written by AZEEF HASSAN, SK Tumunda Salimandut volunteer
After almost a week of time spent with the kids within the school compound, the day had arrived for the volunteers to do some sightseeing around the town of Kota Marudu. We aimed to depart at 9.00 AM from the school compound but due to unforeseen logistical circumstances, we ended up leaving an hour later than planned. Thirteen of the fourteen volunteers packed into three separate cars driven by SK Tumunda Salimandut teachers and were now on their way to the Kota Marudu Tamu (Sunday Market). One of the volunteers, Li-Ann, in an act of selflessness, volunteered to stay behind in order to keep the kids company. How sweet of her!
The journey from the school to the Tamu took around about 25 minutes. Once there, we took our time to take in the sights and smells that the Tamu had to offer. We were surprised by just how much variety in food, fruits, clothes and bags, among other things that were available at the Tamu. Unable to resist temptation, some of the volunteers ended up indulging in grilled sate and chicken rear while others enjoyed a refreshing sip of natural coconut water.
Besides looking around the Tamu mindlessly, the volunteers also had a mission to accomplish whilst at the Tamu. The Sabahan volunteers had told the others about a mysterious exotic fruit called the Tarap, which has its own unique texture and taste. So, our mission had been to track down this fruit and bring some back to the school for us to enjoy. Although the Tarap fruit was not in season, we were able to find some vendors selling them. They were not as big as we wanted them to be but as they say, beggars can’t be choosers! With that in mind, we ended up buying a few.
Exotic fruits weren’t the only things that we were tracking down in the Tamu. We were also looking to reunite with the Project Teringai team who were also somewhere around the Tamu area. This task however took longer than expected but we succeeded nonetheless. Once reunited, we began sharing our experiences for the past 6 days in our two schools. As we shared, we began to realise how different our experiences actually were; from the behaviour of our kids to the facilities that are available at the two schools. It was truly an eye opening session. Both teams went their separate ways after a while with more appreciation with what we once took for granted.
After our little Tamu adventure, we felt as though we wanted to see more of what the town of Kota Marudu had to offer. As such, the sporting teachers of SK Tumunda Salimandut who drove us to the Tamu brought us to a Servay supermarket in town.
At the supermarket, we decided to buy some personal gifts for the kids. With the collective creativity of the volunteers, we ended up buying obvious gifts such as pencil boxes and stationary to not-so-obvious gifts such as Sudoku puzzles and mini whiteboards. Once everyone was satisfied with their gifts, we all went around the supermarket vicinity to find something to eat for lunch. After our tummies were filled, we left the town behind us and headed back towards SK Tumunda Salimandut.
In the afternoon, we started preparing for what might be the most ambitious activity that we had ever done so far. We called the activity Simulasi Kehidupan (Life SImulation). The aim of this simulation was to promote awareness among the kids regarding the importance of education and the benefits that someone with a high level of education may enjoy in terms of their careers and personal life.
The simulation is quite complex, having many different parts to it. Putting it simply, there are three levels of education (Primary, Secondary and University) and four levels of work (Levels 1 to 4). In order for the kids to have access to higher levels of work which pay more and are less laborious, they would need to have completed a certain level of education. This concept instils unto them the importance of education in securing a higher standard of living.
The simulation began with a few minor mishaps which perhaps came about as a result of under preparation in our part. Nonetheless, with great teamwork and communication, we managed to iron out the issues shortly after. The simulation lasted for about 3 hours and even then, some kids were reluctant to stop. I guess they really liked it!
That night, the volunteers’ teamwork and communication skills were once again put to the test. We wanted to reward the kids after putting so much effort in the Life Simulation activity. However, we had not pre-prepared any gifts for them. Hence, we came up with the idea of making replica diploma certificates for those who ‘graduated’ the university stage and participation certificates for the rest who fell short. We had but only a short time frame to execute this daunting task but once again, our strong teamwork prevailed.
The night was graced with many smiling faces as the kids were called one by one to receive their certificates. Besides the certificates, the kids were also given some essential stationaries (pencils, erasers, rulers etc.) which were prepared by our project leader, Kamraj, who brought them all the way from West Malaysia.
After the prize giving ceremony, we executed the final activity of the night. The activity was that we wanted the kids to use any paper money that they earned from the Life Simulation activity to buy snacks from the volunteers. Therefore, we set up a table in front of the mess hall area of the boarding house to represent a ‘Kedai Runcit’ which sells snacks.
One by one the kids then queued up to buy some snacks for themselves with their hard earned paper money. This activity enabled the kids to utilise some of their brain power to handle simple money transactions while having an element of fun and an acknowledgement of a job well done.
The night finally came to a close after the kids had their nightly reflection sessions and some hot beverage with biscuits. After the kids went to bed, the volunteers once again had their own reflective session to discuss what happened on the day and ways to improve ourselves as well as going through the activities for tomorrow. With that, we each collapse on our beds after a long day’s work, clueless to what might transpire when the sun rises for another day with the kids.
All in all, today has truly encompassed what this volunteering project is all about. That is, to expose them to the endless possibilities that education has to offer but at the same time, realising that in order to achieve these goals, it requires a certain amount of teamwork as well as enjoyment. I truly believe that we as a team have successfully taught them these key lessons and we too had great fun doing it.