[By Gloria Ngu]
That’s an interesting name, I thought as the two youths presented their cause to us. They said a lot of things that day, but all I can remember is my brain latching on to ‘teaching English’ and ‘Sarawak’. From that moment, I had already made up my mind that I would apply for this project.
A few months ago, my friend, Felice, and I wrote about Project WHEE! and our efforts to raise funds for our air tickets (read it here: https://etctaylors.com/2014/04/21/busking-for-bario/). To give you a summary of Project WHEE!, it is a cause of teaching the women of Bario English in a practical setting in order to boost the eco-tourism trade there. The youth volunteers are paired up with a lady in Bario, and they shadow this lady as she goes around carrying out her daily routine. Making use of her environment and context, they then teach her English words that she might possibly use when explaining things to a tourist.
And let me tell you something: writing about the project before and writing about it after experiencing it is totally different. It is much more than teaching English or doing community service. It is a cultural exchange, a forging of new relationships. It built us more than we built the community there.
I believe there is much a name holds, as with the name of Project WHEE!. Permit me to explain further. WHEE! is an acronym that stands for:
We the youth
It’s not ‘they the youth’ or ‘you the youth’, but we the youth. As the future leaders of this world, we want to stand out and show that despite what people are saying about this generation, there still exist youths who really want to make a positive change and who have a heart for serving.
Helping those in need
Everyone has needs, albeit needs that vary. The needs that we address in this project are the needs of the women of Bario. A friend once brought up a question that got me thinking about volunteer programmes and whether such programmes actually benefit the people they are supposed to help. After experiencing Project WHEE!, I dare assert that it does help the women of Bario. Not only do we teach them English, we also serve as company, help out with chores and carry out community service work. We help them in practical ways, and by having multiple batches go within a year, this programme is made sustainable and our efforts to help them actually do make a difference in their lives, in the community and hopefully in Malaysia.
Upon hearing this phrase, perhaps you might think, Whose expectations? From the feedback that we got, we exceeded the expectations set on us by the ladies of Bario, the organizers of the project and also ourselves. The project definitely exceeded our expectations as well, as participants. We had supportive and caring project coordinators who would offer advice and do their best to guide us in our teaching and also learning.
‘Empowering’ often carries with it the same connotation as liberating, or even emancipating. We are not saying that English is all-powerful and that by teaching the ladies of Bario English we are emancipating them from the cruel grasp of a non-English speaking environment— NO! By going to Bario to teach the women English, we are hoping to aid them in becoming more confident in talking to tourists to help out with the ecotourism. At the very core, this should ultimately lead to providing the ladies with another possible source of income.
When I joined this project, I thought it would just be like any other volunteer programme: go there, make friends, help people, learn something, come back, life goes on as usual. Boy, was I wrong. The project provided me with the chance to build strong relationships, reflect deeply and also think about issues I might not have before. I think most importantly, it developed me as a person. Working and studying at the same time can cause one to be disconnected from Earth as one rushes about each day, thinking about what to do next, what uncompleted work there is, what plans are there for the week…this project and Bario helped me reconnect those stray cables and draw me back to the reality of the world.
All in all, the project was a huge success, and in December, Batch 4 will be taking off on this exciting journey. Want to know how you can apply? Read on for the plans for 2015!
Project WHEE! has decided to send not one, not two, but FOUR batches of youth volunteers next year! The tentative batch dates are listed below, along with the closing date for registration:
Batch 5: 17 Jan to 7 Feb 2015 (CLOSING DATE: 23 October 2014)
Batch 6: 9 to 30 May 2015 (CLOSING DATE: 7 February 2015)
Batch 7: 31 Jul to 21 Aug 2015 (CLOSING DATE: 7 February 2015)
Batch 8: 28 Nov to 19 Dec 2015 (CLOSING DATE: 19 September 2015)
Interested? Apply for these batches here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1xYBQUxgS2v2N0kcHKnrG2lUuZB5p5UzNPQxOpEUcEps/viewform?usp=send_form
This time round, Project WHEE! is partnering with SimplyGiving.com and Do Something Good to fundraise for the costs for this project. So why not give it a try?
We the youth. Helping those in need. Exceeding expectations. Empowering others.