“You have the power to choose who you want to be”

By: Paula Luengos
Salesian Summer Camp Volunteer from Spain

Hello dear Salesian Family of the Western Province, as you know every year we have a group of volunteers who help at our Salesian summer camp experiences.  Part of our mission as a Salesian family is to give voice to the ideas, feelings, and dreams of our young people, as well as to inspire and motivate other young people to serve within the Salesian charism.  We do this through the volunteer example of other young people and the accompaniment of Salesian educators. .

Let me share with you the experience of Paula, a volunteer at the Salesian Family Youth Center this past summer. These are the words of Paula Luengos:

Before going to LA:

The day that they told me that I was going to LA I felt a mix of emotions. On the one hand I was excited for having the opportunity to live in a different country and continent, but on the other hand I was scared because I didn’t know if I would feel comfortable with the community. 

I did what I usually do:  I talked  to my best friends and family and let them know what my worries were. Their answer was fast and clear. They said, “Of course you have to do it because this experience is a gift to you.”  At that moment, I remember what I felt five years ago before going to Canada.  “If you never try, you’ll never know”. Of course, everyone has fears and insecurities in trying something new, but it’s going out of your comfort zone that you can really learn. I also had an added advantage because I knew some of the people who were gong with me.  A person who gave me hope was Malena, a classmate.  We prepared our suitcases together and calmed each before the flight. 

My mission for this experience was to be who I have always wanted to be, the best version of myself–leaving all my fears aside and giving everyone the best of me. I wanted to change people’s lives by being there for them.

The beginning of our incredible experience:

The first weeks were a complete dream. In the beginning I was scared, but as soon as I started meeting everyone, I started to fall in love. My fears were behind me.   One of the maxims that JC taught us was, “Right now you have the power to choose who you want to be.”   That thought gave me the opportunity to set aside my fears and be free.

Camp Salesian:

My Camp Salesian experience has been incredible. When I first arrived in LA, I already had my mission in mind– to feel completely part of that camp. In order to achieve that I would have to be open minded and motivated. Once I started to get to know the rest of the staff and especially the young people, I felt like I was at home. I also sensed that all our work and dedication were taken into account by the gratitude of the young people.  Their admiration, their smiles, their hugs and their words of thank were the rewards I experienced.

I often think about the strong bonds we created. When the weeks started passing by, I began to realize that this camp was, and still is, like my engine. I woke up every morning full of energy and with a smile on my face because I knew I was going to see the campers and the staff.  I was truly home because I was immersed in the mission

Everyone contributed to the caring environment because of their kindness and concern.   We created a home devoid of prejudices and fears and based on a caring and safe atmosphere. It was incredible to experience this feeling of acceptance and mutual respect because of a smile, a hug, or a simple “hi.”

My thanks and deep gratitude extend to everyone who was part of this experience and who made it possible. I was sad when camp ended,  but happy at the same time because I achieved my mission in every single way.