Aaron Mah is currently a 2nd Year student of Leeds University studying L.L.B. He was a volunteer for Project Teringai 2014.
On 3rd August 2014, the volunteers of the Teringai project arrived in Kota Kinabalu. Strangers to each other but all eager to work together for the cause, mission and change, all 12 of us have committed to. We spent the first day getting to know one another, planning lessons and buying supplies and stationery we need throughout the project. At night we had dinner with Mr. Peter James the Rotarian in charge of assisting our project. We set of the next day on the 2 hour ride to Teringai and SK Temuno Darat.
Upon reaching the school in the evening, we were greeted by the excited smiles and curious eyes of the 51 children staying at the Asrama (dormitories). Some of the boys helped carry our belongings and supplies to the house that was to be our living quarters for the next 2 weeks while at the same time being cheeky by telling us about the ghosts living there. We also discovered that we had a water shortage in the school as we were in the midst of a drought. All in all, this was a sure promise of adventure. The next day, we made our formal introductions to the pupils as well as the teachers and started our lessons with primary 6 English. The boys also followed some teachers to fill up water storage tanks from a nearby house belonging to one of the teachers while the girls conducted lesson plans.
Our tasks revolved around teaching English to classes of primary 3, 4, 5 and 6 as well as Mathematics for primary 6. We also had to assist in after-school lessons and activities in the afternoon and night for the children living in the Asrama and extra lessons for the primary 6 pupils. All our lesson planning was done at night as we had full schedules every day. Every evening at 4pm, we also played with the children in the field by joining the various sports of football, bola jaring and volleyball. A volunteer brought a Frisbee and introduced the sport to the children and we were very surprised that the kampung children can pick up the sport faster in less than a week than it would take for a university student in a year of training. In addition to our teaching tasks, we took part in a beach cleaning project on 9th August and a medical camp organized by the Rotary Club on 10th August as well as our task in improving the pusat sumber in the school. Not only did we help the kids but we served the community in other aspects too!
Throughout the project, we learned that the teachers and pupils expected a lot of us volunteers who have been through university education. We had to plan lessons in advance according to set objectives but at the same time be flexible enough to change tactics according to what we felt did or did not work. Although we had not planned with high expectations in mind, we still had to go back to square one on many occasions. We also learned about the best way to approach and keep the pupils’ attention. We learned how seriously the pupils take drawing and colouring and how to treat children who all have their individual personalities and behaviors in class.
However we had the best fun with the pupils and children from the Asrama as well. We played games and instilled competition between them and witnessed first-hand the unlimited creativity of the children in taking the simplest of items ideas and seeing the fun in them. All of us remember the nicknames they gave to all of us, the efforts of Johnley the matchmaker, Perlee’s cute smile, Elbonny’s professional Frisbee tosses, Astiwina’s possessiveness of a certain volunteer, Maxwell who always smiles, Peter’s killer 6-move chess play and many other memories J We also remember making the kids laugh with each volunteers’ charm. Jack who kept asking for biscuits, Julia’s playfulness with the primary 6 boys, my dancing, Ivy’s gentleness and the others who all had their part to play. We also saw how curious the kids were in the outside world when we showed them pictures taken on our phones and told them stories of our travels.
Our goodbyes were the hardest. The smiles and the cries on the last day broke all our hearts and we made promises to keep in contact (we still do!) with the children and for them to look for us when they grow older.
I would like to really thank my friends who volunteered with me and who I have gotten to know very well and enjoy their company greatly. We have been through exhaustion, ant invasions, public performances, disturbances at night and the dodgy sense of humour we seemed to share. I would not know how to ask for better volunteers or friends to have this amazing experience with. Thank you also to the teachers of SK Temuno Darat for teaching and guiding us. Thank you UKECharisma.
Aaron (Abang Gam)