SK TERINGAI TEMUNO DARAT (2016)

Day 1 -  Anis Raihan

First day of our Sabah adventure! All the volunteers reached KKIA before 1.00pm as we were told beforehand to book our flights around the same time, albeit flying with different airlines. We were split into groups of three based on our flight schedule so that once the volunteers reached the airport, we stayed in our groups and travelled to Lucky 11 Hotel together. Most of the groups decided to take the Uber since it was convenient and cheaper. Initially, the Rotary Club was supposed to pick us up altogether, but due to a change of plans, we travelled in groups instead. The money used for transportation to the hotel was later reimbursed by UKECharisma. Therefore, there was no need of splitting the taxi or uber fare into three – I personally dislike dividing money into three because of the cents LOL.

 

A majority of the volunteers were strangers to each other upon first meeting, however by the end of the two weeks, we became the best of friends. One by one, each group arrived at the hotel. All the volunteers gathered at the hotel lobby and took the chance to mingle around and get to know each other.  We then checked into our rooms and freshened up before going out. We had the whole afternoon to ourselves, so some went for late lunch at nearby kopitiams while others just went to explore the area. I went to Suria Sabah with my two new friends to get some last minute necessities. 7-Eleven, Guardian and Watson, they are all here! In fact, there is also a supermarket and a store where they sell sleeping bags and camping kits. So don’t worry in case you missed out on anything! Of course, being the most organised person in the world, I came prepared, I just had to get myself a few bottles of mineral water.

 

By 6.00pm, all of us were ready in our best suits and dresses. The Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu was kind enough to invite us to their annual grand dinner that night at Grand Hyatt Hotel and guess who was the guest of honour? Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir! Hence, we really did dress to impress. She was introduced to our team and we had a bit of a chit-chat session with her. We also had a group picture taken with Datin Paduka and the lucky ones among us managed to take selfies with her too.

 

After the dinner, the volunteers returned to Lucky 11 Hotel. All of us slept early due to the long day we had had and more importantly, we had to make sure we got enough rest for the journey to Teringai-Tumunda the next day.

Day 2 -  Anis Raihan

We left Kota Kinabalu for Sk Temuno Teringai in the morning. After popping in the motion sickness pills, we embarked on a 3 hours journey on the bumpy gravel road. Reaching Kampung Teringai Darat, a few kids playing by the road were waving to us from outside the window. We arrived at Sk Temuno Teringai during their afternoon study session. The hostel kids were doing their homework at their pre-allocated tables. We joined the kids and talked to them to get to know them. I felt very welcomed as they were very warm and friendly towards us.

The security guard blew the whistle and they ran off to do their ‘gotong-royong’ immediately. While they were busy cleaning the toilets and picking up rubbish, we checked their daily hostel schedule on the notice board and realized how packed the schedule was. 

The whistle was blown again and it was time for recreation. We played volleyball, football, police and thief and frisbee with the kids. They were very keen and excited when it came to sports. 

Soon, the guard blew the whistle and off they ran again. This time, they grabbed their pails and ‘sarungs’ and brought them to the river which was a 5 minutes walk away. The river is their usual bathing place as there is no clean running water available in the area. It was an eye-opening experience watching the girls ‘mandi bersarung’ in the river. Soon it was dinner time. Kakak Ani, who was responsible for our 5 meals a day, was a fantastic cook. She prepared simple but delicious food and she makes the best ‘sambal’. 

The extra class at night was from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. Wei Yi and I were responsible for the Standard 3’s, 4’s and 5’s while the other volunteers were in charge of the standard 6’s. I found the girls really obedient and fast in completing their work while Wei Yi found the boys really hard to control. In the meantime, the other volunteers who were guiding the standard 6’s with their mathematics were surprised by the drastic gap between the 2 different classes. Before we went to bed, we had a meeting for reflection of the day and to plan for the next. We got to know the kids attitude and academic level and we were all very motivated to provide any support they needed for the following two weeks. 

