It is not just any summer project.

But one which you will spend two weeks in Kota Marudu, deprived of cellular service and running water, yet will immensely miss after leaving the school.

I still clearly remember the morning I met my Math student, Nicklee for the very first time. I was expecting two students for my Math session but the other girl did not show up.

Nicklee was a quiet and shy boy. Trying to gauge his proficiency in Maths, I gave him a few test questions and eventually found out that he could only do addition and subtraction. The first session started with basic maths operations – reinforcing things he already knew, teaching him how to memorise the times table as well as do multiplication and division questions. He learnt quickly, and by the end of the session, he already managed to do division. Wanting to teach him as much as I could in these two short weeks, I gave him extra questions to do as homework.

I saw him again in class the following day. He completed his work – correctly, and actually initiated a conversation. “Kakak kakak, tengok saya salin sekali lagi, saya sudah pandai buat yang ni. Saya nak lulus dalam UPSR nanti!" To my surprise, he copied all of the practice questions I gave him in class and did them again in another exercise book. I was so touched by how eager he was to learn and could not help but wonder, had they received enough guidance and attention required, how brilliant they would have been.

All of us (the volunteers) were motivated to teach them as much as we could but all the other sessions were nothing short of hard work. We spent a significant amount of time, discussing and reflecting the best ways to deliver the academic materials and at the same time, impart as much non-academic related knowledge such as motivational and anti-bullying talks, health and hygiene sessions etc. to the kids.

From the planning of these activities, I believe the kids are not the only ones who benefitted. I have grown in many ways that I would not have otherwise, if not for this volunteering journey. Being a hygiene freak, I survived the two weeks showering in the river and with very limited running water supply. Being someone who cares too much about people’s views of me, I successfully stepped out of my comfort zone and performed in public. Being someone who was born into a more privileged environment, it reminded me to stop comparing and always be grateful, but never to forget to contribute and give back as long as we have the ability to. Memorable is not enough to describe what I experienced throughout this project. The different perspectives I have gained, the very mixed emotions I had before leaving and the wonderful people I have met along the way, have definitely made the decision to sign up for this so worthwhile.

Before we left, I got a letter from Nicklee. It read, “Selamat tinggal kakak. Jangan lupakan Nicklee, saya akan belajar bersungguh-sungguh walaupun tiada kakak."

This is not my first volunteering experience, not my first time working with underprivileged communities, however I must say, it is definitely one that is close to my heart.

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