Roberto is originally from Spain and is studying at Warwick University from where he applied to the Building Bridges Beyond Borders Programme . He spent 10 weeks last summer based at the Pure Life Society in Kuala Lumpur, a home for children run on an interdenominational basis, where he helped lead a number of extra curricular activities for the older boys.
I spent my summer at the Pure Life Society, in Kuala Lumpur. The PLS is a well-established home for underprivileged children, which houses around 60 mainly racially Indian kids. I had a room near where the senior boys stayed (aged 13-17) and spent my evenings with them. The food at PLS is vegetarian and very nice. Over time, I felt like PLS was a big family in which I became very well integrated.
The first tasks that were given to me were to produce the PLS bulletin and to train the children for a spelling competition where we would compete against other homes. When the day came, we won the competition in all three age categories! Also, I requested to teach maths to a small group and after a few weeks, I started giving maths lessons every Thursday.
After winning the spelling competition!
Maths class in progress
I got hold of an old guitar they have in PLS and tuned it, and the kids became really keen to learn some chords. There was also a drum kit that hadn’t been used for years. I taught a few rhythms to one of the kids who was extremely good at it. Later in a PLS talent show, we performed ‘Let It Be’ together: while I sang and played the keyboard, he played the drum set – he was so proud of himself!
The Talent Show
Generally, my role there was to be a big brother to the kids. I acted as an example to them, I hanged out with them, helped them with homework, told them interesting facts about me and about Spain, Europe and the world, always answered their never-ending curious questions, and sometimes even played football despite my lack of skill (they love football – they ended up teaching me about Spanish football, faced with my lack of knowledge of it).
Making a National Day Poster
Also, I became a good friend of [-, one of the staff members at PLS], and had long conversations about the home and the children, giving my point of view, which she always found valuable.
It is true that, often, especially in the mornings and afternoons while the kids were in school, I found there was little to do, and I often killed time by learning the Malay language (although at PLS, Tamil is the native language) or doing other things, and during weekends I went on trips around Malaysia and visited friends. That is why I recommend to other volunteers who come to PLS that they combine their stay here with another project in Kuala Lumpur, and that they have a certain degree of initiative which sometimes becomes crucial.
Roberto with PLS Staff Summer 2017
Submitted January 2018