Leave behind your fears and begin to experience new situations you did not know before

By: Veronica Lapetra
Salesian Summer Camp Volunteer from Spain

Veronica volunteered at the Salesian Family Youth Center in 2019, and she returned in 2022 to volunteer at Camp Savio in Bellflower. At the end of her experience, Veronica shares with us what this volunteer experience has meant to her, and what she has learned from it for life.

Hello! My name is Veronica, and I am a Spanish volunteer who had the opportunity to come back twice to this experience. Three years ago I had a good time at the Salesian Family Youth Center. However this year I had the possibility of having a different experience at Dominic Savio Parish. Before going any further, I want to say very clearly how thankful I am to Juan Carlos Montenegro, to Luis Chacon and to the Salesian Community for making this possible.

My story begins with a marvelous experience in Los Angeles in the summer of 2019.  I volunteered at the Salesian Family Youth Center summer camp where I worked with young people four to fourteen years of age. As time went on, I made new relationships with the other counselors and shared my thoughts and opinions with them.  Becoming accustomed to the dynamics of the camp experience, I realized that the camp season would soon be over.  During that time I began considering my future as a professional person.  I also reflected on the various emotional and spiritual experiences which occurred during my time at camp.

So three years later I volunteered at Camp Savio.  As I got on the plane to fly to Los Angeles I recalled my wonderful experience at the Salesian Family camp.   Working with the young people there and sharing experiences with the other counselors I realized that spending quality time ith others was something I could freely give and enjoy.  At the end of that summer I felt like I was a part of a family, “my family,”  and Boyle Heights had become a home for me. I ended up so happy and grateful after this experience that I wanted to come and work in a Salesian environment this past summer.

I enjoyed working with the fifth graders, my “roaring tigers.”  The day began with a morning rally and ended with an afternoon rally. These are times when all the young campers join together for group cheers, songs and dances.  The morning rally ends with prayer to God for a good day, and the afternoon rally ends with a “going home” thought about God’s love and providence.

The last day of camp was sad for me, because the good moments of sharing and relating to young people and other counselors was ending I will definitely remember these moments for the rest of my life, especially when I reflect on the good times and activities which were geared for the young. I am so thankful to have met and now have as new friends Justin and Gabe who were in my fifth grade group as well as the other young people and counselors of Camp Savio.

Personally, this experience helped me to see what I want to be in the future.  I feel a call to teach.   At the end of the day at camp, I saw happiness and joy reflected in the faces of the young people.  A smile, a hug, a word of thanks communicate their gratitude. Knowing that the kids were having fun, I realized that I was doing a good job.  An environment of caring, sharing, and laughing helps young people to get through any situation in life.

After these two months I think I have improved myself in so many different areas. Related to my personal side I learned about my abilities, my strengths and my weaknesses.  I started   believing in myself.  I began to foster my best qualities: developing better communication skills, trusting myself more, being more patient, and learning to adapt to different situations. In addition, creating new relationships with people I did not know before. At camp I worked on the person I want to be;  I began forming the person I want to be in the eyes of others.

Reflecting on my experiences in Salesian ministry, I realized that one of the best attitudes to have is an open mind.  I saw the need to be adaptable to various situations that occur, especially in working with the young.  But the most important ability is to be present to the young people and enjoy the experiences in being with them.  

So the important question for me is, “Who do you want to be?”  Knowing the answer to this question, you can work on yourself, and show others who you are. The time spent with others is helpful, but the most important thing is to be truthful to you.

To sum up, I highly recommend everyone to consider the opportunity of living an experience of working with the young. My experiences helped me to work on my weaknesses and bolster my strengths.  I needed to get out of my “comfort zone” and accept the new challenges of working with young people in a community setting.   I’m still looking for that Veronica who is the best me. Once again, thank you to all the people who  made this possible. And last but not least, leave your fears behind and start looking for new situations and experiences you did not have before.