Saturday 2 July 2016

Not about the money

RM 3500. 585 GBP. 1167 SGD. That’s a lot of money! When I first read through the requirements asked of a Project WHEE! participant, I was genuinely taken aback by the amount of fundraising one had to do. One can do a lot with RM3500, even after the drastic depreciation of the ringgit. However, where there’s a will, there’s a way. So I set off on my fundraising journey with a chest full of optimism and faith, whilst being grounded by practical fundraising ideas.

One of my first fundraising efforts began in the UK after exam season. Given the strength of the sterling and my presumably generous friends, I hosted a small dinner party. Lucky enough to have help from a few flat-mates, I decided to cater for 30 friends. It was my first attempt at feeding such a big group (without the help of my mother of course) and as nervous as I was, the night went smoothly. Cooking garlic chicken pesto pasta in masses was tiring but nonetheless fun, as I managed to raise around £120 in profits that night.

A decent attempt for someone who never takes flat lay photos.

However, the bulk of my fundraising took place at home, in Kuching after I returned for my summer holidays. I knew that I couldn’t just flatly ask for sponsorship from family and friends so I decided to utilize my house helpers’ baking skills to the fullest. With a menu of prune cake, banana muffins, apple pie, chilled cheesecake and most importantly, pineapple tarts (ong lai ko in Hokkien), my house turned into a bakery overnight. For a month, I had the luxury of waking up to the scent of freshly baked pastries and cakes every morning. With the help of social media, publicizing and promoting my bake sale was a piece of cake (lame pun intended). It was not difficult to get the ball rolling as my mother is popular amongst her friends and mine for her cakes and pastries, but as the orders started flowing in, we were constantly in need of more baking ingredients and containers! It is true that the way to anyone’s heart is through their stomach (granted that he/she is a true Malaysian) as I had aunties ordering RM400 worth of pineapple tarts (ong lai ko) for their extended family members as well!

Mum's blueberry cheesecake is still my personal favourite.

Some may argue that fundraising is extremely challenging, and that the idea of raising RM3500 is daunting. However, speaking from experience, it is absolutely achievable. One of my batch-mates raised funds by performing in wedding gigs as a drummer; another took up odd jobs in Kuala Lumpur alongside her part-time waitressing job. Sikit-sikit, lama-lama menjadi bukit. Personally, I would advise anyone to raise funds through doing what he or she loves, be it drumming, or baking, or even fitness. Heck, you could even do a RM2 per push-up facebook challenge! That way, your Bario journey is kick started joyfully and meaningfully. Being blessed with supportive parents and talented house helpers, all I had to do was constantly restock the baking materials, manage orders and deliver them. Lucky me, I know.

Flor, Mum and Rainmoi who were the true MVPs behind my entire fundraising bonanza!

My Bario trip was truly eye-opening and unique, and I would not have traded it for anything in the world. For all those reading this that are doubting their fundraising capabilities, remember that living a life of ‘oh well’s is better than one full of ‘what if’s. And trust me, you would not want to run through the next batch’s photos wondering how it would’ve been like if you had managed to get on board. So, put your best foot forward and as Nike always says, just do it.

Shannon. Batch 7

Friday 13 May 2016

Tepuq Supang and I

How was Bario? How was Bario?

Even now that the project has ended I still find it difficult to gather my thoughts and express them in words because the only way to accurately convey my experience to others is for them to eat chunks of my brain which contain memories of Bario, like R did in Warm Bodies, and experience Bario themselves via my cells.

I’m kidding.

Bario was amazing (this is an understatement. No adjective can represent the WOOHOO-KABOOM-PLACK-WOOISH-WHEEEEEEAOOOIIIWW-ness of my experience thus far. But for the sake of convenience, amazing it is). Bario was, to me, an unexploited masterpiece. I love Bario for its serenity. I love Bario for its people, their warmth and friendliness towards everyone. Ultimately, I love Bario for teaching me what it’s like to love and be loved in a whole new place.

To be honest, I was slightly apprehensive with the idea of forging new relationships, especially with Tepuq Supang, because of the preconceived notion that I had about her before reaching Bario. Tepuq Supang was the lady I was assigned to, and I was informed that she had a shy demeanour and was not very talkative. On the other hand I can be extremely chatty and I was worried it might put her off.

Tepuq Supang taking a break from paddy work
However, when I met her in the cozy Arur Dalan longhouse for the first time, I knew everything would turn out fine. The first thing I noticed about Tepuq Supang was her face. Her face exuded warmth, and it eased my unnecessary worries immediately. Knowing that she was shy, I did not bombard her with questions, but rather I turned myself into an open book in an attempt to gain her trust. I shared my life stories with her, and I was glad she found them intriguing. At times she would even chuckle at my shenanigans. Eventually, she opened up and we got along very well for the whole duration of the project.

Tepuq Supang and I
I would say my relationship with Tepuq Supang was an unconventional one. We displayed our affection in subtle ways. For instance, she would ask if I wanted to leave the paddy field early if I seemed burned out, or she would feed me with lots of fried ubi (tapioca) because I once told her I absolutely loved it, or even ask me if I was doing well in school, whether I had friends who came to Bario with me. She wasn’t touchy-feely, and neither was I on most occasions. But I realized that if I took the first step she wouldn’t hesitate to follow suit. If I initiate a high-five, she would return the high-five. If I gave her a hug, she would hug me back, no doubt. Same goes with learning English and developing the highlights of her trail. All I had to do was get the ball rolling by asking her what an object was in English and if she knew, she’d answer immediately and in return she’d ask me what something else was. Otherwise, she’d tell me in earnest that she didn’t know the answer and I would teach her from there. My point is; Tepuq Supang was affectionate in her own ways and was always willing to learn, an attribute that I look up to.

Tepuq Supang, Shannon (my paddy buddy) and I
Writing all this down brings me back to one of the Training of Trainers sessions (pre-Bario). We were asked if we were more task-oriented or relationship-oriented. I said I was in the middle. In hindsight, I learned that I am more inclined towards maintaining and building a relationship rather than focusing solely on the task of teaching English and developing Tepuq’s trail. Personally, it was easy for me to say that I prioritize the task. But at that moment, when I stood in front of Tepuq Supang, a living breathing human with stories to share and whom I would get to form a bond with for the next three weeks, I realized that I do value the relationship as much as the task, and that I couldn’t wait to embark on the WHEE journey with her and my batch mates.

“So, how was Bario?”


Tuesday 12 January 2016

Don't you worry child, see heavens got a plan for you

Have you ever stopped to wonder why everyone has a girlfriend/boyfriend and you don’t? Do you ever feel anxious about what career/lifestyle path you will stumble upon? Or wonder what is the purpose of your life?

Well, I have!

In my humble opinion, I think it is normal to think about these legitimate questions because that is part of the journey to figure what God has in store for us. 

Being in Bario has allowed me a chance to step back from life in the fast lane where we continuously chase deadlines after deadlines. It is crucial to slow down and assess what it is that we are trying so hard to chase towards.

If God is the beginning and the end (Alpha and Omega), then He must have already thought about each one of us when He made the earth. 

Certainly, not everyone is called to a life of marriage. And certainly not everyone is meant to be a doctor/lawyer (as one of my batch mates, Kan Wai Min, wrote in one of his WHEE! posts). Neither am I fit to explain what is the purpose of life.

But what I do know is, we might have a plan for ourselves, but very often we lose out on the most important things in life, such as love and happiness (I should only highlight these two values now because they are what I wish to deliver). To understand these two simple-yet-complicated values, the presence of God needs to fit in the equation.