Posted by Br Mandy Dujunco
on 27 June 2017
June 21-23: I remember as a fourteen-year-old, blending in and being just like everyone else was of most concern. Judging from theme chosen for the year nine retreats, I guess some things remain the same: appreciating your own uniqueness as a gift is a challenge. It is ironic that in this age with so many avenues to express individuality, there seems to be a greater pressure to conform and be 'like everyone else'.
When self-expression is supposed to be facilitated by various social media platforms, we often hear of people trying very hard to make their lives seem to be more grandiose than it truly is. It is no wonder that the youth of today feel more pressured to "keep up".
As the students came in for their day of reflection, it was easy to guess that a lot of them would rather be somewhere else. I presume that many were also hoping that they would have an exciting day.
As the retreat activities progressed, it was amazing to see how the students began to open up and begin to participate more deeply into the activities. I reckon it helped that their facilitators were easy to relate to and would share spontaneous stories about themselves and their own struggles. The use of current characters: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons and a host of Superheroes, was a big hit. Games that encouraged interaction and creativity also helped the students relax and just be themselves.
These retreats are always little miracles. The participants are normally shy and reserved at the start, but they gradually bloom and become more spontaneous. It is almost like seeing a microcosm of what growing up is like. I smile to myself whenever I observe this dynamic. I know that adolescent years are always rough. Hopefully, through programs like these, the students would somehow cope better and little by little realise that despite everything they may encounter along the way, life is beautiful, their friends value them and most of all, God loves them.