Day 3 -  Abigail

Our first morning waking up in SK Temuno Teringai! As we got ready for the day, we realised how different our lives were going to be for the next two weeks. Squatting beside the longkang to brush our teeth, filling buckets and queuing up to use the washroom will soon become a norm for us. The day continues with breakfast and we got to know Kak Syazwani, our amazing chef. She is such a sweet lady, remembering our allergies and catering to our needs and wants.

Today was also our first day teaching in classes. Our first class was 6 Impian and as planned the day before, we divided the students into smaller groups so that we could give them personal attention and allow them to learn at their own pace. Later that morning, we entered classes of Year 4 and Year 5 and conducted our own classes with them. We were a little unprepared for that so reflection time at night came in handy as we could discuss our plans for the next few lessons with them.

Teaching these students made me realised the poor quality of education they were facing and that there was much work to do to help these children. However, the thing that struck me most was the children’s character. They might not know a lot about English and Mathematics but their kindness and willingness to learn make me wish I could do more for them. In just one day, they showed their sweet character twice, first by getting umbrellas for us volunteers so that we could get to extra classes not drenched in rain while they walked in the rain themselves and secondly by keeping the clothes we hanged for drying the previous day and even folding them.   

As Tuesday was English day, we taught English in both afternoon and English extra classes. As I taught my kids, Faridcik, Johnley and Relovia, their eagerness to learn and understand things that I was teaching them touched me. While they were reading a storybook during break time, they asked me the meaning of almost every word and eagerly wrote the words down without me telling them to do so. When we read the second storybook, they made an effort to recall the words that they just learned and tried to explain the story to me.

I cannot wait to see how the next 10 days will unfold as we continue to teach these children and get to know them better.

Till tomorrow.

Outside of 6 Cemerlang, the clear view of the mountains and forests always gives me a strong sense of a ‘Kampung lifestyle’ (Village lifestyle). Not to forget the small field in the middle of the school where the kids staying in the school ‘asrama’ (hostel) usually play football and Frisbee during their ‘waktu riadah’ (playing time). It was raining heavily that afternoon and I am glad it was raining because SK Temuno Teringai Darat looks beautiful in the rain. Rain hid the melancholy of this land, the shortcomings as well. Not to forget, rain means we have sufficient water to carry out necessary daily activities like bathing, brushing our teeth and flushing the door-less toilet.

 

There were 6 volunteers facilitating the extra Maths class in 6 Cemerlang, where each of us are assigned to 2 or 3 kids. That afternoon pouring with rain and the classroom were darker compared to usual days as the ceiling lights were not functioning in our classroom for quite a long time. We sympathized with the condition of their classroom that they had to study even though some kids insisted that they have adapted to such situations. The volunteers felt sorry for them and we switched on our cell phone’s flashlight while teaching them.

Day 4 -  Lim Wei Yi

That morning, the kids woke up at 5.30am and the primary 6 students have extra classes with the headmaster daily. During school hours, even though we were being assigned to respective classes to teach the kids, all of us were on standby mode in case of a change in our schedule. It was quite sad to see some teachers not coming into classes during class hour on our 2 weeks stay as they expected us to teach the children even though it was not in our schedule. Teachers going late into class was normal and it was frustrating to see teachers being irresponsible. 

In the evening, while the kids were bathing in the river and the volunteers were resting in the room, I was playing volleyball barefooted with the security guards, the cooks and villagers in the school’s volleyball court. It was a different experience playing with them even though the rules were not standard and the score was carved on a stone. At that moment, I learned that it was essential not to bring your worries on court while playing, but to make sure you enjoy every moment in life.   

At night, we had our normal 2 hour extra class with the primary 6 students. In contrast to the volunteers who taught 6 Gemilang where the kids were motivated, we who were in charge of 6 Cemerlang felt much difficult as it was a challenge to get them to study. They had different levels of proficiency in English and Maths. Some children did have difficult personalities to understand which was hard to compromise. It was a challenge for me to keep changing my method of teaching to grab their attention and make sure they learn something out of our 2 weeks stay because some kids can’t even do basic mathematics operations questions like subtraction, multiplication and division.

