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Don Bosco brings Samoan culture to Australia

Forty-five students from the Don Bosco Technical Centre in Samoa are currently touring Australia sharing their traditional 'Siva' Samoan singing and dancing.

The Don Bosco Technical Centre was founded in 1989 to provide "second chance" education for boys and young men aged 16 – 22, who have not completed mainstream secondary schooling. Most of the boys come from poor families, many have previously dropped out of school, and many face serious family and social problems.

The school offers practical training in motor mechanics, electrical, welding and metal fabrication, plumbing and carpentry over two or four years. Those who complete the full four years have excellent prospects of employment in their field.

"The mission the school was founded on continues to this day," says former St John Bosco principal Fr Chris Ford, who is leading the boys on their tour. "To provide technical education for boys who are falling through the gaps."

Singing and dancing are a deeply engrained element of Samoan life and culture. Not traditionally a form of entertainment, they are an exuberant celebration of life and a way of telling and conserving the stories that are so important to Samoan culture. The school uses these rich traditions to prepare the boys for working life.

"When you enter the workforce there's no doubt you need the knowledge and the skills but you also need the right attitude," says Fr Chris.

"These are kids who have experienced very little success or achievement in the past. We teach singing and dancing and other traditions to build their self-esteem and self-belief, to teach teamwork and cooperation and instil in them a real love for and sense of participation in their culture."

Don Bosco is renowned for its traditional Siva and the boys are often invited to perform for special occasions, public celebrations and important events. In fact, Samoan Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Malielegaoi, has been quoted as saying that Don Bosco has revolutionised and breathed new life into traditional dance in Samoa.

In recent years Don Bosco students have performed at the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 United Nations Small Island Developing Nations Conference, and at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games, and, the boys' favourite according to Fr Chris, provided the half-time entertainment for the historic Rugby Union Test Match between the Manu Samoa and the New Zealand All Blacks in July 2015.

"Our dancing is always received with great acclaim," says Fr Chris. "Everyone knows that no one dances like Don Bosco does."

"The tour is an opportunity for us to express our gratitude to the people who support us, to build some new links and to share something of the beauty of Samoan culture," says Fr Chris.

While the majority of funding for Don Bosco comes from the Salesians in Australia, the tour also aims to raise money to replace the Centre's aging truck and establish a fund to progressively renovate the workshops.

​If you would like to experience the Don Bosco 'Gift of Hope' Siva Tour visit their FaceBook page Don Bosco Siva 'Gift o​f Hope' Tour 2016.

CCI is pleased to be able to provide financial support to the Don Bosco 'Gift of Hope' Siva Tour. 

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