For a couple years I have visited Rancho San Juan Bosco Youth Home with my church to serve the kids who lived and studied there.
Before my first trip, I had no idea what to expect. I knew only that the children I was going to meet had come from broken homes and cycles of abuse or neglect. I was unsure of how I would connect with them. In addition to the language barrier, I had never been in a situation where I did not know the kids who I would be around.
However, the children and teens there were welcoming and friendly. Their smiles quickly opened me up. Despite the language barrier, I was able to bond with the children and teens. We were able to communicate through the universal language of laughter and play. In the hearts and eyes of the children, I saw immense appreciation, hope, joy and community. These kids were able to conjure happiness and make the world around them brighter.
Every time I came home from my trip, I missed my new friends. I think of them daily and we talk on social media throughout the year. This year, as prep for college began to consume my life, I thought a lot of the kids in Rancho San Juan Bosco. I remembered their dreams and aspirations for life, not much different from my own. Yet I knew that while I (and all the kids in my town) had supporting families to set up a future full of opportunity, my friends in the orphanage were not provided with the same tools.
I founded the Don Bosco Project because my friends at the Rancho San Juan Bosco deserve the same opportunity for a bright future as every other kid. Don Bosco believed that education through encouragement and support was life changing. He dedicated his life to educate and improve the lives of street children, juvenile delinquents and other disadvantaged youth.
The youth at Rancho San Juan Bosco are smart, passionate, joyful and pure. I know they can achieve their aspirations. God has given us an opportunity to partner with these kids to achieve their goals. God has given us an opportunity to break the cycle of their broken families. God has given me an opportunity to make a difference in my friends' lives. My friends at Rancho San Juan Bosco have touched my heart and will touch many more in their lifetimes. I hope we can touch their heart too and make a meaningful impact in their life.
In the past two years, my parents have led two separate missions trips as a part of our church to the Rancho San Juan Bosco Juvenile Home in Tecate, Mexico. These trips were unlike any of the other trips I had been on. My first impression of the orphanage was that everyone was extremely joyful. I wondered how anyone could possess so little but have everything they need. I felt God's presence at that orphange stronger than I had felt anywhere else.
Upon arriving home, I felt that I had not done enough. I felt a deeper connection with the children and staff of the orphanage, and I wanted to make a more long-lasting impact on their lives, just as they had made on mine. I no longer saw the world through the same lens, but rather, I became more grateful of everything God had blessed me with. I still hold some of the lasting joy I found in Tecate close to my heart.
The children at Rancho San Juan Bosco are extremely smart, bright, and loving, and they deserve the same opportunities in their education as we do. The real world is a difficult place, and they should have the chance to face it without the odds stacked against them. They deserve to go out into their communities with the education they need.
Kyla and I started this organization to make this a possibility for these students. The Don Bosco Project was named after Saint Bosco, who's mission was to better the lives and education of children who lacked the same opportunities that we have today. Our goal is to live out that mission, and to have a more enduring effect on the lives of those we serve.
Someday, I pray God will use me, Kyla, and this organization to truly change the lives of those in the orphanage and in the city. I pray that these students will go on to have bright and successful futures in which they can make a positive impact on those they interact with. I pray that they never lose the unending joy they possess, and that they will shine, even in the darkest times.