Wednesday, 1 July 2015

by Lee Ting An, Junior 2 Higgs, Class of 2015,



The states of Malaysia live at the constant whims of mother nature. Often, there is endless heat with bright sunshine and scorching temperatures, and you’ll see kids coming back from the ‘padang’ after their football games brown and burnt. This year, we were instead met with a colossal amount of rainfall, which eventually led to one of the worst, most devastating floods in the history of Malaysia.


With mud levels up to the waist, houses wrecked and their daily lives rather suddenly torn apart, the people of Kelantan - among one of the places which was hit the hardest - found themselves in desperate need of aid. While flood relief centres helped to supply basic needs like drinking water and food, they could only do so much, and were short-supplied and equally short-handed. Cempaka Schools leapt to the opportunity, and held a massive donation drive where we collected not only food and water, but the things donors tend to overlook - items that would help them resume their normal, daily lives, such as toiletries like soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, sanitary pads, clothes, hangers, towels, exercise books and stationery, and other assorted household items.



This mammoth donation drive, with so many items to collect, sort, separate, package, and distribute, took an enormous amount of effort to get done. It took the entire Cempakan family of teachers and students alike several days to go through the entire process, but with a remarkable efficiency borne of teamwork and cooperation, we achieved it with time to spare.

In February, another team of teachers, students, and staff, sat through a 9 hour bus ride to Kelantan, to help lighten the load of those who had the misfortune to be caught in one of the worst floods of our time. Together with us we brought a lorry full of donated items, and the burning desire to help those in need. On the way we could already witness the devastation that the floods had caused: torn houses, buildings with roofs caved in, and the unmissable mark that mud waters left on walls, all of which was visible even from our bus.


The first challenge we faced was housing. Finding a place to sleep for a 50-odd group of people was not the easiest task, and I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of everyone from my school, to the thank the man and his family who allowed us to stay at his house. He selflessly gave us his house and food, and the 50 of us spent the night on sleeping bags on his comfortable floor.

The next morning, we were up by sunrise, and ready to bring what help we could to SMK Teriang, a school that was left completely ravaged by the flood. Tables, chairs, and several buildings were destroyed by the flood, and by the time we’d gotten there, they had already scrubbed the mud that reached up to their knees off their walls. The entire compound was dusty and had little furniture that had survived against the destructive power of the water. Our first priority was unloading the tables and chairs that we had brought from our own school compound, and
reassembling them with the tools that we’d brought.


While the teachers who were more competent with hammers and nails slowly changed a pile of wooden slabs and metal into tables, the students and other teachers organised themselves into groups and decided on a timetable and goals. We started off the day by painting the now dark brown walls of the school to a clean, refreshing, white. After scraping the dirt and dried mud off the walls, some of us put on the first coat of white while the rest cleaned, mopped, and tidied up the little school.


By afternoon, the first coat was dry, and the compound had gained the busy, bustling atmosphere of extremely efficient work. Everyone was running around, sweating heavily under the hot sun, all of us carrying a roller, brush, mop or broom, but we all had a smile on our faces. The face masks that we wore to stop us from breathing in the old paint that we scraped off the wall, along with our hair, were by now flecked with white paint. By now, the school’s students had joined us, and together with our combined efforts we managed to finish on schedule.



After putting four coats of paint, the entire school had a new, different look. We formed assembly lines and began passing tables, chairs and shelves to each class, and then arranged them according to a floor plan. The art teachers painted a massive mural on a wall, and the students began to happily sit at their new desks, some already deciding where they wanted to sit.

The next day, we said our goodbyes, and then left for home on another 10 hour long journey. We made several little pit stops along the way to witness the culture of Kelantan, taking a glimpse of the various markets that sold knick knacks and held little nuggets of a traditional civilisation that we’d left behind. We were all tired and weary, but I daresay that none of us would have missed it, and we will gladly go again, should the opportunity arise.


It was an enlightening experience to help someone in need, and see their eyes light up when they look at their new books. Or watch a dusty, murky school slowly transform into a new centre for learning and education. I felt privileged to be a part of this trip, as I believe I speak for everyone when I say that I learned, gained, and experienced so much. I’ve seen first hand the sheer grit that the people there show, waking up with a smile even after their lives have been destroyed, and I’ve learned that if you just bite your tongue and pull through that everything will turn out ok. I’ve seen proof that if you work hard enough, and work together, nothing is impossible - even transforming an entire school within one day! But the best lesson I learned is that often times, receiving something for yourself is great, but doing something for someone else, is much, much better.


by Alisraa Aldin Bakar 22:55 4 comments | in , , , , , , ,

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