March 20, 2012

Learning more than A B C

Hi! My name isIryna and this is the story of my eye-opening experience to Sabah on the 18th & 19th of February 2012. A littleabout myself, I got involved with KIDS when Mazuin was preparing for herpresentation for Sejuta Impian, and it’s safe to say that once I opened thedoor to KIDS, I never looked back.

Let first startby saying that that the beginning of our trip was chaotic thanks to yours truly.

The day startedearly for me, I was so excited I was up at 4 am and was daydreaming about whatI will be doing there with the kids that I managed to be late to meet up withMazuin at her place (so much for commitment!). The first thing Mazuin commentedon was my huge bag but I also found out she didn’t sleep yet, with her jugglingwith work, studies and kids but the superwoman assured me that she’s fine and so our journey to Sabah begins.

When we reachedKLIA, my hope for smooth operations was dashed when the officer at the firstcheck point told me my bag was too big (my power of persuasion and innocentsmile didn’t work here). So, we rushed to the nearest store for a suitable bag,but that left another question, where can I leave my huge bag? Thankfully mysmile managed to get storekeeper to say ‘Yes’ to my request to keep my bagthere until I come back the next day. Did I mention that Mazuin laughed whenshe looks at the amount of things I have in the bag? The bag has so much emptyspace because I didn’t bring that much of stuff (I’ve been constantlytravelling and I didn’t have that much share of small bags, and unfortunatelythat was also the week that hubby choose to bring the one smaller bag , so thatdidn’t leave me with a lot of choice now, did it?)

As the clockticks, we rushed to the checkpoint for all the security checks and I prayedhard that everything from this point on goes smooth and there’s no need foranymore adrenaline rush for the day. Thankfully, my silent prayers were heardand we board the plane with no hassle at all. With so much excitement buildingin me, I let Mazuin have her much needed rest while I look out to see the skyburst out to life with different rays of colours and soon we were above theclouds. As we drift through the beautiful ‘cotton-candy-land’, I found myselffalling into slumber while looking forward to my first KIDS experience.

Ladyluck was really working her magic, we actually touched downat Tawau Airport earlier by 15 minutes, met Arwanto and we were off to ourhotel to check in at our hotel. We managed to have quite a lot of time on our hands that we were able to stop to buy the supplies that we needed as well as foran early lunch due to my condition (I’m expecting :p). Afterwards, we were off to KgBangau-Bangau and to be quite honest, nothing quite prepared me for what Iwaited for me here. I’ve seen photos from the earlier members of course, buttrust me when I say this; those photos didn’t do justice to the reality of theplace.

We were greetedby beautiful houses at first which quickly change into shop houses andafterwards houses get smaller and smaller as you walk on. Please bear inmind that all these houses are built on some wooden platform. The path that wewalk on to reach our destination was full of holes that leads you straight downto the water below, the more we walk on the bigger the holes and at one point duringthe walk, I had to walk on one small platform. I remembered just looking downto see where I was putting my feet that I almost accidently bumped into a girl.

However, all ofthese were forgotten once we reached our destination and all I could hear andsee were children shouts of joy and their smiling faces. I remembered gawkingfor a full five seconds because no words could describe my mix feelings becausethey made me happy and sad at the same time. And the best part was when I mentioned this to Mazuin, she told me Aswad and Sha experience was scarier than the rest of us because they both had to venture out to the very end of the wooden path which did not just get narrower, the path leading to their houses were on one small platform (YIKES!). But do not be alarmed, these people are called 'Bajau Laut' because their way of life once upon a time ago was to live out at the sea, and as according to one boy that I talked to, in the olden ways, once a baby was born, they would be thrown out to the sea and after some time the parents would fetch them back. Reason for this tradition is to get the baby to be acquainted with the sea which is their livelihood (Malaysian are so full of colours and traditions, I doubt one book can cover it all!)

