Elena gets ready to leave Kuala Lumpur

Building Bridges Beyond Borders (Malaysia), Volunteers' Stories 31 Mar 2018

Elena has been working with the Myanmar refugee school in KL for the past 3 months and is getting ready to say her good byes……..

I’m now coming to the end of my time volunteering at [Myanmar refugee school in KL]. I’ve been here almost three months now but the time has gone incredibly fast.

I graduated from university last year and after a few months of working back in the UK I was itching to get away from home and experience something totally different, and that’s certainly what I’ve done.

The first few weeks were quite difficult in having to settle in to living in a completely different place and getting to know the way things worked at the school, and in Malaysia generally. But once I settled in and got the hang of lesson planning and the kinds of activities that worked for the kids, I was thoroughly enjoying myself and time began to go very quickly.

jv website mrclc boys do reading

Boys practising for a performance

For the first 8 weeks of my time here I was with another volunteer [volunteers are not generally accepted for 8 weeks, there was a specific issue in this case – Ed] so we divided up subjects between us, and both taught D (age 9-12) and E (age 12-14) classes. Unfortunately during the holidays prior to our arrival many of the older children had left the school to find work, so our class sizes were small with only around 5 per class. However, this meant we were able to give individual students more focussed attention which had perhaps been lacking when the class sizes were bigger. I was teaching Geography, Science and English Writing. The students particularly loved the studying about space in Science. My co-volunteer has now left so I am teaching D and E classes combined, and all subjects – involving a lot more lesson planning.

jv website MRCLC boy reads to class

Reading to the Class

For the older children, being at [this school]  is their last chance for any kind of education before they inevitably leave school at around 14 to find work. So I have aimed to teach them as much as possible in the short time I have been there and have tried to give them the structure that was needed through regular assessments and feedback on their work. We’ve balanced that out with a lot of educational games, and a Friday film club where we watch a movie together and then the children produce a long writing piece about it. This has been a great way to see the improvement in the English writing skills of the students whilst I’ve been there. Also, trips to the local playground have been a treat which we’ve all really enjoyed.

One skill I perhaps wasn’t expecting to acquire here was how to play every Bruno Mars song under the sun on guitar – there are a few old guitars at the school which need daily retuning and are missing strings. But almost every day the students ask me to learn another pop song so we can play and sing together. Also most of the boys share my passion for football and never fail to keep up with all the Premier League and Champions League action – I love it but have to be prepared for the banter when my team lose!

jv website mrclc football

Our Football Matches!

The energy these children have considering their difficult pasts and current circumstances is truly incredible. I’ve tried hard to get to know all of their individual stories – how long they’ve been living in Malaysia, whether some of their family are still in Myanmar or living elsewhere, what their hopes are for the future. Some of their stories are heartbreaking but it doesn’t stop them from coming to class every day with a smile on their face. Its each individual student at the school who has made this experience truly unique for me. Their strength has inspired me through difficult times here and will continue to do so throughout my life.

jv website mrclc girl in playground

A Moment of Reflection in the Playground

I would really recommend volunteering at [the school] to anyone who has some time to spare and the energy to inspire and educate a really fantastic group of kids. It won’t be an easy ride all of the time but it will be a highly rewarding and unforgettable experience.

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Building Bridges Beyond Borders (BBBB)

A collaboration between Soroptimist International Damansara  and Just Volunteers! Sponsored by YTL Foundation. MALAYSIA