There are almost 70 children gathered at Saint Joseph school, a big institution run by Saint Paul de Chartre sisters in Phetchabun, a Northen city of Thailand, they don’t speak the same language and their features are different, some have a nice round face and white skin, others have more round eyes and darker skin. These children come from the villages where we, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, work and they are Hmong, Lao and Thai. This big group of young people are going to live together for almost a month in order to deepen their catholic faith and, hopefully, become leaders in their own communities one day.
The Saint Paul the Chartre sisters have a very nice facility with all that is needed for such an experience, they provide teachers and the lodging. The kids like to go there because they can meet others people and play together. This is one of the main aim of the camp: bring the children in a different and new environment where they learn how to build relationship.
Our children live in small villages of relatives and they don’t make any effort to build liaison, all are cousins uncles and aunties, they don’t need to go out of their comfort zone in order to make new friends. Our kids are sometime shy when outside of their environment that’s why they prefer to isolate themselves staying in their small group, sometime, they become rude when they feel they are not the center of gravity in the new situation as they are in their village. Our three weeks Summer Camp gives them the opportunity to learn how to build wider and meaningful relationship and to find the right place in the group where they are.
Another aspect of our camp is catechism, the deepening of faith. During the Summer Camp the kids discover that faith is an adventure where they meet a lot of interesting characters, they listen great stories and they discover that their lives are part of this great and exciting journey. The core values of the people in the Bible become their values and the lights that guide their lives.
We face many challenges during the camp because our kids are as all the kids in the world attracted by new and exciting gadgets. I often see children coming to the church with old smartphones, they don’t care if the quality of the images or the sound are not perfect, they don’t care even if the screen is a net of cracks because the phone has fallen many times, the magnetic power of the gadget attracts their attention and they forget the world outside. Little by little the ability to concentrate on a written text fades, they have no more time to play with other kids, they isolate themselves, but when relationship lose color also the system of value that sustain such relationships become less significant. The Summer Camp keeps our children in touch with what make them unique, the core of of their nature: joy of life, simplicity of relationship, satisfaction in helping others and these are also the values of faith, the same faith they have learned from their family in the villages.
The world of the children is rapidly changing and no matter if they live in remote villages up in the mounting they have to cope with a wider reality. In these days the attraction of the big cities with new opportunities is irresistible, after their studies our young people want to go and work in the metropolis, but sometime they are not prepared to face the big challenges that the lonely life in the city deliver and they are not able to choose what is better for them because they have no more models or wise and loving advisers. With our activities we would like to give them some tools in order to keep the right direction in life, it’s an ambitious and disproportionate aim if compare with our poor means, but also a big tree is a wander in spite of the small seed from where it comes from.