Summer has been crazy at the Salesian Family Youth Center; we have had many unique activities last month. In this e-news, you will find: Salesian Service Day - visiting the homeless, a witness article from one of our Camp Counselors, and some fantastic pictures of what we have been doing at Camp Salesian. We hope you enjoy how young people are making a difference in this world!
Salesian Service Day - Visiting homeless By Miriam Hernandez
Youth were on fire after living out their SYLC experience. This year SYLC focused greatly on social justice which got the adult leaders in the room excited to share about their love of service. Ms. Aloni Bonilla, a Math teacher at Bishop Mora Salesian High school, mentioned how she works closely with a group of young adults at St. Joseph’s retreat center who were at the time gathering hygiene products for the unhoused of our community. This sparked a service project idea. SYLC participants were invited to part take in the service project which involved making and delivering care packages for those in need. Service day took place at the Salesian Family Youth Center on June 27, 2021, after their commissioning mass.
That week youth group leaders invited Luis Chacon, SYLC adult leader, to share at their next meeting about Social Catholic teachings. “When we love, we experience God”, he explained, “Charity is an expression of love, and being charitable to others is also a way to serve our neighbors, therefore serving others is a way to experience God”. Luis challenged our youth to always want to grow and be better for their good and the good of others.
During the Good Night, I shared about the homeless reality that many people are facing in our neighborhood and surrounding areas. Over 66,000 make up the homeless population in Los Angeles, the cause is primarily a lack of affordable housing, unemployment, substance abuse, and mental illness. The fastest number of homeless are 18-24 of age followed by youth under 18. In Boyle Heights alone the crime rates involving the homeless as suspects or victims rose 52 percent in the last year. Homelessness even has its own police unit in our community.
At the commissioning mass Fr. Jim Nieblas urged the youth to give to others as much as God has given to them. “If God gave you a small piece of pie, share small pieces; however, if God blessed you with a large pie share large pieces,” he told them during the commissioning mass. Fr. Jimmy blessed the SYLC crosses, presented them to the parish, and sent them out to serve as Salesian Youth Leaders.
After mass, a group of teens, parents, young adults, and Sr. Elizabeth, FMA gathered at the Salesian Family Youth Center to pray for the unhoused that would be receiving the care packages. Soaps, toothbrushes, canned goods, and sweets were packaged and distributed to the unhoused living nearby. The rest of the care packages were taken to a community event happening in Skid Row. Teens who participated reflected on their experience and discussed ways that they experienced God on that day. I believe that one of the most practical ways for teens to live out their faith is through service projects.
My life just changed
By Jerry Vazquez
If you would see me a couple of years ago, you will never believe that I would be a Head Counselor this year. I was a quiet kid who did not talk to anyone that I did not know; I was afraid of not relating to someone, or they don’t like what I have to say; I just felt stock from growing. But last year, during COVID, I took the challenge to come to our summer program. My friends invited me to go to the Salesian Family Youth Center.
I came with the attitude of knowing all, of running away from home and killing time. But everything changed during the second week of camp, and I was challenged to involved myself in doing something to help the children of our community. I remember saying to myself, “I can be with my friends all the time. I need to do something to help the children,” so I became more open. I motivated myself to try something new and break out of my shell.
This attitude change helped me out of camp as well. Now I speak up, I talk to everybody, and I asked questions when needed. I learned that I want to be a digital engineer. It is funny that I had a job before camp started, and I decided to quit my job to dedicate myself to camp Salesian.
Now I am a Head Counselor, and I can change the lives of other children and counselors. I am ready to continue making a difference and being an agent of transformation for this society.
Would you be able to join me?
Camp Salesian - Welcoming children and youth at the end of COVID By Jc Montenegro, PhD
Our summer camp this year seems different than other years. I can perceive a difference in the environment, more children and young people in need of social skills development, more mental health problems, and more "drama" than expected. I believe this change is thanks to COVID 19.
In our summer camps, we have provided a healthy environment where children and young people can find encouragement to keep growing as healthy human beings. The Salesian Preventive System is being used every day. We talked to our young people and helped them to manage their emotions.
At Camp Salesian, we have around 40 counselors and 100 children. Most of the counselors have been in training since April 2021. But who are the counselors? Most of our counselors are teenagers who want to serve the community and have a summer experience. They commit themselves for seven weeks, and they come to the clubhouse every day from 8 AM to 6 PM, more or less. Some of them stay until 8 or 9 PM. Camp Salesian becomes their home away from home.
Every Morning the counselors have the Salesian Good Morning, where one of our Salesian priests shares with them some inspiring thoughts, then they start the day taking care of the children. At the end of the day, they have another counselor meeting, and then they stick around building community.
We intentionally create an environment to help the children and young people ease their way back to in-person learning in the fall and back to the new normality after COVID 19.
Welcome Bro. Damian and Khoa!
We want to welcome the two Salesians in Formation who have been assigned to accompany us in our summer ministry. These two Salesians have been a key component in the running of our camp! thank you for being here with us!
If you want to be part of our summer program, please pray for us and the children and young people that we serve!
For more information, please email Jc Montenegro