“It’s not the end; it’s only the beginning.”

 

I owe myself a good story to tell the world about the last quarter of 2016.

Going through a rough patch for the entire year, all I wanted was a temporary escape. A brave leap of faith turned out to be the most precious and priceless experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything else in this world.

One month of service training and three months abroad in Cambodia, I am glad to say that I have settled back home once again, but as a changed person with broader perspectives and new goals to achieve.

I know, I know. It has been quite a long while since I got home and the post-mission withdrawal symptoms have died down, but it is never easy to pen down such indescribable memories with words for the eyes of the world to read.

Well, now I am ready to tell my MYCorps story.

You know what they say about tough times changing people?

2015 was pretty much a crap load of shit to take in. To know that I am stuck behind the barrier stopping me from joining my peers to start a career in the legal profession made me question my interest in this chosen pathway. Inevitably, it made me question all my decisions that I have made in my life. It then became frustrating and scary to realise that I achieved very little and have only a small handful of things that I was proud of. Soon, it dawned to me that I no longer know what I wanted to do, and what I am good at. There was so much of self-doubt and emotional bashing that I could only take, so one April morning in 2015, I got up and decided that I want to start a change with myself first. Little did I realise that I put my own wellbeing at risk while I was too focused burning the midnight oil studying or too busy keeping up with my social life.

I picked up running again and alternate with cross training, focusing on building strength. With running and training I realised how focused, disciplined and persistent I could be. Even until today, two years down the road, being able to beat PBs with each passing week of running and lifting heavier weights made me feel alive, positive and happy. That is when I knew I could take it a notch higher and make a change on a larger scale – and that is the day I came across MYCorps in August 2016.

I was trying to maintain composure and get my head in revising to sit for the CLP examinations for the second time, and MYCorps came up on my Twitter suggestions page. A quick glance was all it took for me to start filling up the application form. The only thing that came in my way was a video submission that follows, and it wasn’t until hours before the application deadline (aka the night before exams) that I hastily wrote a script and sat in front of the webcam of my laptop to make a recording. I consider myself lucky to be shortlisted – I remember scrolling through my Instagram feed after my last paper and saw my name as one of the 50 chosen participants! In that moment, all I could do was to thank my lucky stars that stopped my reluctance from completing the application with the video submission.

That was when I knew good things were coming my way. 🙂

 


 

MYCorps Service Training, September 2016.

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I remember feeling jittery and nervous albeit the excitement as orientation day for the one-month service training drew closer. I think most of the nerves was the fear of not being able to live up such a priceless experience up to my expectations. Not again, not more self-doubts, I thought to myself. All it took was a brave step forward and I am mingling with my dorm mates and the other girls in the other dorms at the International Youth Centre (IYC). In a matter of days, I was cracking jokes and having a good time with everyone.

 

I suppose one of my biggest personal hurdle initially was conversing in Malay, when I have been speaking English all my life. Picking up the slangs from different states was one of the toughest, especially the Kelantanese slang. (Good gosh, I can never make sense of anything in that slang!)

 

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One of the very first selfies taken. 🙂

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Face-painted happiness!

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Laundry night shenanigans.

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Bus rides to workshops held out of the IYC.

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Quiet downtime at the end of a long day of service training.

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The beginning of what eventually turned into a favourite pastime in Cambodia.

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Taking the lift shenanigans.

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Room 208 shenanigans.

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Any time is photo time, always.

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Trying on our newly-branded safety helmets!

 

Team MAGIC.

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Team MAGIC’s very first photo. I must say that this makes it look like as if we have known each other for a long time. 😀

 

It was also the beginning of no-shame selfies and photos – taking decent photos were close to non-existent.

 

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See what I mean?

 

Funny how we bonded so quickly and worked well together since the beginning – a diversity in age, background, culture and opinion could not stop us. I have said this countless of times, but this team is the dream team. :’)

 

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One of our proudest moments that I still remember until today: dominating the Number Punch challenge during the teambuilding workshop.

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First aid course workshop.

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Jungle induction (or as how I would like to call it, 3D2N camping à la Survivor).

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Basic builder workshop. 

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Sadly, I caught a cold and was down with high fever during the first workshop.

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Design thinking workshop.

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Cultural immersion and cultural exchange workshop.

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Fundraising activities.

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Soup kitchen experience.

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Meeting YB KJ before departure.

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Four weeks had so much piled up on the plates of the MCVs (MYCorps volunteers). Knowing that was enough to get me excited for what is to come when the mission begins. It was exciting to know the workshops that were in store for us: life skills, fundraising, teambuilding, health and fitness, outdoor cooking, cultural immersion, community awareness, first aid, jungle induction, basic builder, volunteerism, soup kitchen experience. It was indeed a handful to take in, but I would say that most were of good help during my time in Cambodia. It isn’t all about the experiences from the workshops, but the bigger part of it is the underlying lessons that comes with them. That was the start of the building of soft skills such as communication, leadership, empathy, critical thinking, teamwork, emotional intelligence, compassion – just to name a few.

 

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More importantly, the four weeks that we spend being around each other made us family. We knew each others’ quirks and habits, and we quickly grew comfortable with a new family.

