Following on from previous trips to Africa and the 2015 project working with pupils of Brothers’ schools in Haiti, during the Easter holidays Bro. James (Chaplain and teacher at SFX) took two current Yr. 12 students (Harry Brown + James Yeoman) and a former student now in his mid-twenties (Andy Rowan) on a De La Mennais Brothers Educational Project trip to Indonesia (9 days) and Japan (4 days).
Their objectives included the following:
- learn about the lives of people from another culture and learn about ourselves through a variety of shared activities e.g. dialogue, recreation, sport, music, etc… and organising summer camp-style activities for primary school children co-lead by our young people
- open our hearts to respond to the human, spiritual and material needs of others
change our vision of the world
develop skills and help others to develop theirs
learn to look back over our experiences and be able to share them with others
Bro. James – During the 4 days in Japan, we stayed at the Brothers’ community attached to the English language St. Mary’s International School, Tokyo. We went into classes in both the primary and secondary sections of the school, leading song and dance activities with the younger children and taking part in discussions with the older students, using presentations on life at SFX and life in Liverpool (presented by Harry and James) as starting points for discussion. Two of the Brothers took us on a couple of half day trips around Tokyo, taking in the varied cultural and scientific aspects of life there: Bro. Michel Jutras (Canada) and Bro. Deo Gratias (Uganda), both of whom have worked in St. Mary’s for many years and speak fluent Japanese.
After connecting flights from Tokyo (via Kuala Lumpur and Bali) to Maumere on the island of Flores, Indonesia, the group were met by Bro. Philippe Blot, Head Teacher of the Brothers’ primary school in Larantuka, Flores. He accompanied us on the 4 hour minibus/taxi ride from Maumere to Larantuka on the far western coast of Flores. The drive took us through breath-taking scenery across an island dominated (as are most of the Indonesian islands) by looming extinct volcanoes that provide the lateral spine of the island. Both the mountains themselves and the narrow strips of coastline around them are covered in lush greenery. As soon as you venture off the beaten track up the slopes you apparently find yourself in deep jungle very quickly (we kept away from the jungle due to its myriad array of exotic and dangerous creatures, including many creepy and slithery crawlies that we preferred not to encounter!).
Our stay in Larantuka began by sharing in the Easter Triduum celebrations and a Holy Saturday morning spent in a local orphanage having fun and games with the children there. By Easter Monday we were in full swing: educational and recreational morning activities for children from the local parish or the Brothers’ primary school, afternoon sport/recreation with the Brothers in Larantuka and the 8 young men aged between 18 and 25 yrs. (known as “aspirants”) who are living with the Brothers for a two year residency to try out a possible vocation to be a Brother, and evening activities that included taking English language classes for young adults/university students.
We received a wonderful welcome everywhere we went, but it was particularly rewarding for our young adults to spend time with the 8 young Indonesian men (and the Brothers who accomapnied them – from France, Spain and Indonesia itself). Many strong bonds of friendship were forged that have led to extensive social media communication between us all since the beginning of our return trip and which has continued since our arrival back in Liverpool.
Our three young men were a credit to themselves and to SFX, fully participating in everything that was proposed to them, never complaining despite the heat and intense humidity during the Indonesian leg of our trip and helping to put smiles on the faces of those we spent time with, both young and not so young. The Brothers in Larantuka would love us to go back there on a regular basis. This is something that we may consider for the future. For now, we have the memories of an incredibly rich, varied adventure, with smiles, laughter and friendships made.
Here is a link to a 5 page online album of our trip: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bro_james/sets/72157680637959240/