I struggle to find the right words that fully encapsulate the thoughts and feelings I have towards the project now that it’s over. Truthfully, there are too many things that I want to say but I’ll narrow it down to what I think went the best for us and a single lesson I think the volunteers at Tumunda collectively learned.

As my first time volunteering in a team like this, with an educational focus and in a rural area, I can honestly say that I really wasn’t sure of what I was doing a lot of the time, how things would work and fit into the agenda. All of us were first-timers to the project as well, so I can only imagine that this is a sentiment that most of us shared. However, I feel that where we lacked in certainty, we made up for in teamwork. What I value the most from this experience is knowing that I had a team that had my back at every point of the project, we kept each other motivated and were always ready to cover for a man or woman down. I could list a lot of examples of this but there are simply too many to fit into pages. The bottom line is that I could not have asked for a better team or better memories with them. They are all truly exceptional people with the biggest hearts, and I honestly think that it’s beautiful how all of us without realising or meaning to, were able to inspire each other to give each event and activity our all just by being ourselves and by individually being passionate about what we were doing.

Nevertheless, that comes at a cost. As a team we bear the same crosses and commit the same errors, one of our most glaring ones was time-management, but this is not the issue I’d like to draw attention to. I think that a mistake that I(and I assume a lot of the other volunteers) made throughout our time there was to place too much focus on having a plan for everything. I think many of us were idealistic at first, we made detailed plans for our lessons and activities, only for things to not work out the way we expected them to, but that’s exactly it.

We focused so much on planning that I think many of us forgot; There’s only so much that one can plan, and that the best moments are the ones that aren’t planned for at all. I can truthfully say I regret planning so much for my lessons and everything else really, when in hindsight I realise it would have been more efficient(for lessons especially) to just go with the flow and make our way from there. This is a realisation that struck me particularly hard on an instance where a session ran overtime(like I said, time management was not a strength this year), so we would be unable to run the next activity and were left with one large chunk of time with nothing planned for it. As a last minute decision, we decided to play a variation of tag with the students, a game that hadn’t really been planned out very well as we weren’t actually planning on using it at all. We made it up as we went, getting both volunteers(again, teamwork for the win) and students involved, and when that got old, came up with new activities on the spot. I can distinctly remember our last activity of the session, where all the volunteers and students were dancing the traditional Sabahan dance, Sumazau, in a large circle in the field, an imagery that I know I will reminisce with fondness. It was the sheer spontaneity of it, that made it so creative and meaningful, something that I can confidently say we unanimously enjoyed.

Written by,
Alex Wee

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