Calgiero Youth Missionary Immersion


15 July 2012 | General Interest

Samoa: Immersed in the Heart of the Pacific


This year the Cagliero Project embarked on its third immersion to Samoa. The immersion group consisted of 18 young lay people affiliated with the Australian Salesian Community. The enthusiastic group of young people spent 19 days being immersed into a new culture through living with host families, being a positive presence with the young people and volunteering their time within Salesian schools. Some of the highlights of the trip included, a leadership camp in Salelologa, running programs at the Don Bosco High school in Salelologa, participating in activities at the Samoa Youth Week and assisting St Joseph’s primary school with the FMA sisters.

The group was incredibly impressive in their openness to every experience the trip entailed. The group definitely touched the hearts of many young Samoans and the Australian group will have memories that they will carry with them forever.
If you are interested in being a volunteer with the Cagliero Project for six to twelve months please visit the website for more details:

Reflection by Michael Walter
Sunday 15th July, 2012: Leauva`a.

We are sitting in St Michael’s Oratory in Leauva`a, Samoa. My sister Emily is playing Bruno Mars on the guitar. There is a relaxed feeling in the hall; we feel a sense of completion. Most of the group is playing cards and mingled among the card players are the youth we have befriended during our time here. Ella plays paper scissors rock with some of the children who now surround us most of the day. When we walk through the village, the youth and children call our name to say hello. In true Samoan style we have been welcomed unequivocally.

We will leave Samoa early tomorrow morning. We realise this will be hard so we’re trying to lap up each other’s company. We have become a Salesian community during our brief immersion. It’s been a busy time and the experience has been mutual.

While we gave of ourselves in an active and organising capacity, the Samoans we have encountered have given us much also. The Samoans of Salelologa billeted each of us into families for the first week. I found this experience rich and unique. Never have I experienced such hospitality. The family I lived with were the Fonsti family. With nine children (the oldest being twenty-one) it was a large household. They didn’t own a TV, or a car; they didn’t have the internet or a mobile phone. One thing they did have was a rusty old guitar. This was often played after dinner by both David (my house brother, twenty-one) and Salafie (their friendly neighbour). The family would sit around under the stars, surrounded by their taro plantation, next to the lapping sound of the ocean and listen to music sung in Samoan and broken English.

David and I often spoke at night. I explained to him about the stars and how it takes four years for the light of the closest star to reach us. I also explained that in Australia many people weren’t Christian and some people didn’t believe in God. He explained to me everything he could about Samoan culture (such as the Matai, the Orators, how owning land works, tradition and respect). It became hard when I talked about Australia and he realised the sheer difference in the wealth between our two countries. By the end of the week it was very difficult to say goodbye, David gave me a model Samoan boat, and I gave him an Australian wallet. His father, Fonsti, told me he loved me and had to wipe his eyes. David told me he’d keep a special place between his heart and his soul for the group from Australia. I feel that while we may be incredibly privileged economically, Samoa is privileged spiritually and also in their familial relationships.

Not everything is perfect. Sometimes when encountering a different culture it’s easy to exaggerate what we experience and ignore anything that might be negative. Like Australia, Samoa also has some problems.

One particular highlight was seeing Elissa Galante who has been volunteering at Don Bosco Salelologa with the Cagliero project for the past six months. Her main project was to run the computer classes for the students as well as living as part of the Salesian community. She explained to us that her experience had many challenges which she had to overcome. I feel that her sharing her struggles demonstrated her strength of character; everyone who has spent an extended period of time in another culture has their challenges, but not everyone shares these with others. Humility is a fruit of the Cagliero Project.

It is also difficult to know the impact you may have had on the community. You can’t know who may have been inspired by you (both in Samoa & Australia); you can’t know whose lives have changed because of their encounter with you. What you will know is how they have changed you. There are measurable things such as English skills or computer skills but the measurable things aren’t the only things that affect lives. I mentioned to Elissa, that it is the way she is that will have the greatest impact. Her students will never forget the way she treated them with respect and wanted to be with them.

Also Elissa had a crossover period with Mena who will take her class when she leaves. Mena will have observed a way to teach using loving-kindness and respect rather than power and fear. This will be (I’m sure) one of Elissa’s many legacies.

What we will take from this experience will be different for each of us. I’m sure all of us will remember the way we showed our love to one another by living together, eating together, praying together and playing together. My understanding of community has been completely reinvigorated and I’ve relearned the value of the person over the thing. It is unlikely that our group will ever be together again, but we’ll forever be united by our time in Samoa.