Christina volunteered in Kuala Lumpur

Building Bridges Beyond Borders (Malaysia), Volunteers' Stories 23 Jan 2016

Christina, graduate of Oxford University Business School, aged 33, Londoner with German roots. Works in Senior Management leading an Insight team, took a career break and volunteered through us for 2 months.

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Volunteering with students in Malaysia

I volunteered with Just Volunteers for a summer project and can truly recommend it. I worked with high school age students at a vocational training center in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. In connection with my work there, I was also invited to support a curriculum design workshop facilitated by charities and government representatives. My stay was set up through Just Volunteers which I found to be a great organisation. I liked that they have a flexible set-up, charge no fees and act as an umbrella organisation. Just Volunteers works with different charities in a number of countries. Some of the projects are with younger children, some with older students and others are with adults. In addition, they work across different ethnic backgrounds and religions. This means that you can find something you like and tailor your contribution according to your skills and interests.

I am passionate about empowering young women, helping them develop leadership skills and advancing their education. I had been involved in work readiness and preparing for advanced education programs before and wanted to use my interest and skills in this area to support the girls studying at the vocational training center.

During my stay, I worked with 16-20 year old female students. The center offered six different program streams of which each student was enrolled into one – kindergarten teacher, IT&computer, hair&beauty, sewing&tailoring, healthcare and culinary&baking. Even though the official school language was English, the students had a number of different mothers tongues – usually a Chinese or Indian language depending on their family heritage, Malay, a Malay dialect and English. This meant that English was oftentimes their third or fourth language.

I decided the best way to find out how to make a contribution was to get involved and share their life. I attended some of the lessons and talked to the teachers, met students for home work support, helped them practise their English and computer skills and organised some field trips, taking groups to the local museums or the movies. Some students were looking for tailored job application support and I helped them review their documents. After I had gotten to know the set up, I designed a set of structured group workshops with a focus on practising English and anything related to basic leadership and work readiness skills like daring to speak up, increasing confidence, team building and communication.

I got many questions from the students about life and customs in Germany and in the UK so I put together a session on “Life in England and Germany” which turned out to be a wonderful and interactive discussion on favourite foods (I should have realised earlier that this is one of the best topics in Malaysia as everyone loves food!), and young people’s goals and dreams in different parts of the world – which we all realised were quite similar, no matter where you are living or what your background or family heritage is.

My volunteer stay was facilitated through Just Volunteers and Sorotimists International Damansara, a charitable Woman in Business Organisation. Soroptimists invited me to join the local Curriculum Design workshop they facilitated together with government representatives, education partners and major sponsor JP Morgan. I was able to contribute to their work using my first-hand experience from working at the center and in turn I gained many exciting insights into high level educational strategy and policy design at the intersection of political organisations, charities and education providers.

My time in Malaysia has been a truly enjoyable and a fantastic experience. The hospitality, friendliness and accessibility of everyone was great. Getting involved made me feel like a part of the community immediately and allowed me to really get to know a beautiful country with different ethnic groups and languages.

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Building Bridges Beyond Borders (BBBB)

A collaboration between Soroptimist International Damansara  and Just Volunteers! Sponsored by Yayasan Azman Hashim. MALAYSIA