How do I see God in the Salesian family youth center?

By: Bro. Dang-Khoa Pham, SDB
Salesian of Don Bosco

I was assigned to the Salesian Family Youth Center to serve the children at the summer camp program in the low-income community of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles. I was a quite nervous with plenty of curiosity and expectations. You may ask yourself, why? I have been in the US for almost two years, and this was my first time participating in any summer camp program. Last year, as we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic hit all of us vigorously, affecting our lifestyles and all our future plans. 

One of my challenges was communicating and understanding the children. English is not my first language therefore, my English is slowly progressing, but these children speak at such a fast pace, my mind would be blank at times because I could not understand them. I had to ask them to repeat themselves a couple of times. They played, cheered up, and shouted the whole day. It was difficult to follow them, but I felt so excited to share St. John Bosco’s dream with the children of Boyle Heights. Things changed quickly, after one week, I understood better, learned some games, and shared quality time with the children.

The children became like angels running around me, inspiring me to be my best and be the best person I can be. It was tiring and draining, but I love being Don Bosco for them as they responded full of joy. Now I understand the words that JC has told me “No language is important than the language of love”. 

If you ask me, what is “the language of love”? After this camp experience, my definition has changed: “the language of love” is to care, greet, give, advice when asked, intercede, accompany, be present, have lots of game time together, and enjoy each other presence. 

All of these things require actions more than words. Through the actions, the children will understand that they are loved. As a Salesian and baptized, I can see God inside each one of them. That’s why I view the children as angels. I thank God for this opportunity that I had to work and experience a Salesian Summer Camp.

I look forward to seeing these children again and see how they have grown.