Papua New Guinea – Mission Possible: being agents of change

03 April 2023

(ANS – Port Moresby) – The members of the Don Bosco Technical School (DBTS) Mission Group take turns coming to school as early as seven o’clock in the morning once to twice a week to prepare hot tea and scones for their brother Bosconians. They walk around the Parents, Citizens, and Teachers Association (PCTA) park and pour not only tea but also love and kindness into the cups of at least fifty early birds.

Rica Lavilla first came to Papua New Guinea as a Volunteer (for three years) in Don Bosco Araimiri, Gulf Province, under the Salesian Lay Volunteer Program of the Philippine North Province of the Salesians of Don Bosco; she shares:

“Being young is not that easy, especially in today’s world (We have all been young once, for those who are no longer in this stage). Young people are faced with a myriad of challenges; they are confronted with so many questions which can make life baffling and not that easy to handle. On the other hand, the youth are the future of our families, communities, the country, and the world. Hence, we need to empower them to be agents of transformation not only for tomorrow but more importantly, today!”

Currently, Rica is a full-time Salesian Educator at Don Bosco Technical School, Gabutu, Port Moresby, in her eighth year of teaching. In 2018, she made her promise as a Salesian Cooperator and in the same year formed the first Mission Group of DBTS; she was animator of the said youth group from 2018 until now.

“As I reflect upon the Strenna for this year, ‘As the Yeast in Today’s Human Family’, I am also being transported back to the experiences I shared with the students who were members of the Mission Group of Don Bosco Technical School – Gabutu,” she goes on. 

“I can still vividly recall how they eagerly inked their names to the list and promised to attend the regular meetings and formation sessions that will give them the pass to be present for the outreach and/or immersion programs. And this has been happening every year for the past five years.”

Students from different year levels, of different interests, and backgrounds come together for one mission and that is to serve. They serve quietly and in their own little way; they serve using their gifts and talents and sometimes meager resources. They keep on serving until there’s a transformation happening from within themselves. And yes, that change from within also translates to being agents of transformation for their peers, families, and communities.

One project the group embarked on was the ‘Walking Kettle Project’. This used to be the Free Breakfast for Early Birds Project that the Association of Salesian Cooperators of Gabutu started way back in 2018. 

“Hot tea and scones are being offered for free to students who come very early to school. Most of these students are the ones living far and have to walk for long distances in order to catch the bus and beat the traffic jam which is why they would leave their places as early as five o’clock in the morning without having breakfast,” the woman says.

Mission Group members would walk around the PCTA park from around seven o’clock in the morning until seven-thirty with hot tea inside these silver kettles paired with packets of scones. A simple gesture such as this is already an opportunity for the members to have that experience on how to serve others and hopefully come to realize that they are promoting the value of sharing and that what they are doing is both transformative for them and their fellow students they are serving. The spirit of service and volunteerism aids like the yeast - a leavening agent for today’s situation; not waiting for five years or so to be able to help transform society.

The first prison outreach was carried out by the group in June last year at Bomana. The group engaged the whole school community by asking for donations of bath soaps, laundry soaps, toilet rolls, toothbrushes, and tubes of toothpaste. The school responded positively and several cartons of these goods were brought to the inmates of Bomana Prison. 

Here’s a sharing from one of the students who took part in the outreach.

“Before entering the gate, we were asked by the Warden to stand in line and to count aloud from the first person to the last. As we entered the gate, it felt dreadful for me because people were staring at us. While seated, one of the inmates called us to go and shake hands with them. I felt happy when one of them said, ‘Tenk yu son lo kam’, and I believe that they felt the love and hope we brought with our visit. This is one experience that will go deep down in my heart … inside of me I was crying not because of sadness but because of joy, knowing that we brought hope in their life.”

“When young people are given opportunities to serve, to have meaningful experiences, and to grow in their relationships with God, others, and themselves, they can be like yeasts - empowered agents of transformation in today’s human family,” Rica states finally.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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