The path was bumpy with minor cracks and challenges, but beautiful in a way that I could never perfectly describe. The first step was filled with excitement, yet I was nervous because I never know what I might stumble upon. I decided to put my expectation aside, knowing that this would not be easy. I committedly advanced with the end in mind, to contribute to the fullest of my capacity while ready for the surprises awaits me ahead.
The moment where I thought I could not do this alone, I was driven by a force of goodness which are fuelled with inspiring energy. Each with their own character, story and specialty, but with the common ground of having hearts for the people. Besides believing that no matter where you come from, one can collectively solve a nation’s issue especially when it comes to education.
Throughout those days, it was amazing to see the continuous effort shove in by the parents and teachers, plus how they are willing to go extra miles for their beloved children and students. The smile plastered on their face, the sincere bonds that we forged within a small period of time and the good food served during the house visits, gives us the reassurance that we are all in this together. What is more meaningful, is the personal connection developed not solely through language, but also through gestures and expressions. The burst of joys splashed just by seeing how the children enjoy reading storybooks together with their loved ones. Moreover, the realization by the parents to spend more time with their children and that they are actually the first teacher, the ultimate teacher for their children. This confirms that I do not have to be someone in power to help others, I just need to be me.
I remember in the middle of the enjoyment, a sudden thought bubbling on my mind. I question my ability as I confronted my fear of dealing with children and engaging with adults. Am I able to do it, did the parents, teachers and children receive what they deserve and did I contribute enough? I know I have the answer to my own question, and that I should not underestimate my own capability. I convinced myself that I have only one match, so I should make an explosion. Hence, to give my very best.
One night during the debrief session, we were imposed with questions on what is actually the main objective that we were brought together in this island? And why is the length of the programme being 2 weeks? Why not three days, one month, three months or even a year? 100,000 Indonesian rupiah was on the line for those who can give the right answer. Surprisingly, each and every one spoke and gave a correct answer, but none gave the right one. While we were busy helping others, we did not realize that the actual limelight is on us.
As we focus on urging the children to read and create their story, it is actually our avenue to find our own story. It is a journey structured for us to undergo an exhilarating and transformative personal development. I am glad that I took on a detour and explored a new me, beyond my own bubble. I could also felt myself grow into a much better version of myself. As I credited myself on this, I strongly believe that this would not have happened without those wonderful individuals around me – Asyraf, Gift, Chen, Regina, Sivchoung, Joy, Viet, Art, Syukri, Monik.
We complete each other. During the seriousness, everyone contributes dynamically and played their role. From providing managerial skills, technical expertise, graphic design skills to employing their problem-solving and relationship-building ability. And of course, I would not want to miss the fun part. Be it the conversations, the jokes, the walks, the car rides, the games, and the dance. OUH THE DANCE.
All in all, I consider myself lucky to have the platform and resources in doing what I love, to give back. This would not be possible without the initiative by the ASEAN Foundation and Maybank Foundation. Most importantly, the NGO that contributes to our memorable experience, Taman Bacaan Pelangi. While collaborating with them, I enjoy learning in depth on how they stay true to their objectives and being strategic as well as detailed in terms of the execution and implementation. I hope Taman Bacaan Pelangi would continue to build bridges that enable children to enjoy and be inspired with myriads of story.
In the midst of penning this down, I stop and review all the photos and videos that I took just to absorb the emotions behind every moment in frames. The memories captured that will totally left a lasting mark. To those who read this till the end, thank you for already being part of the journey and remember, to always give, in every way possible. And if you are considering to be involved in volunteerism, without a single doubt, I would say, go for it.
Malaysia, March 2019