Ivy Ho is currently an Economics student at University of Warwick. She was a volunteer for Project Teringai 2014 and Publicity Director of UKECharisma 2014/2015.
As we embarked on the two hour long journey to SK Temuno Teringai Darat through the bumpy pathway that led to the school, I was at the back of the van feeling an array of emotions. From excitement to nervousness, I wondered how the kids would react to us. All of my doubts and insecurities disappeared the moment we arrived at the school.
We were greeted by excited faces of the kids staying at the asrama. They were jumping in excitement and waving at us as our van pulled up in front of the hostel. My heart melted instantly at the sight of those kids. If there was such thing as love at first sight, this would be it. After settling down we immediately got acquainted with the kids. Some of them were really shy, giggling and running from us while others stepped forward and asked us questions.
We stayed at the teachers’ quarter which is a typical kampung house in the school. Our living condition was pretty challenging considering we arrived at a time when there was water shortage. To be exact there was no water, but luckily for us there were a few reserve tanks of clean water for us to use. So, for the whole two weeks we showered using one pail of water each day, once a day in the dark only illuminated by torchlight (the toilet has no light). In a nutshell, we slept on the wooden floor for two weeks, battled the attack of fire ants from all corners of the house on a night with a full moon (and tasted sweet victory I must add) and experienced creepy paranormal activities (I shan’t scare you with that). I’m not complaining because our living conditions combined with the absence of internet brought us closer together. In fact, the second day after reaching the school it was as though we knew each other for a long time already.
We only entered class on the second day of reaching the school and our first class was the Year 6 class and we were helping them with English paper 2. Each of us taught about two to three kids and thus got to assess their English proficiency for the first time. It was really tough for me at first because one of the kids I was teaching seemed so disinterested and he struggled with understanding words and forming sentences. UPSR was in two weeks and I felt so helpless on the first day. Thankfully, as the days went by he warmed up to me and I realized that he was working really hard trying to learn English. We taught the Year 6 pupils Mathematics and English, mostly preparing them for UPSR. We also taught the Year 5 and Year 4 students English. Some of the students were really active in class, raising their hands to answer questions while some others were not following the lessons and it was obvious that they did not understand some of the things we were teaching. They also have a tendency to copy their friend’s work so it was crucial for us to give as much attention as we can to each student to ensure they were up to speed with what was going on in front of the class.
A typical day for us would start with teaching in the school in the morning. We would divide ourselves into groups of four to take on each class. One person would usually lead the class and the others would ensure the students could follow the lesson and prevent them from copying each other’s work. After lunch a group of us will lead the Year 6 extra class for the asrama kids while the other group will tutor the asrama kids by helping them with their homework or revision. In the evening we would play with the kids in the field. Usually they would play football, netball, volleyball and frisbee. After dinner we usually planned activities for the kids (usually competition based) like building structures from straws or a fashion show where the clothes were made from paper. Meanwhile, the Year 6 students would have a separate night class. Since we were staying in the school compound we were able to spend more time with the kids in the asrama, so I think we were closer with the asrama kids. At night usually about 10pm we would discuss lesson plans and prepare the materials needed for the next day.
During the weekend we had a beach cleanup organized by the Rotary Club. Some of the kids went to help out as well and they were fearless catching fishes and crabs with their bare hands. The beach was so beautiful and untouched by tourists, with waters crystal clear and the sunset was breathtaking. We cleaned the beach before having a barbeque dinner and karaoke with the Rotarians. On Sunday, we helped the Rotarians with a medical camp held at the school. The following Friday we left for Kota Kinabalu. During the parting ceremony a lot of the kids were crying saying goodbye to us and I couldn’t help it and cried as well. In Kota Kinabalu we made a short trip to Sapi Island and spent the day snorkeling, parasailing and rode the banana boat.
I’m really grateful for the opportunity and I definitely miss the two weeks I spent in Teringai. Some of the kids still call me till this day and I hope we made an impact on them during our time there. I can still remember the Year 1 kids screaming “Kakak! Kakak!” beckoning me through the crack in the door that separated the Year 6 class from the Year 1 class. I miss them all dearly. It was such a humbling experience teaching those kids and I admire them tremendously for their courage, curiosity and innocence. On top of that, I shared this experience with the most amazing and dedicated group of volunteers whose friendships I now cherish dearly. The whole experience reminded me that the greatest joys in life can come from the simplest things. =)