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Volunteering: Monika, from Bratislava to Kenya. For there is much more in life…

The young Slovakian woman will be spending a year in the city of Korr, in a severely drought-stricken region. After a long preparation with the Salesians she will be leaving with a friend who is also a physician. She will be teaching English and religion. “I am longing to serve God through the poor”

Contemporary society experiences the strong impact of relativism and consumerism, not only in Europe’s western societies, as is often pointed out, but also in post-Communist Countries, marked by a strong tendency to explore and challenge the limits of recovered freedom after the fall of Communist dictatorship. However, there are strong signs that young people don’t downsize the goals for self-achievement and that they don’t use new technologies only to improve their way of living. A high number of young men and women invest their time and their talent seeking personal satisfaction in other fields, for veritable service to others, guided by Christian faith, which they proudly express in their daily life. Some of them bear witness to it at home, at school, in the workplace, while others decide to devote many years to volunteering for people in difficult situations in poor Countries, like 22-year-old Monika Froncova, who under the guidance of the Salesians of Don Bosco in Bratislava is preparing to live a one-year-volunteering experience in Kenya. SIR asked her about her hopes, expectations and various aspects of the mission.

What pushes a young woman such as yourself to leave the “comfort zone” of her home, and, instead of studying or seeking a well-paid job, decides to do volunteering missionary work in Africa? I had been wanting to live this form of the mission for a long time. Actually, when I turned to the Salesians to concretize this opportunity, I thought it was a natural thing to do for every young Catholic. Although I eventually came to realize that this is not true for everyone, many of my peers truly wish to do something for others…

In my case, I wished to help poor children.

This idea slowly took shape and developed into the yearning to share God’s love for us with other people. I feel the strong desire to serve Him through the poor.

It must be very demanding for a young woman of your age to decide go to Africa as a volunteer worker. Who decided Kenya’s destination, and what was your reaction?
We were given the opportunity to give some preferences on our working destination, but I had none. However, I trusted the fact that the Salesians, in virtue of their experience, would justly evaluate our capabilities and talents, along with the needs of the local communities abroad, for the good of all those involved. Me and my colleague Anka will be going to a small town, Korr, located in an eastern region of Kenya hit by a severe drought. Anka is a doctor, I will be teaching English and religion. To say the truth I was quite surprised by this choice, for in Kenya there is a strong ground for the formation of youths in Don Bosco’s Salesian spirit and charisma, an area of service that is especially directed to males, but we shall see …

Could you describe your year of formation at the Salesians? 
It consisted in nine meetings during weekends and a spiritual retreat. From September 2016 to February 2017 we had the opportunity to say “no” if we felt that some aspects of missionary volunteering were too much for us to cope with. The Salesians have analyzed our inner limits in depth, primarily with personal interviews and the assignment of exercises. They tried to understand whether we would be able to handle difficult situations and if we satisfied three fundamental conditions: vitality, a sound spiritual life and physical capabilities. We were given the results in March along with our future destination, after which we started the concrete formation. Every weekend was devoted to prayer, Mass, occasions for sharing, lessons on specific themes such as missionary zeal, team work, the psychological aspects of volunteering, health, prevention … in the context of spirituality.

What happens next?
I can’t wait to spend my time with people and with God. As one could expect, I feel I am given a big responsibility and I’m a bit nervous: I hope to be a good witness of the love of Christ. I realize that in every mission, regardless of one’s specific duties, what’s most important is to care for people’s souls, the rest will come naturally, according to the surrounding environment and the substantial conditions.

What are your expectations and your greatest hopes? 
The region I will going to has been hit by drought, so I expect to find poverty and diseases connected to this phenomenon. I am deeply touched by other people’s suffering, but I think that nobody is abandoned by God. As our supervisor says, material poverty and diseases are not the worst things we could be faced with, vanity is a much greater danger, for it risks ruining our relationship with God. As I have heard, people in Africa are poor, but they also tend to be happier than us.

They are rich in terms of faith and relationships.

I think it is much harder to carry out missionary activity in prosperous Countries, for people lead rich material lives amidst widespread indifference.

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