After the extra class at night, the volunteers stayed up to practice our senamrobik dance moves as we were assigned to lead the weekly senamrobik the day after. Before the light dimmed, I wrote my lesson plan for my kids and also the learning goals I hope to achieve with them. Deep down in my heart, I realised how much these kids lacked in terms of exposure and guidance due to their limitations and hoping they could break free from the social inequality cycle. But at the same time, they taught me things that are more important and valuable in life: patience, humble and simplicity in life.

Day 5 -  Toh Wei Tung

It was an unusual start to the day as we had to wake up extra early at 6am to prepare for the senamrobik session. After loads of pre rehearsals, we were ready and off we went to the field. We took a group photo with the teachers first before beginning the session. Waka Waka was a crowd favourite! For each song, we had different volunteers being in front of the crowd while the rest of us mingle with the kids, putting in our best efforts to get the kids to shake their bodies, enabling them to be healthy and ready for lessons later in the day. The songs surely did put smiles in the children’s faces, and we were surprised too at how well the teachers could shake their bodies to the movement of the songs! Later, the teachers introduced us to their own senamrobik song as we did a short cool down session.

After all the sweat and smiles, the group split as I was assigned to the 6 Gemiilang class. My kids, Adre and Asswann were patiently waiting for me, as Adre pulled up a chair eagerly waiting for me to teach. One thing I love most about them is their eagerness and their hunger to learn. Despite the many extra classes in the afternoon and at night, they still do not get bored and they are curious to know about many things. I found out too that Asswann was having a fever and I asked him to rest. He insisted that he wanted to learn because we won’t be here long as volunteers and that really made my heart melt. We did adjectives and we came up with many funny scenarios relating to their lives as we laughed away. I was also really impressed by their capability to learn and capture everything. Imagine learning 36 new adjectives in a day, and their spelling too! I challenged them to learn difficult words like incredible, comfortable and developed, and they did it with joy. It really hurts my heart when there is so much talent and capability to learn, but yet they are slower due to the lack of resources and exposure. 

After the extra class, I got Juinn and Kallpana who were both current medic students to help patch up Asswann’s wound. He had a really horrible cut due to a bad fall and I could even see the flesh on his skin. I was really concerned too because he did not have any proper medical treatment and he did not even have cream to apply on the wound, which could be one of the reasons why he was having the fever due to infection. While Juinn and Kallpana were patching him up, the other students who want to be doctors were observing closely which sparked up their curiosity. 

Update: Asswann’s wound is almost recovered now! Really glad that there was no more further infection and it is almost healed up.

After that, we head off to the Standard 4 class, where we did simple nursery rhymes to teach them fundamental English. We introduced all the body parts by drawing a guy on the board and asking the students to point to each body part. Later, we sang head, shoulders, knees and toes and the kids enjoyed it so much! They sang with so much enthusiasm, which led the kids from the other classes to peep in and look at what we were doing.

We conducted extra classes in the afternoon for the Standard 6 students while at night, I was assigned to handle the Standard 3, 4 and 5 asrama kids. After hearing about the kids being wild and running around all the time, I mentally prepared myself before stepping into the asrama. 

I have never been more tired before. Boys running around, girls pestering me about acting and the few quiet kids who didn’t want to mingle around. While Hui Shen and Abigail took care of the kids who had difficulty in homework and the quieter ones who were uncomfortable with acting, I kickstarted the night by getting the kids to perform the cup song, which they did in all in sync! They mastered everything in minutes, as I was left scrambling to come up with something for them to do. We also started practicing for our performance for the Majlis Perpisahan as I narrated the story ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ and taught the kids how to act out each scene. It wasn’t the best idea being the only one chasing after 8 wild sheep and 3 wolves around the area, stopping the kids from eating grass just because they could not grasp the concept of acting and shouting at the top of my lungs every time due to the noise level. However, it was worth it as we completed the play within that mere one hour! The kids knew what to do, when to act and what to speak but it was still in BM as they were not confident in English and there was so much havoc every time the wolves attacked the sheep.

After a long day, we gathered as we had our reflection session, recalling the events that unfolded during the day, before crashing to sleep. Thinking back, I’d gladly do it again even if it tires me out, just to see the smiles and the satisfaction in the children’s faces when they could successfully complete their work or even their acting within such a short period of time. 

