Unity Through Volunteerism
Growing up as members of the Malaysian youth has undeniably taught us all valuable lessons in humanity. From a young age we are taught to be tolerant and understanding, to respect and celebrate the varying cultures our country has to offer, to be proud of our differences, because they are what makes us special. We are also taught to give and be generous, to empathise and care for our fellow man and for the planet that we live on.
However, it becomes easy to forget these lessons as we progress in life, things become more hectic, everything more foreign, and for those reasons we start to cling to familiarity, staying within the safe boundaries of what we know, our own individual cultures. We no longer venture outside of our comfort zones, we deny ourselves the chance to connect with people different from us. We become so caught up in our own lives, our future careers, finances and so on, that we become negligent of others, we stop actively caring for our fellow countrymen. We become entangled in webs of our individual prospects, that we lose sight of our collective future, namely but not limited to, the future of the next generation of Malaysian youth, and what’s to become of Mother Earth.
Written by : Alex Wee
I was lucky enough to stumble across Charisma Movement when I did, joining them as a volunteer for their educational project in Sabah in July 2019. While the experience helped me discover my own motivations in voluntary work, what really mattered to me and what I would like to see change for the better in Malaysia, it was also eye-opening as it reminded me so much of the cultural diversity I had taken for granted. Our team was a mix of university students studying overseas and locally, a mashup of individuals sporting different backgrounds, hailing from different states, of different ages, and various unique personalities. We were all essentially strangers, having only met over one or two Skype meetings, we knew each others’ names and roles but that was about it.
Upon the commencement of the project, it soon became evident that none of those disparities even mattered. Conversely, they were quite essential in making the project a success. Our differences allowed us each a different perspective, every one of us had something new and fresh to bring to the table, the diversity of ideas and opinions allowed us to develop a multifaceted approach to the project, it became our greatest strength. I personally believe that a crucial aspect that tied us together was our shared objective to do our best for the students we were running the programme for, a drive that allowed us to motivate each other to press on even when we were exhausted, and to support each other as a team.
There are moments I recall in fondness now, the night we stayed up sharing the different ghost stories we had grown up listening to, spending what little free time we had playing frisbee and captainball when the students were on break, the day we learnt the traditional Sumazau dance from the children and danced with them in the field, the list goes on. I would never have guessed that two weeks would have been sufficient to develop so many long-lasting friendships and so many happy memories. It was a truly unforgettable experience, with a group of people who reminded me that even if we are different on the surface, what matters is who we are as people, our values and motivations are what unite us.
Based on my own experience, I like to think that volunteerism plays a large role in fostering unity among the Malaysian youth, an alliance transcending backgrounds, the colour of one’s skin, the schools you went to, the places you grew up in. Most people will have varying views on volunteerism, some believing in the more altruistic aspects of it in giving back to the world we live in, others who are more cynical on the other hand, finding it to be self-serving and more for personal development than for the sake of being kind. Both are reasonable judgements, however, neither can deny the efficacy volunteerism has in bringing about unity amongst those striving towards a common goal. It is without a doubt that the more we nurture this unity, the more positive change we can bring about for Malaysia.