as told by TAMMY TAN, SK Temuno Teringai volunteer
Happy times don’t last, and our time in Teringai was nearing to its end. As usual, we woke up around 6 am and kick-started our day with breakfast prepared by our joyful Kakak Ani in the canteen. We were already starting to get used to our busy schedule – teaching in the morning and extra classes in the afternoon as well as at night. It was indeed satisfying to see the smiles crossing over the kids’ face and their enthusiasm and hunger towards learning new knowledge. Frankly speaking, it was a daunting task trying to communicate in Bahasa Melayu as we didn’t use it regularly. Thankfully, they didn’t mind our horrible translations during the lessons. Perhaps they couldn’t express their appreciations orally, we could still feel their sincerity from their self-made appreciation cards.
Today was slightly different than usual. Other than teaching, a group of us went into different classes to give out the toothbrushes and toothpastes during our leisure time. I believe most of us started brushing our teeth since a very young age. However don’t be surprised if I tell you that not many of the kids here brush their teeth properly as toothpaste to them, is a luxury. The same applies to shampoo. Apart from that, hygiene is questionable as water supply is limited. The water from the reservoir used by the volunteers actually came from the rain water. The kids normally have to walk quite a distance to a nearby river to bath and get their water to flush the toilet.
As our farewell ceremony was just around the corner – on the last day of our stay. A group of us was busy preparing for our farewell performance. Hui shen, Yi fen, Vanessa and a few more volunteers have come out with the “dikir barat” choreography and props for the play. The kids were all very excited to perform. They even sacrificed their own leisure time to have practice for their performance. Living in the hostel, the kids do not have much free time normally. Their routine would be: wake up at 5 am, begin their first class at 6.30 am, and end their day at 9.30pm after two extra classes. It was pretty heart-aching to see the little ones being so fatigue at the end of the day.
After our extra class at 9.30pm, we had a special practice session with the Standard 6 kids. I can truly feel that all the kids are gifted in their own distinctive ways. Some might not be so talented academically, but they can be excellent at performing. They have learnt skills such as beat-boxing, breakdance or even acting by imitating from the television programmes. Furthermore, all of them have angelic voices and can sing very well. Our performance team leader, Vanessa had then decided to slot in an additional performance so that they can showcase their talents.
As usual our reflection time took place at the end of the day. We were sharing our experience and things we come across throughout the whole day. We realised some of the kids’ grandparents have just passed away. A volunteer witnessed how a kid trying all kind of ways to cheer his peer up. Even at such young age, they can feel each other’s pain and wouldn’t be stingy to offer their company and consolation. As it gets closer to the day we bid goodbye, we could see that everyone was getting more emotional. We started to think of what can we do to help them after we leave the village, and also how can we continue to motivate them with the limited time we have with them.
Being here in an isolated village far away from the skyscrapers that we are used to see in cities, offline from Facebook and the internet for a fortnight and interacting with the worry-free and innocent kids truly gave me an opportunity to see life from a different perspective. I was truly moved by their sincere acts where they showed selflessness, offering their water pail to us even though they only had one, lending their hands in carrying water buckets by buckets from the river even they are only about half of my size, and offering their erasers to us without second thoughts despite the fact that erasers are also a luxury to some of them. On top of that every time when they see us they would greet us enthusiastically without fail, making us felt so loved. I remember that I was on the verge of breaking into tears when a boy who had just finished his performance cried and told us that, never in his life he had received such applause. All their simple and small actions were like a slap to my face. Reflecting back at ourselves the more fortunate ones, we already have everything that we need in life, yet what else are we chasing for?