 

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I still remember the initial anxiety greeting me again the night before we depart for Cambodia.Our last night at the IYC was hilariously hectic. Clothes were strewn all over the bed, personal belongings clutter the walkway of the dorms, doors wide opened with people entering and exiting clutching items to be packed, us MCVs sitting at the hallway in our respective teams to pack up our team boxes (comprising mostly of food – instant curry paste, papadoms, Maggi instant noodles, cream crackers, Milo sachets, Boh teabags, dried shrimp and anchovies, belacan, sweet soya sauce, etc.) – it was quite a scene to remember. I suppose in turn it transcends to our excitement and underlying anxiety of the months ahead of us.

 


 

Regrets? There were none. 🙂

 

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For me, the best takeaway from the service training was how much positive change I saw in myself in such a short period of time. The surreality of embarking on the a life-changing journey made me feel so alive and so thankful that I did not give this opportunity a pass. I was definitely the best version of myself, bursting with energy all day long, enthusiastic to learn and pick up new skills.

 

I was happy.

 


 

There is more to come, so stay tuned!

 

FUNdraising 4 Cambodia

 

In case you missed out my previous posts, I am currently undergoing training for the upcoming MYCorps, Cambodia: Mission 2 programme this October along with 49 other MYCorps volunteers (MCVs). This programme is an initiative under the Ministry of Youth and Sports, supported by the International Youth Centre and EPIC Homes. The NGOs that are partnering in this project are RainWater Cambodia (RWC) and the Cambodian Education and Development Fund (CEDF).

 

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The Pilot Mission and the First Mission focused on building water catchments and latrines in several villages in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, as well as a nursery and playground. This is so as to tackle the ongoing issue of clean water, leading to issues on hygiene and sanitation. In this upcoming mission, the projects aim to further improve these issues as well as the lack of proper schooling facilities in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The first project will be based in four schools in Phnom Penh, where waste incinerators along with hand washing stations will be built and the existing latrines will be rehabilitated. For the second project, a preschool will be built in a village in Siem Reap.

 

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In order to make the projects work, the MCVs are aiming to raise approximately RM120,000.00 which goes to covering the costs of the projects. The costs mainly covers the construction materials needed for the mission, and any extras will go to furnishing the preschool with furnitures and a playground.

 

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[Photo credits to the MYCorps officials.]

 

 

More importantly, this is something that I vouched for when I found out about the programme.

 

On a personal aspect, it is an escape from emotional mess and problems.
It is a perfectly-timed opportunity to find a bigger sense of purpose in life and to figure out what I want to achieve.
It is a challenge for myself to step out of my comfort zone and to push myself beyond my limits, to put myself out there.
Nevertheless, it is also a temporary break from reality and adulthood.

 

For the bigger part of the reason, I have always wanted to do more volunteering work. Like everyone else, I want to make a difference. I want to give back to the community ever since my volunteering experience from teaching underprivileged children during my college days. Being blessed with the privilege of education, family and a home to grow up in, it is the least I could do to improve the lives of those who are less fortunate; it is our responsibility to the society.

 

I think volunteering gives a different perspective about gratitude. We are well aware that we should practice gratitude everyday; but how many of us say our thank yous? How often do we appreciate the good things that happen to us? How often do we reflect on our actions and the consequences that follow? More often than not, we do not realise how fortunate we are, how blessed we are to be at whatever point in our lives right now. It may not be the best – at least not in our perspectives – but we are so focused on our idealistic perceptions that we forget that there are people who are facing problems with basic necessities.

 

This mission is important to me because it is my belief that everyone should have access to  our basic necessities. Since the genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge that took away the lives of approximately 1.5 million Cambodians, it has set back the nation development’s back decades. Not only that, health and sanitation issues still remain the nation’s biggest challenge. Most parts of the country lack water and electricity, and the majority of the rural areas do not have plumbing. For the fact that 70% of Cambodians live in rural areas with over 50% of its population not having access to safe drinking water, something has to be done about it. A three-day jungle induction camping experience with limited access to clean water was quite a horrid for us, let alone for those people who have to live with it for a lifetime. A lot of improvement on water sources and sanitation has been done over the years in Cambodia by the government and NGOs, but that is not enough to remedy the problem faced by the nation. As long as the issues on sanitation is not improved, it will continue to curb the nation’s development in areas such as the economy, education, and health access to progress forward as a developed nation.

 

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Hence, the MCVs and I are raising funds to build the incinerators, hand washing stations, and a preschool. We have been working on various of activities to raise funds, such as the sale of pre-loved items, roses and snacks as well as busking. Our crowdfunding site has just been launched to reach out to a wider audience. CLICK HERE to check out our crowdfunding website, where it is furnished with details of the mission and the donation levels available.  🙂

 

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[NOTE: Donations can also be issued and made to the IYC’s bank account, YAYASAN PUSAT BELIA ANTARABANGSA (Maybank account number: 014132424724).]

 

Help be a part of the solution to the problem. Your donation and support means the world to me, no matter how big or small, and eventually to the underprivileged Cambodians – remember that every dollar counts! Do keep updated with us and our progress in Cambodia on our social media platforms and hashtags:

 

MYCorps, Cambodia: Mission 2 Facebook page
Official Facebook page
Official Twitter account
Official Instagram account
Official website
#MYCorpsCambodia2
#FUNdraise4Cambodia



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I will try to do my very best to periodically update my social media platforms while I am in Cambodia. Follow me on my journey of the mission on my Twitter account and Instagram account!

 

A huge THANK YOU in advance for taking your time to read this, for reading more about our mission, for making donations and for supporting us on this mission. Stay tuned for more updates!