OA Organics welcomes young people to volunteer on a sustained basis. Ms Tan Xin Wei stayed in the village for 2.5 months upon graduation with a Bachelor in International Business. Here is an excerpt of her stint at Kg Ulu Gumum from June – August 2017.
When I set foot in the village in June 2017, I discovered how very fast things had moved since my last visit (I visited the village thrice in 2015 with friends to run weekend educational activities for the children). I never imagined how a bare land could transform into a 2-acre organic farmland with 8 dedicated farmers and 12 different types of vegetables. Amazing!
What did I do at the village?
- On weekday mornings, I helped the farmers with seeding, watering, bugs catching, planting, etc.
- On Tuesday to Thursday afternoons, I provided homework guidance/tutoring to the children who came to the Learning Centre. I also tried teaching them English, BM, Mathematics and Science with fun activities.
- During my free time, I would visit some of the villagers or play with the children.
What are my takeaways?
- We have distinct cultural differences. The villagers are more relationship-oriented, while we urban folks are result-oriented. At break time for example, they would sit at the pondok (hut) and they would talk about random things while some chewed their betel nuts. I learned so much of their lives just by listening to them. Yes, relationship-building should come first before tasks!
- Cross-cultural understanding is important in volunteerism. In the initial weeks of my stay, I struggled with what to say next and how to keep conversations going beyond the usual greetings. Maybe it’s because our background are so different and I don’t know much about them – their cultural practices, beliefs, worldviews, etc. By taking time to listen to them, I understood them better and found ways to connect and relate with them.
- The Orang Asli are the most generous people I have known. Those familiar words of “Wei Wei, makanlah!” made me feel so warm, like that of a big family. They do not own much, yet they share with their hearts. There is so much more joy in giving than receiving from others.
All in all, my stint re-oriented my idea of volunteerism with the poor, and it was a journey of character-molding too. I went to the village thinking that I would be teaching them things, but they taught me more! And I also learned what it means to journey alongside these people, despite my own feelings of inadequacy sometimes.
May we continue to do all we can to fulfill great things for the villagers of Kg Ulu Gumum, and the OA community in general!