Hello world! My name is Daniel and I’m the other project coordinator for Project WHEE!
After completing my A-Levels in HELP Academy, I opted to take a gap year instead of going straight to university. I didn’t do this to “find myself’’ or “discover my life’s destiny’’. I simply wanted to do what a ‘regular’ young student would not have the time to do. Two things in particular I wanted to do before university was to travel and teach. For a good 6 months, I spent time travelling the world, meeting new people and experiencing different cultures (a very ‘’finding myself” thing to do) after which I decided to settle down and do something consistent which was in line with teaching, or some form of it.
|Good cop Bad cop, guess who is which?|
Out came a job vacancy from a Ms Rhonwyn Hagedorn from eHomemakers who was looking for someone to help her get going a project she just initiated, called Project WHEE! in which she successfully won a grant from 1Malaysia Dana Belia to fund it. What caught my attention immediately was the project offerred more than I hoped for - travelling to Bario, a place in our own country which some (or most) Malaysians have never even heard of, English teaching for women to become eco-tourism community guides, carrying out community service work to further help and improve the society as well as working with 30 ambitious youth.
After much consideration, I finally decided to come on board as an intern in eHomemakers, working with Rhonwyn to start this project from scratch with the supervision and guidance of the Executive Director of eHomemakers, Ms Chong Sheau Ching. Though the excitement and thrill of working in Bario has always been there, the planning process has been a lot less glamorous. I knew what I was getting myself into - it was February and we intended to send off our first batch of youth volunteers in just 2 to 3 months. I accepted the challenge as I knew this would be a major learning curve for me and more importantly, it was for a good cause.
|Presentation at Taylor's Lakeside|
As expected, I immediately had a giant list of things to do within a short period of time (which I’m still ticking off slowly). Pre-planning has been tedious, as it involves a lot of paperwork which needs to be done right without any mistakes, hence editing the same document over and over again has become a common occurrence. Progress has been at times slow, as millions of things that needed to be done depended on a single decision which made it frustrating. What helped was that Rhonwyn and I clicked. Though at times we feel like pulling each others hair out (or just my beard), we do have a solid understanding when it comes to work.
|Presentation at Beaconhouse Sri Inai|
Besides going to Bario, my main job was recruitment of youth, which has been the best part of the planning process. Besides using social media to recruit students, Rhonwyn and I went to schools, colleges and universities to present the project to potential applicants. It was always interesting observing youth from a presenters point of view as you notice those who are paying attention, you can see faces light up at the idea of going to Bario and you can tell when some don’t seem very bothered by it.
Things slowly picked up and soon enough, we received more applications then spots available.Screening applicants and conducting interviews was by far the most interesting aspect of student recruitment as we met so many different students, not much younger or older to us, who came from all over Malaysia with different backgrounds and upbringings but all of whom had similar aspirations, goals and had a desire for community outreach. These young people could have spent their holidays and semester breaks relaxing or studying but they chose to apply for this project voluntarily. It was incredibly refreshing meeting youth of Malaysia who were not only adventurous, but had a genuine passion to serve their community. This made selection all the more harder, but it had to be done.
|#projectmanagement (oh the joy)|
The anticipation and the actual thought of 30 youth helping to improve the community of Bario makes all the work worthwhile. It pushes us and drives us to work harder to make this project a success. As Ms Chong once said to me, “This project is how big you want it to be”. Things may not go the way we want, but we are adaptable and no matter how we do it, I believe we can make a difference in Bario.
- Daniel MOD -