Khmer new years and all its fun! (13th -16th April)
So we all know Khmer New Year is a special three days for every Cambodian and so Don Bosco Sihanoukville gave special recognition to this holiday with a few festivities close to home. The parade of celebration, games and giving thanks began with a fun day at the Hotel school, two days before the rest of the country celebrated. From an opening speech welcoming everyone, to traditional fun games that proceeded the day, the day represented and embraced all of Khmer traditional customs. The students lead and characterized the day’s events. They prepared all the decorations and games, served food and drink and of course initiated the powder throwing and dancing.
Khmer New Year not only represents a few days of celebration but is regarded as the most special holiday for all of Cambodia. Each day commemorates a new tradition, beginning with day one where everyone prepares food, dresses in their best clothes and travels to their local pagoda to give offerings to the Gods. Following onto day two, a day of giving, every Cambodian with the means gives to charity or the poor and wishes them health into their future. Finally, the day of thanks; an important tradition which follows be that everyone washes the hands of their parents or significant elder and grants those thanks and luck for the future.
All these traditions were embraced with the final lunch at the technical school before the school closed and everyone left for their travels. The inclusiveness of the day allowed every individual (including our Father and brothers) to wash the Don Bosco statue and ask in return a blessing for a fruitful new year to enter into.
New Scaffolding House (Month of April)
New volunteers in town! So the month of April was especially a unique month for Don Bosco as two aspiring humanitarian architectures travelled from Italy to coordinate a new and exciting project with Br Roberto. The two volunteers were Luca Bussolino, a master student of architecture who is currently pursuing his master thesis on humanitarian architecture in Cambodia and Edoardo Ceresa who is likewise following the same pursuit and is a co-founder and owner of the group project Gruppo22. Both of the volunteers arrived at the end of March already prepared to create a project of ‘a little house for a family in Cambodia’, one that could easily be assembled as well as dissembled in case of land ownership issues and that it could be move easily. Before setting off to build the house, both Luca and Edoardo had learnt a lot about Cambodia’s culture, customs and traditions from listening to Fr Eugene’s and Br Roberto’s stories about Sihanoukville, as well as other Salesian and the volunteers. Over the course of the month with a lot of hard work, teamwork and some unexpected weather patterns, the structure of the house had been completed by April 25th and the boys had their final days to solidify the plans. What they had learnt from their experience was that the humanitarian architect does not build “for the people”, but “with the people” by using specific tools and approaches to support and involve communities in the design and building activities. The motivating and enthusiastic support of the students from the technical school, its teachers and Br Roberto allowed what could have seen as a timely project to be a success. With the volunteers safely back at home they left a final few words to remember their experience by “We would like to thank all the people who supported us during our stay, who taught us and gave us the means and tools to work at our best, we would like to thank the students who are working to complete the house and all the people who were so far involved in the process.”
2 day Seminar program – Second year
Some of the students at Don Bosco might agree that this is one of the most exciting times of the year, 2 days of fun filled games, activities, song, dance and of course no lessons. However, the day not only reflected what some would see as ‘two days of fun’ but presented itself as a workshop on spiritual growth. With most of the students’ having busy schedules and a focus on studies, the seminar was an excellent way for them to reflect on some important life lessons that the day exposed in many different ways. In summary the 5 lessons taught (with the organization of Br Mony and the schools group leaders) presented the importance of union with God, daily life, communication with the church, family and society, joy and optimism and a service of responsibility to society and the environment. Although the day did have its fair share of seminar talks and presentations, the students were nevertheless derailed as each group activity, each game and competition held an important message and lesson to be learnt. It also gave some of the students the opportunity to ask some burning questions that they felt comfortable to ask in such a setting. Furthermore, from a semi-partaker view on this seminar, I saw it as an excellent opportunity for students across the technical school to bond with one another and most importantly humor themselves.
Feast of Mary Help of Christians – Our Salesian Tradition
Like every year, all the Don Bosco’s around the world come together as one to celebrate a Salesian tradition that highlights the work of Mother Mary and the great influence she had on Don Bosco himself. This special day assembled a large number of people, including: FMAs, Parish priest, parishioners, teachers, benefactors, and students at Don Bosco and students of DB My Thuan Vietnam to share this special day. The day reflected many purposes, prodominatly the act of cultural exchange, which was directly highlighted through both Khmer and Vietnamse students, partakers and teachers. It was exciting to see the exchange of flags and the eager expressions most people had. For what seemed like a jam packed itinery of events and activities, the day’s sports tournament, a talent show, mass and procession to honour Mary Help of Christians collectively brought a warm atmosphere to the day. For those who attended from the beginning of the day to its end with an inviting buffet dinner, I had asked what was the most special moment of the day. A don bosco secrectary student beamed and agreed that the writing and buring of the letters felt especaially special to her as she “could say what was on my [her] mind” and in some ways it was a cathartic moment for everyone to write down their prayers, their hopes and their gratitudes.