Isla came to Malaysia in the summer during University to help with her studies in international development; she volunteered in Malaysia for 3 months
Isla hadn’t previously met the young woman who she was volunteering with and with whom she shared an apartment. They both began volunteering at the same time so had each other for mutual support. They both volunteered with Myanmar refugee children and taught the same and similar classes.
My experience volunteering in Malaysia was an amazing one, and one I won’t be forgetting. I flew to Malaysia in the summer of 2013 with nerves about what to expect, was I prepared to teach children, would they even like me??
But the nerves were unfounded when I was greeted by some children of Agape home and school and Pastor Henry and his wife. [Our volunteers now go to the MRCLC to work with Myanmar refugees but the arrangements are the same]Everyone welcomed me with open arms and made my transition from rainy England to the Malaysian life a comfortable one! I shared an apartment with another volunteer Laura a few minutes walk from the school we volunteered at, often we would have a crowd of the school children chauffeuring us along the walk with smiles and giggles!
We would have classes in the school in the day and often have some classes back in our apartment after school for some of the older children if they wanted to attend. From here I got to see a more honest side to some of the children as they opened up to me more about their experiences.
It was the sense of community from the start to finish, from the skype calls before I left to go to Malaysia to regular contact with The Soroptimists International Organisations and Josephine from Just Volunteers!, that I appreciated and helped me when I was submerged in a new part of the world.
The children just loved the new faces and the chance to speak to someone about Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift lyrics was a regular occurrence each day! Their enjoyment and enthusiasm to learn despite their own personal difficulties with the refugee situation genuinely filled me with joy. I am still in touch with some of the teachers and children I taught (who still quiz me on song lyric meanings!) means hopefully my impression on them despite the short time was just as impressionable as they were to me.
Seeing that some kids have been relocated to their new country by UNHCR warms my heart that they have made it and can finally call a place a home forever. I loved my experience in Malaysia, from eating Roti Chanai (a Malaysian dish) in a local restaurant with Laura to chanting “heads, shoulders knees and toes” to a bunch of laughing young children I really encourage anyone to go for it. Even though you WILL end up teary on the way to the airport going home, the memories you make will stay with you forever!