Honestly, during the first week in the school, my tears dropped every single day, especially for the English sessions. For this subject, I was assigned to the second weakest group, where most of them are unable to read or write even a single English word. It was a big hit for me to see a Standard 6 student struggling with the basic components of English. It made me realise how privileged some people are in this world, and the worst part being that these people still take things for granted. What really broke my heart is the energy that the students gave us (me and Dania) during the English session. They were really enthusiastic and eager to learn. However, the syllabus is too fast for these kids and the practices given by the teacher are way too hard for them, so it would pretty much be useless if we continued with the handouts given. Instead, we made a vocabulary book for them with the English words in one column and its Malay translation in another column.
We asked them to read Standard 2 or 3 English books loudly so that we can fix their pronunciation. We also asked them to note down the words they did not understand. Unexpectedly, they were really committed to the given task. For example, Rhonu wrote almost 500 unfamiliar words within a week. We were really surprised by his level of commitment. Coming in second was Caitlyn with approximately 350 words; she pretty much copied the dictionary but we appreciated the hard work. The third place went to Weicolyn who copied whatever Caitlyn wrote. We did quizzes sometimes for them to recall what they had written so that they were not just blankly copying. The progress was good though they had a hard time memorising the words.
Those 2 weeks at SK Teringai is one of those moments in my life that I will never forget. I arrived at the school with a lot of excitement and little expectations as it had been said that the conditions would be quite harsh. Living without proper water supply and mobile coverage is surprisingly not as bad as it seemed to be, especially when you are showered with love from the people around you.
One of the moments that I remember vividly during the 2 weeks was during our way to take a bath at the river. Unfortunately my sandal strap had broke, so I had to borrow my friend’s slippers though her shoe size is a mere 3. They were too small for my feet but they were my only choice. On our way, Rhonu noticed that my slippers were really, really small, so he took 2 empty 1-litre water bottles and made a pair of slippers out of it. Basically, he compressed the bottles and used the plastic covers of the bottles as the straps, and it worked fine for a short walk. Frankly, it felt much better than the small slippers, so I walked to the river using a pair of water bottles. What he did was really smart and creative, I would never have thought of that kind of alternative. It is amazing how a little help can affect someone so much because I felt so happy and surprised by the small gesture. What I learnt that day was eventhough the kids are underprivileged due to lack of education and facilities, they have much better survival skills than most of us.
There were so many lessons that we, the volunteers have learnt in the two-week period. The experience has affected me deeply and I just wish that I could come back again to see how the kids are doing. All of them have a really good heart and were very kind to us. The lack of mobile coverage and water supply apparently helped to bond the volunteers really well.