New Bonds of Friendship and Affection


19 July 2012 | General Interest

A visit to Samoa in early July has left an indelible impression on the hearts and imaginations of the Principals from Australian Salesian schools and forged a unique bond of friendship and affection between Don Bosco Samoa and Don Bosco Australia.

Principals @ Alafua 3The highlight of the week long programme by the members of APSPA (Australian Pacific Salesian Principals Association) was visits to schools, including St Joseph’s Primary School conducted by the Salesian Sisters at Leauva’a, the newly established Don Bosco High School and Vocational Centre at Salelologa and Don Bosco Technical Centre at Alafua. In each case there were opportunities to visit classes, interact with teachers and attend assemblies featuring cultural entertainment provided by students. The group also visited two of the three Salesian parishes of St Michael at Leauva’a and St Francis de Sales at Salelologa.

The 13 person delegation, including the Vice Provincial, Fr Bernie Graham SDB, experienced first-hand the joy, warmth, vitality and energy of the staff and students of the schools they visited. In every case they were greeted warmly with that generous hospitality for which Samoans are famous. Encounters with students in the classroom became opportunities for making new friends and exchanging stories. At the same time classroom visits made the Australians keenly aware of the often overcrowded classroom conditions, the lack of basic educational resources, the very basic classroom facilities, the absence of technology, the use of very traditional teaching methodologies and the negative impact of poverty upon engagement in schooling.

The Principals’ programme also included a dinner hosted by the Australian High Commissioner to Samoa, Dr Stephen Henningham, and his wife, Catherine. A small hand-picked group of other guests, including prominent members of Samoan political, legal and cultural life, ensured that the evening, featuring outstanding food and quality Australian wine, was rich with conversation, learning and the exchange of experiences. Other highlights of the Principals’ tour included a short weekend break at one of Samoa’s famous beach resorts, a tour of island of Savai’i, Sunday Mass with magnificent singing followed by To’ona’i (traditional Sunday feast) at St Francis de Sales Parish in Salelologa, an encounter with the 18 young Australian Cagliero missionaries participating in a cultural immersion programme, a beautiful Mass with the Salesian Community of Alafua and a final dinner at an Apia restaurant.

The visit of the Australian Principals marks a new stage in the shared journey of exchange between Don Bosco Samoa and Don Bosco Australia. The past three years have been characterised by an increasing level of interaction between Salesian schools in Australia and Samoa. Samoan teachers have attended Salesian seminars and conferences in Australia and visited Salesian schools in Victoria. Australian schools have more actively engaged with the Salesian mission in Samoa, spurred on by fundraising efforts to assist the newly founded Salesian school at Salelologa, which opened in 2011. The name of the Principals’ Association was changed to the Australia Pacific Salesian Principals Association in 2011 reflecting the growing links between all the schools of the Australia Pacific Province.

This cultural immersion and educational exchange has heightened the consciousness of the Australian Salesian Principals to the unique strengths and challenges of education in Samoa. Furthermore, it has forged a bond of unity, compassion and friendship between educational communities that share the same spirit and mission of Don Bosco and have the common goal of forming honest citizens and good Christians.