by the Salesian Congregation. It’s a free voluntary service of solidarity offered by a young person, for a community. He/she integrates self in the educative and pastoral project of a Salesian presence, motivated by the faith, adapting the missionary style and in accordance with Don Bosco's pedagogy and spirituality while ensuring also sufficient continuity.
Given the increase in volunteering and the emphasis of this very formative life choice for a young person, the Advisory Board was created to support this very valuable service.
Although the Advisory Board is still in the process of defining its specific powers, the objective of providing support and connectedness to Salesian volunteer programs and to Salesian Provinces, both those that have volunteer programs and those who would like to network, or replicate them, is already clear. The final goal will be to improve the quality of the service provided by the Salesian volunteer organizations and to accompany and animate the Salesian Volunteer Movement, which in turn will support the Congregation with quality volunteers and a clear Salesian identity.
The SMVS Advisory Board comes from a long way back. The director of the "Cagliero Project", the long-term international volunteer program of the Salesian Province of Australia-Pacific (AUL), Lauren Hichaaba, contacted Adam Rudin, of the Salesian volunteer project “Salesian Lay Missioners” of the USA East Province (SUE), to start a relationship of collaboration and consultancy, back in 2007. Over 14 years Lauren and Adam have shared their successes and challenges, while enriching their professional development and their respective volunteer programs.
In March 2020, Lauren and Adam began communicating more frequently to try to cope with the challenges imposed by the pandemic. Juan Carlos Montenegro, Delegate for Mission Animation of the USA West Province (SUO), quickly joined the conversation, and the three supported each other and shared ideas on how to deal with this new reality. The meetings turned into a regular monthly "check-in" and, in addition to the challenges due to Covid-19, they extended to many other topics, most notably the importance of SMVS for the Salesian Congregation and how to contribute to the conversation at a Congregational level.
They contacted the Salesian Missions and Youth Ministry Departments to share some of their ideas and slowly the conversation broadened further. Fr Rafael Bejarano, from the Youth Ministry Department, Fr Pavel Zenisek and Marco Fulgaro, from the Missions Department, welcomed the initiative with enthusiasm and supported one of the key ideas, namely establishing the SMVS Advisory Board, which has now seen the light of day.