Day 6

As today was a Friday, it has been decided that the day would be rather ‘chill’ day for the kids (and the volunteers as well, heh). However, there was only one exception - classes for 6 Gemilang began at 7 in the morning. So, with a few complaints and a few ‘five more minutes’ here and there, we had our breakfast early and headed towards our class to start teaching. 

As the kids had back to back English and Mathematics classes, they had no choice but to face us volunteers for a whole two hours. As usual, the kids are enthusiastic to learn, but with the lengthy period, they got bored and lost focus easily. As a solution, many of us gave multiple breaks to the kids. However, being the strict and absent-minded Abang, I’ve actually forgotten to give my assigned kids any break (omgwhy). And when I’ve ‘finally’ realised and told them they can have a break, it’s already half past nine. (We decided to give them an extra 30minutes lesson as the teacher wasn’t around). As my kids were still a little shy and quiet at that time, they have yet to gain the courage to make demands from their Abang (which I assure you they did, at least only reasonable requests, on the final few days). Classes are over.

I’m sorry Elvexter & Asha. (╥_╥)

As some volunteers were really generous with giving out stamps to the kids (like seriously?), we had no choice but to provide the kids with additional ‘kad hadiah’. Not that there’s anything to complain about. It was fun drawing cute pictures and also served as a much needed break for us. Therefore, after class, a few of us volunteers went to work and the rest just fell right back into bed, continuing the dreams they were having before they were woken up abruptly by loud noises from the handheld devices that remind them it’s time to face reality.

From 3pm till 5pm, we had a ‘keceriaan’ session with the kids, where we redecorated the classrooms to give them a fresher look. For this session, the volunteers and students were splitted into 3 groups, each with five volunteers and a number of students. While the groups made origami and cut out minimalistic designs for the classroom doors, our group drew Pusheen the Cat with motivational quotes on colour papers to be placed on the walls. It is obvious that the kids really love drawing as everybody grabbed a pen and a coloured paper and went to work immediately. We first drew a few different Pusheens on the board for the kids to see and follow suit. Much to our amazement, we soon found out that many students were so creative and talented in drawing that they played around with the design and ended up drawing their own beautiful versions of subject and quotes! In the end of the session, we had so many great cards that we decided to utilise them all and paste it on every classroom to inspire the other kids.

In the evening, using the projector donated by UKECharisma 2015 team, we put on the movie ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’ for the kids. Although some of the kids have already watched the movie, they all enjoyed the session as they were able to relax and chill with their friends after an entire week of hard work. After the movie was over, it was bedtime and we sent the kids off to bed, back in their asrama.

Seeing what the kids wrote, I found myself inspired by their motivational and kind-hearted messages to their peers. It hurts me that many of these sensible and hardworking children were behind the rest of the society only due to the environment they were born into and the lack of opportunity provided by the society. And to add to that fact, although they are aware of their situation, they choose not to give up and to work hard with what they have and where they are in order to be able to return to society and their family in the future. At that moment, I realised what I was told about the project before it started was all so true. Spending time with the kids here has made us much more appreciative with everyone and everything around us in life. In Teringai, every new day gives you a new way to be inspired.

Day 7

After long hours of teaching and learning, Saturday marks the start of the weekend for both students and charismen. We were looking forward to skip breakfast and spend some quality time with our sleeping bags as class doesn’t start till 11pm. Our alarms went off at 5am…

 

I don’t know how this all started but we all ended up waking up before the sun was up with the moon still high up in the sky, trekking up Bukit Kinobon, with our trusted security and warm company of Salfin from 6B, to see the beautiful sunrise. We climbed to the top, took pictures, crossed streams, passed banana farms, walked through the jungle and ended up back in school after 3 long hours. It was a long morning but it wasn’t such a bad way to start of the day. It was a good experience.

