Boscofest 2011

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Dingli is a tiny, rural village known for its scenic landscapes and peaceful quiet. But during the hot summer months of July and August, a project took place at Savio College that brought with it all the spirit and energy of youth from all over the island.

It was an experience that is now synonymous with "incredible", "life-changing" and "unforgettable" experiences to the people involved. It was the experience of Boscofest. Boscofest knows its origins in 2005 when founder Fr Louis Grech organised a summer-long project for young people to prepare a small production of the musical The Hunchback of Notre Dame, involving about 80 teenagers. From then on, Boscofest exploded, growing in number and scale and changing its format with almost every edition.

The aim of the Boscofest experience is to help the participant express him/herself through the media of music, drama and other performing arts while providing him/her with a socially and spiritually formative experience.

This year, Fr Grech, along with his team of about 40 animators, decided to give Boscofest a different dimension. While in previous years we were accustomed to sharing our talents and joy to the somewhat limited audiences who came to watch our shows, this year we decided to abandon our comfort zones within the walls of Savio College and perform in other locations, hence the term "reaching out". Furthermore, in the year dedicated to voluntary work, we chose to not only reach out but to reach out to those people in our society who are most in need of care and affection.

Hence, while the month of July was dedicated to weekly rehearsals and a four-day live-in experience to which previous Boscofest participants were already accustomed, the first two weeks of August were devoted to an adventure entirely new to all of us: the outreach experience, which took place in Id-Dar tal-Providenza, St Vincent de Paul Residence and Dar Sagra Familja.

During the rehearsals and live-ins, the Boscofest group, consisting of more than 200 young people, had the opportunity to not only prepare items, rehearse and develop their artistic talents but also to bond with each other as a group. We were able to cultivate a culture of love and acceptance in which education occurs with the same loving passion passed on from St John Bosco, the founder of the Salesian family, from whom the name Boscofest is derived.

The outreach experience, however, allowed us to build on all of this by passing on the joy between us to others. All the energy that was built between us during our preparations exploded and radiated to the individuals we met in the residences we visited. Every smile on the faces of these residents was reflected by ours, making this experience unique and enriching. We became aware of our duty to be altruistic to those who are not afforded certain comforts. During the six days of the outreach, we did not just perform for the residents but shared our time completely for the entire days. We talked to them, ate with them and did our best to entertain them and give them the best time possible.

That said, I must admit it wasn't an entirely easy experience. Some of the realities we faced shocked us and shook us to the core. However, rather than allowing these emotions to dampen our experience, we persevered towards our goal, making the days of our outreach uplifting and memorable ones. In the words of Fr Grech himself: "When you give, you end up receiving much, much more."

Of course, we also upheld our tradition of holding final nights at Savio College to share our experiences with our loved ones and the Salesian family. While these events were not the focus of the entire experience, they were still spectacular and outstanding nights filled with sketches, mimes, dance, animation and live music while giving the audiences a taste of Boscofest using documentaries that chronicled the previous two months.

What makes the experience of Boscofest truly unique is that while it celebrates art and culture, at no point do these become the main stake of the project. Rather, Boscofest's intention remains focused on giving the participant a personally and spiritually formative journey. In each rehearsal, on every day of the live-in and outreach, space was given to Holy Mass, formation sessions and moments of reflection and prayer.

All this allowed us to discover the love of Christ within ourselves so that when we came face to face with the residents during our outreach, we were able to share it through our actions. Boscofest, therefore, gave us not only the opportunity to find hope in those around us but also gave us the chance to discover ourselves and all that makes us special in the first place.

Saturday, September 3, 2011, by Clint Rizzo

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