Monday, 6 April 2015

My Experience as a Back To School Volunteer

Words by Adam Noor
Pictures by Sheril A. Bustaman

Volunteering has always been central to me. Any opportunity to perform an act of kindness, be it large or small, never fails to excite me. I’ve always been interested in activities that offer the valuable opportunity to help others, and what better way than to do so than by volunteering as an English tutor for PT Foundation’s “Back to School” program. The program, aimed at developing and improving the English competency for children who are affected or infected with HIV provided me with the chance to contribute to the betterment of those in need within our community. More importantly, the program serves as a beneficial activity apart from my normal job as a seriously boring and emotionless corporate drone working from 9 to Godknowswhen on a daily-basis. I’ve always felt the intrinsic need to help out in any way possible for those who need assistance. Besides, I relish the chance to get up on an early Sunday morning for something that serves a greater purpose for our community. Yes, what better way to spend our early Sunday mornings!

I remember the first time arriving for the program’s orientation, after getting lost walking around confusingly around Chow Kit and finally finding this wonderful little place called PT Foundation on the corner of Jalan Ipoh Kecil. I remember being greeted for the first time by Surpreet and Zynie, two of the key people in PT Foundation responsible for the advent of the Program. I also remember getting to know some of the new tutors during the orientation, several of them the nicest people, who would later become some of the closest people in PT Foundation to me who would make the tutoring experience that much more pleasant and fulfilling.

At the volunteer orientation back in January 2015.

 I also remember my first time tutoring English to the students. To be fair, I have limited tutoring experience in English! I was uncertain going into the program as I had no idea what it would be like working with students and making them to fully understand the basics of English. Nonetheless, there’s nothing to deter a person with a genuine intention when it comes to helping others. I propelled myself to be a not-so-bad English teacher for those students. I remember the first time tutoring Arif (not his real name). He was a student who exceeded my expectations with his impressive command of English and the genuine willingness to learn English. Personally, its these sort of students and their positive attitude that makes waking up on an early Sunday morning worthwhile.

Working on reading exercises.

It is hard to imagine that it has been 2 months since I first started my English tutoring at the program in PT Foundation. Although I have the privilege to tutor different students every week, the sensation and the sense of fulfilment that I first experienced during the initial stages of my tutoring has never ceased nor diminished. I anticipate each week with a new sense of excitement and another opportunity to assist the students in discovering and learning new words, phrases, vocabulary, sentences etc. I have to admit it does leave a satisfactory “feel good” sensation as I thoroughly enjoy seeing that even with my limited knowledge and skills, I was able to make a difference in the improvement of the students’ English competency. It does bring a sense of joy knowing that they were able to grasp the basic concepts of the vocabulary after tirelessly teaching them for hours (and even weeks!). But the best reward are always the grateful smiles of the student. In a way, seeing them happy really does make me happy as well. Ah, those adorable, sweet smiles from those students.   

There are many other stories that I could tell you that can convince you of the limitless value of volunteering. But to be honest, I thoroughly enjoy being part of a program which works towards improving things for the betterment of others. Volunteering in PT Foundation has provided me with the opportunities to grow, improve myself and make a difference in someone else’s life as well as my own. I believe it is essential to continue with such initiative and experience and I believe that in return, these activities make me a better person. Ironically, it is tutoring for the students in the program for PT Foundation that taught me lessons that are equally important to those students as it is for me in shaping myself to be a better person. I would attribute volunteerism to leading me to be a better person and I am grateful to PT Foundation for providing me with the valuable chance to serve those around me in need. What I have learned over and over is that giving my time and self returns back tenfold of what I give.

New words and new experiences.

I genuinely believe that in order to be a better person, it is crucial for us to push for more enriching experiences in our lives. I believe that volunteering can be the best teacher for us because as tutors, we are able to be the best teachers for our students in the program. My time as an English tutor had allowed me to get a glimpse of the reality of those from the less-advantage family background and the challenges they face; mainly from the education and financial aspects. My time as a tutor has also made me understand the difficulties faced by many to learn and effectively master the command of English regardless of how many claim the language to be relatively easy to learn (including me previously!). Such experience has given me a completely new perspective on the realities of life and the education system in this country. On a larger scale, I realize that we are all the same and nothing more than a reflection of the human condition in its totality, regardless of our contrasting socioeconomic backgrounds. In essence, I realized something I already knew subconsciously: every individual is equally deserving of help in his or her time of need. 

To get to know more about the Berjaya Back To School Program, please email zynie@ptfmalaysia.org or call 03-4044-4611.

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