What came after wasn’t that appealing, especially to the standard 6 students. Apparently, we were told to give a small English test to the kids to assess their performance. The test was already decided after our meeting last night, where both classes are to be given different sets of questions. Personally I thought it was a little cruel having the children, who were probably homesick as they weren’t able to go home for the weekend, to be tested on a Saturday morning. Surprisingly the students didn’t utter a word of complain and did as they were told with absolute focus. Dexter and Vivien (students of mine) actually did pretty well and showed some improvement. All the other students also improved and I’m sure all charismen were glad and proud that the hours of extra classes in the afternoon and at night paid off. The students’ determination and passion to learn and improve was very praiseworthy.

After finishing up the test, both students and charismen worked together to decorate the classrooms of standard 1 to 5 as part of our ‘keceriaan’ project. Students staying in the dorm, from standard 3 to 6, showed great teamwork in drawing, pasting, cutting and folding, finishing everything way ahead of time. We also got to witness some art talents among the student which you don’t get to see in class. Some drew characters from Naruto, some drew Pushins, some folded crane origamis. It was a fun and meaningful time for both charismen and students. My favourite decoration was the ‘Reach for the stars’ in class standard 4.
 

Time passed by really quick while we were having fun and 4pm marks the time for sports. On the field, you can see children running on the padang, flying frisbees cutting through the sky, hear cheers after scoring a goal, dodge volleyballs flying all over the place. In this place where even phone signal is rare, playing out in the open is the truly the best way to pass time. The children are very quick in picking up frisbee till playing a game of ultimate seems easier to them than someone who trained hard for it. I was really impressed. I think if the kids had more exposure to different types of sports, they would excel in at least one of them.

About 8pm (after the students had showered), us charismen were invited to a BBQ party with the teachers. There was good music, good food and great company. The food was prepared by our dear kakak from the canteen and I loved every bite of it, from the marinated chicken to the grilled fish. It was a pity that the students couldn’t join us for the BBQ. It would have been merrier if they did. After filling our bellies, the party continued, starting with the headmaster singing while the students and charismen did the Sumazau, a traditional dance in Sabah. More singing and dancing followed on till everyone was sure to have had a great evening. I for sure did. The highlight of the night was the game time where students and charismen were picked randomly to perform in the middle. Students beatboxed, charismen danced, teachers sang. It was like a festival that every hoped would never end. The sound of the whistle calling the students back to their dorm interrupted the party, but it probably didn’t end the fun going on in our hearts.

 

BBQ-ing and dancing made us all sticky and sweaty and everyone needed a shower. As per usual the girls took the toilets, for us boys we had something else planned. We got our clothes, towels, buckets and torchlights. We head to the river, stripped and showered under the moonlight. Not something you do every day, not even if you’re a local. It was both exciting and freezing. 

 

There is another experience of mine that is not significant at all, but meant a lot to me. There is a student who hurt himself while driving a motorcycle before we arrived. On the second day we arrived, I was told to take a look at it as his friends were worried. It was an abrasion on his left elbow which looks pretty bad but didn’t look like it was infected. I dressed it up as best as I could but one look and you’ll know it was done by an amateur. It healed well when I checked it before leaving. That was the not so significant part. What impacted me most was on the last day, all the charismen got a letter from the standard 6 students. In one corner, he wrote: Thanks for nursing me, abang Juinn (which was later crossed off and changed to all UKE). It made me remember my dream that I had forgotten after two years in Med school, that I want to and love to help other people in need. That student reminded me of who I want to be and I hope they all get to be who they want to be in the future.

 

SK Temuno Teringai Darat is a special place with special people. I washed my clothes using nothing but hands. I bathed in the river. I donated blood to mosquitoes I didn’t give consent to. I learned how to connect with the students. I lived two weeks without WIFI, 3G or even phone signal. I enjoyed the company of insects. I realized how enjoyable life is when everything is simple. I learned to care and love my students. I met a group of amazing volunteers who are now my friends. I remembered how sweet and innocent it is to have a dream. I experienced the hardships of teaching. I was inspired while inspiring others.

 

I learned a lot from this volunteering project and it has changed my view on life. Thank you UKECharisma for this opportunity and if YOU are hesitating to join this project, don’t think just apply, cause YOU will not regret it.

 

To all students and charismen,

 

Kadilau Ringai (please excuse my spelling mistakes)…

 

Do NOT forget…

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