The first thingthat we did was arranged the tables and chair and then sanitized the tableswhile Arwanto call out names for the first class. The instruction for the kidswere simple, once their name were called, enter and place their shoes at theside and then sit down while we get the class to be full. It didn’t take morethan five minutes for the whole place to be full and noisy (strangely, therewere more noise from the outside rather than inside). The class started byteaching them about cleanliness by teaching them the correct way to clean theirhands with a sanitizer (after some point, I wonder if the sanitizer were whatkeeps these kids in the classroom, they love it!). Then we got down to businessof recalling what they previously learned and proceed to see how they haveprogressed. Our mission this week was to segregate the kids based on theirprogressed. After identifying the kids who progressed faster as well as thosewho was already exposed to all of the alphabets, we then asked them to leavethe class and come the next day. Then we concentrate on the kids remaining inthe classroom to get them well acquainted with alphabets from A – F. After thehour was up, we reminded them again of cleanliness and when they should washtheir hands before we let them go off.

The cyclerepeated itself every hour until our last session at 6 p.m. When it was timefor us to go back, I could see Mazuin’s tired but satisfied face when the lastof the kids left and packed to go back to our hotel (our superwoman didn’t takea single break or sit down once at all!). That explains why she didn’t bothergoing for dinner and recuperate until the very next day.
As according toMazuin, the time in Sabah is different as compared to Peninsular Malaysia,apparently life here starts at 5 am. So I set my alarm at and got up at 5.30 amin the hopes to enjoy the morning in Sabah and already I was greeted with themorning sun. We checked out at 7.30 am and I experienced the most peculiarbreakfast menu served by a lodging – fried banana and tea! Arwanto explained thatSabah economy is different from the Peninsular, hence the menu.

The second dayis quite different, at least for me, it is different. I no longer tiptoe aroundthe pathway, but walk just like everyone else (I might not be able to walk blindfoldedlike the residents of Kg Bangau-Bangau but at least I walk without the dauntingfeeling of falling down like the day before) and I think that is something tobe proud of!

Today, insteadof helping Mazuin with the class, I helped Arwanto as we sort out and assigndifferent child to different class. We also extend our cleanliness preach byclipping long fingernails. The morning class for day two isn’t that muchdifferent with the previous session. The different started at the 2 o’clockclass where the advanced kids attended it. In this class, all have passed thetest of writing all o beof the alphabets. We separate them by identifying who canread and who can’t. Mazuin took the task to teach the half who hasn’t masteredthe ability to read while I was in charge for the writing class. I wanted toknow their knowledge of forming different words as well as their power to spellwords, so I gave them a series of four vowels words to test their power offorming the correct words then proceed to giving them word play. Lastly, I setthem into three teams of five and gave each team a task to form different wordsfrom one long word, to encourage them further, a prize was promised for theteam that wins. The funniest part of the little competition was that thewinning team gave the least amount of words as compared to the two other teamswho wrote quite a long list of words, but alas most of it was wrongly spelled.However, the fun of putting the heads together seems to be more fun thangetting the prize.

As we packed toleave Kg Bangau-Bangau, I realised that I didn’t just come here to teach thesekids, they taught me about modesty and simplicity. Among some of the thingsthat I will remember for life would be of one of our willing little helper whoasked me if he could follow me home because he saw a couple of notes in mypurse when I gave him money to buy drinks for us. The fact that he asked thisexplains to me that he didn’t mind to lead a different life, and in truth heshould lead a different life, a life that is being enjoyed by most Malaysianskids, a life that I myself lead, I was educated since the age of five. I didn’tthink of it as a privilege, not until I met these kids.

Regardless of theirparents or their condition, the deserved to be educated. These kids are so full of colours, they are honest and so different from the kids in Peninsular. Every once in a while you will hear a splash and it wasn't that someone fell down, in reality it was actually some kid diving into the water. Trust me when I say this, I felt very much like a fish out of water here but I still recommend anyone to come here and enjoy their way of life, it is indeed a breath of fresh air! I recalled some of the kidswho eagerly come to the class came without shoes, and when asked said that heor she don’t own any shoe. One incident that almost breaks my heart was of aboy, he was leaving the class carrying his shoes, I told him to wear his shoesonly to realise that the sole of the shoes was badly torn. Since we preachedfor cleanliness, I put on the shoes on him nevertheless and told him to getanother shoes the next time.

A mom-to-be myself, I don't believe I would want my own child to go thru what these kids have to go thru and hope that others share what I feel. All in all, Ihope that we would get more people to join in as our volunteer and help us inour mission to see these kids get what they deserved, a childhood filled withfun, education, and good health.

No comments:

Post a Comment