Priya, studying dentistry in the UK, has just completed her assignment at the refugee school in Kuala Lumpur
“Teaching at [the refugee school] in Kuala Lumpur has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences that I have had.
I spent the last few weeks teaching English, Maths and Science to years 1 and 2 at the Myanmar Refugee school and it was definitely an experience to say the least! Looking back, my first day was quite overwhelming as we were thrown straight into it. Feeling like fish out of water, I had to quickly scramble up topics and fun activities for the children to keep them engaged whilst learning at the same time.
Although I had taught before, it was difficult at first to find my feet as the children were all at different levels and communication was hard at times due to language barriers. But the teachers and students were very welcoming, patient and were happy to give you and each other a helping hand when in need. We were given a loose curriculum to follow and it was up to us to plan our own lessons and tailor it to the level of each individual student. This allowed me the opportunity to get creative with my lesson plans.
The kids in the school have definitely captured a piece of my heart. Their personalities and artistic talent has continuously amazed me.They were always full of energy and there was never a dull moment in class. I would be lying if I said I did not have a 2 hour nap everyday after school. The children’s’ enthusiasm for learning is astounding and they were always eager to learn new topics and develop new skills no matter how challenging it was. Seeing the joy in them just showed how grateful and appreciative they were for their school and education.
During my time, I worked alongside 3 other volunteers and we all bonded very quickly through shared experiences of our struggles and ups and downs. Our days would start at 10:00am and end at 3:30pm with an hour lunch break. I got to experience a variety of traditional Myanmar food which was provided for lunch and there were definitely some tingling lips and burnt tongues from the hidden chilies in the dishes.
We also volunteered at a local juvenile detention centre every Friday afternoon. Here we taught around 15 individuals English, which would allow them to slowly build their confidence in the language and themselves. This was very different to teaching at the refugee school, but just as rewarding. By the end of the my time there I could definitely see that their confidence had grown and that they were slowly coming out of their shells.
Volunteering for the “Building Bridges Beyond Borders” programme in KL has opened my eyes to how I have taken for granted basic things in life, like a sense of belonging and some certainty of my future. From this experience, I have definitely learned to think on my feet, to be patient and to step up and put others ahead of ourselves.
Though my stay was short, the generosity, hope and love from the community and people is one that I will never forget. I would without a doubt volunteer here again and would encourage anyone thinking about volunteering here to apply. The experience you will gain from this programme is really fulfilling and one that you will cherish when you look back in time.”