By: Adrian Fulay
Coordinator for Youth Ministry – Salesian College Preparatory Richmond
For many of the students from Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, and St. Francis Central Coast Catholic High School, Watsonville, the word that exemplifies their experiences in Tijuana, Mexico, is “gratitude.” In their reflections, the word “gratitude” resounded over and over again. Dennis, a junior, said that the experience helped him realize his blessings in life and how grateful he is for his parents. Mr. Fulay, Coordinator of Youth Ministry from Salesian, was grateful for the gracious welcome they received from the Salesians and the volunteers in Tijuana. Maria, a senior, was grateful for Alex, a boy from Eunime Orphanage for HIV+ children, who quickly became her friend. She said, “I was really able to see God’s love through the children.”
The two school groups traveled to Tijuana from February 15-19. They stayed with the Salesians of Proyecto Salesiano, in their residence which lies just across the street from the US/Mexico border. The group prepared breakfast and lunch for the children at Eunime Orphanage and spent the afternoon playing games and creating art projects. They worked for two days at the Desayunador Padre Chava, a Salesian run soup kitchen that serves over 1000 meals a day to migrants, refugees, and deportees, as well as poor men women and children. Some served meals while others helped with clothing distribution and others sorting medicines at the free clinic. After the service sites, the group visited two other Salesian works in Tijuana – Oratorio Domingo Savio and Oratorio San Juan Bosco. At the beach, the students reflected on the complex issue of immigration and migration as they walked along the border wall between the US and Mexico.
The experience in Tijuana was full of challenges like the language barrier, lack of sleep, and witnessing the poverty and suffering of others. It was also full of joy – the joy of new friendships, joy in serving others, and joy and learning about oneself and others. Dylan, and junior, sums up the experience:
The most meaningful thing for me was truly seeing God work in and through people for the very first time. The hospitality, perseverance, selflessness, and unconditional love I witnessed there despite the not-so-great circumstances showed me the importance of living out God’s will in everyday life whenever we can. My biggest struggle was accepting the fact that there’s only so much we can do to help the people; while helping in orphanages, serving in soup kitchens, and cleaning up communities are helpful, they only go so far and are not permanent fixes. The most important lesson that I learned was to be grateful for what I have and to do what I can to help others.