Project Teringai 2013 – Wong Yen Jun

Wong Yen Jun is a 2nd year Pharmacy student at Monash University, Australia. She was one of the volunteers for Project Inspire Teringai 2013.

Sometimes, we are too ambitious to think that we are the ones who ignite the inspiration as well as enkindle the visions and dreams of the others but there are times when we are in fact the ones who get inspired.Pursuing a peaceful and unadorned life has always been my desire. A gazillion thanks to UKECharisma and Project Inspire Teringai 2013 as I thought I have successfully found the calm oasis in the hustle and bustle of city life through this remarkably meaningful project.

Our arrival was warmly welcomed by the purest smiles carved on the naïve faces of the adorable kids. Their vivacity served as an extra boost to fuel my enthusiasm to double up my endeavor in accomplishing the objectives of this project. “Kamu June!” It was very surprising and heartwarming when they shouted my name out loud, as you know, all of us long for attention. The same goes to the kids and I reminded myself that this was the reason God brought me here.

I believe that the dearth of infrastructure and facilities together with the lack of hygiene and health awareness in the village has been mentioned elsewhere. The scarcity of the village has been ameliorated by an Australian philanthropist, Mr. Vernon Stanford who contributed his expertise in the Water Gravity Project by providing regular water supply to the villagers. Through a brief conversation with him, we recognized his utmost concern for the fundamental education of the kids and also his despair towards the unfulfilled promises by some parties on improving the amenities of the village.

The volunteers were entrusted to conduct every English lesson with the lesson plans provided as guidance. Malay was our sole medium of communication since the English proficiency of the kids was below normal standard. Though the kids were not as bright as we expected, their responses to our meticulously devised interactive activities were quite encouraging. It was very reassuring to know that there was a significant number of pupils who were very willing to take the initiative to learn, and there we were to fulfill their thirst for knowledge. The inconsistent level of intelligence of the kids made our teaching process a very challenging task. One-to-one teaching and learning was the best remedy to enhance their standard yet it had to be a long term input in order to yield a fruitful outcome. Thus I was disheartened as two weeks was seriously inadequate to impose a change in the learning culture there. As a strategy to facilitate learning and to develop their zeal towards English, I made promises with some of the kids whereby they would be my mentor in teaching me the Rungus language (their local language) while I would teach them English vocabs each day.

Our attempt in incorporating inspirational simulation during lessons and the initiative in brainstorming a myriad of interesting activities were aimed at driving their motivation in order to strive beyond their comfort zone so that they will possess the aspiration of achieving prominent accomplishment in education as well as a more promising career in the future. Also, we hope that the mural we painted would leave an indelible imprint on their minds so as to move forward all the time without being afraid of the obstacles that might impede them. Every child is a leaner, no one is meant to be neglected or abandoned, and from there I realize that the educators and family do play a central role in shaping the future of the younger generation. I was intrigued by the discussion that revolved around their current state of living and satisfaction towards life versus the essentiality of education which would bring about development to the village, raised by one of the thoughtful volunteers. I agreed that the current state of happiness would not be everlasting as there might be unscrupulous parties which would take advantage of their ignorance. Therefore, education is a necessity, a weapon to protect themselves from being deceived, manipulated and exploited.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Since telecommunication was inaccessible, this was an invaluable opportunity for us to embrace the beauty of Mother Nature. I was astonished while witnessing their intimacy with nature. The kids could simply run uphill without panting and bathe in the sea during sunset as if freedom was everything they have. Moreover, I was also mesmerized by the magnificent sunrise and sunset every day as well as the captivating scenery at a nearby waterfall. As a city girl, I had a joyous moment mingling with the kids with eye-opening experience of witnessing hatched chicks, being fascinated by the enthralling starry night, trying to suck the mee soup packed in a plastic bag, learning Sumazau and Kadazan dances from them, capturing birds with handmade slingshots, having my feet trapped in mud, tantalizing our taste buds with freshly-plucked tropical fruits, visiting the tip of Borneo, and not to forget the memorable trip to Kota Marudu by sitting in a sardine-like packed truck. Their proficient survival and living skills stunned me to an incredible extent which I concede, there are a lot which I have to learn from them.

The ripples of satisfaction in the bottom of our hearts were stirred when the volunteers received numerous lovely handmade cards and gifts by the kids. The messages were short and simple yet touching. That was the most precious reward after a long day of endeavor.

Besides teaching, we encountered various ordeals during our stay in Kampung Teringai. Apart from the inconsistent supplies of water and electricity, the lack of other resources had further toughened our hardship especially during a couple of emergency episodes. When we thought that it would be impossible for us to be besieged by more perilous adversity, more and more arduous incidents happened. Even on the very last day of our volunteering, the van transporting us back to Kota Kinabalu had a punctured tire half way through the journey. It was sweet when almost every passer-by stopped by to offer a helping hand. Overall, I was impressed by the quick-witted volunteers who saved the day with their spontaneous reaction, intelligence and team spirit. I cherished the precious moment we spent through thick and thin and I treasure the intimate rapport we established via this project.

Partings and goodbyes are never easy for me but they are inevitable in life as they symbolize the end of a learning process as well as the beginning of the subsequent venture. This experience serves as a turning point in changing my perspective towards my future undertaking and also the purpose of my life. I can’t go so far as to give myself any credit for finding myself in the situations I did in Teringai, as luck simply showed me a good hand far more often than I deserved. There are times when I am overwhelmed by disappointment when the realization of how little I can contribute to the underprivileged kids and the village strikes me. Nevertheless, the two weeks there were the most well-spent period throughout the 20 years of my life while the bumpy car ride was the most worthwhile journey amongst all the travels I had. By quoting Sir John Monash, ‘Adopt as your fundamental creed that you will equip yourself for life, not solely for your own benefit but for the benefit of the whole community’, I can say it is true that the gratification reaped from giving is far more satisfying than receiving. Your contribution will never be insignificant and you will never be doing too little to lend a helping hand as long as you have the passion and effort to reach out to those in dire need of help.

Since I was nicknamed “Kak Butterfly” during the project, I would like to end my writing with a beautiful quote by Maya Angelou ‘We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.’ I hope our love could have a positive impact in leading the kids to a more-than-ordinary success.

Thank you UKECharisma.

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