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第三篇 – 谭淑欣

青年特务前往印度传爱之行
文/青年特务谭淑欣

最深的体验,最真的感动
今天也是我们的最后一天的探访,来到了乡村地区,Kumirmari的其中一间学校。到达那里时,我内心充满期待,因为将可以和这里的小朋友交流。我们踏进校门之前,那些小孩已经准备好迎接我们的到来。他们热情地以花朵欢迎我们,第一次被这么多人的热情与欢呼声迎接,感觉就像明星走在“红地毯”上。之后,他们就很有规律地坐在塑胶地毯上,而我们四人就被安排坐在另一边。这里的环境很糟糕,也没有很完善的设备,他们的课室都很简陋,我真的难以想像小朋友们竟然还可以忍受坐在太阳底下周会。比起他们,记得我们不管上小学或中学,我们的学校都有宽大的课室、舒适的礼堂、和完善的设备。

校长和老师们一一把我们介绍后,我们就和小朋友们进行破冰游戏。没想到天真活泼的小朋友们都很配合我们一起跳起舞来。过后还有几位小女孩呈现的才艺表演,如跳印度舞、演奏小钢琴和唱歌。我觉得他们都非常有才华,他们的表演太棒了!接着,我们四人也代表马来西亚呈现我们的传统舞蹈Rasa Sayang和手语歌曲。虽然我们语言不精通,但我们也尽量用简单的孟加拉语和当地的小孩们打招呼和交流。完成之后,我们也带小朋友们到户外玩游戏和踢球。每个人都尽他们的100%力量做到最好,虽然最后的结果没赢也没输,但我们每个人都发挥了团队精神。再次回到学校,因为我们将派礼物给小朋友们。我们送上铅笔盒和文具品,他们都很兴奋。小小的礼物代表着我们的一份心意,可以看见孩子们脸上带着快乐的笑容与满足感。

突然好不想离开这个学校和这个地方,因为这里充满着欢笑声就像孩子们的快乐天堂。心里面有许多的感触,这群生活在贫困地区的小孩穿着破旧的校衣,学校的环境也没有很好。但他们竟然可以那么知足,发自内心最纯的笑容和简单的快乐深深地打动了 我的心。很喜欢和小孩子们在一起的时光,他们教导了我乐观地看待每一样事物。就像他们每一位都乐观地等待着一丝希望。每个小孩都应该拥有无忧的童年,每个小孩都有他们的梦想,但饥饿很有可能剥夺了他们的希望和梦想。在此我呼吁大家一起加入抗贫的列车,让孩子们可以在健全的环境中健康地成长,且活出丰盛的生命。让我们一起同心协力,对抗饥饿。

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第二篇 – 谭淑欣

青年特务前往印度传爱之行
文/青年特务谭淑欣

小女孩背后的故事

学习之旅进入了第三天,我们四子又出动咯!今天的我们即将去探访几位当地村民的孩子与了解他们现今的生活习惯。Purnima是我们第一位探访者,我们沿着小路步行到她家,四周都可看见那已枯干的农作物,也很明显的看见土地已干得有一道又一道的裂痕。到达Purnima家时,发现她们所居住的屋子高度和我们的高度相差不多。今年十一岁的Purnima是个独生女,她的爱好是跑步、跳绳和与她的好朋友玩家家酒。她很喜欢吃葡萄和香蕉,但因为家里的经济问题让她很少机会可以吃到她喜爱的水果、她最喜欢的科目是英文、最喜欢的季节则是夏天。

可爱天真的Purnima每天必须步行大约30分钟的行程才能到达学校。因为没有足够的营养和粮食,所以每天必须这样来回遥远的路途让她感到很疲累。然而因为缺乏粮食问题,身体容易生病。她染上过麻疹,每当雨季或感冒时就会感到头痛。她家附近没有任何具体的医疗诊所,所以她并不能得到很好的治疗。在当地如果要就医就必须花上二十到一百卢比卢比卢比的医药费。Purnima告诉我们说:"每当生病我就会感到很伤心、很无助”因为她什么也做不到。一杯温茶就是Purnima每天的早餐,他们也经常把下午所吃剩的饭菜留到晚餐,这就是一天的三餐。我真的不敢相信,身在福中的我们三餐一定要丰富,温饱,比起他们我们真的要感到幸福多了。Purnima妈妈告诉我们说200kg的米就只足够让他们吃上半年,而其余的六个月,她们必须替其他人打工以换取他们的粮食。除此之外,Purnima每天得帮她的妈妈做家务,走15分钟公里路去提取干净水源以让他们能饮用和煮食,一天就必须来回两次这路程。格子高大的我们试着提起那水桶的时候也可以感觉那水的重量,更何况是一位瘦小的女孩必须光着脚,提着那么重的水桶走那么长远的路,真的很不容易啊!

Purnima爸爸是位建筑工人,收入都是依靠着建筑屋顶,每建一所就可赚两到三百卢比卢比。Purnima一家四口就居住在那间只用泥巴和茅草所盖的小茅屋里,外面还有一个小的厨房。 Purnima带我们到小茅屋里参观,里面的设备很简陋,只有那单薄的床铺让他们一起休息。对于他们来说只要有个安乐窝可以让他们遮风挡雨那就已经很满足了。其实Purnima一家人都面对着粮食短缺和营养不良的问题,我本身的个子不高然而Purnima妈妈的高度却只到我肩膀罢了,那可显见当地营养不良问题真的很严重。Purnima 有着一个伟大的梦想,她说她的愿望是想成为一名医生要拯救更多生命。同时我很欣赏Purnima永不放弃与积极面对人生的精神,就算没有喜爱的玩具,没有那喜爱的新衣,也没有丰富的一餐,但只要有得吃和喝那以足够满足他们的需求,这也提醒了我知足常乐的道理。在我们离开前,我们送上她最喜欢的水果、米和一些日常用品,也可显见在她那微微的笑容里留露出那无名的喜悦感。

一个十一岁的小女孩因为营养不良,就连和我们对话的时候,她偶尔会难以集中精神,这也告诉了我们严重营养不良问题会导致抵抗力弱且容易罹患疾病并会影响儿童的成长发展和智力发展。

开朗女孩子背后的伤感

我们再次沿着那小路步行, 紧接来到了另一个当地小孩Parama 的家,初次的见面她显得有点害羞。Parama很小的时候父母亲离开了她,没有双亲的她依然活得很快乐,她喜欢上学和阅读,记得当她邀请我们参观她的小茅屋时,她便拿起她喜爱的英文书坐在床上开心的朗诵着。一片漆黑黑的茅屋里白天就依靠着那阳光的照射, Parama就只借用那一道光来阅读仿佛就如凿壁偷光,晚上的她就只好使用油灯。

经过了短时间的相处,害羞的Parama渐渐变得开放起来,开朗的她还跟我们跳起舞来。单薄的衣服使Parama在那寒冷的天气里不停发抖,她的祖母没有稳定的收入,所以没有能力购买新衣、作业书与课本给她。祖母知道自己的孙女喜欢上学,她更希望自己可以让Parama 接受更良好的教育,拥有更良好的读书环境,不过就是经济上不允许。Parama午餐都是在学校吃,早和晚餐则在家里吃。祖母告诉我们说她们早上只吃一些储存的米饼,然后晚餐就吃一道菜,这也就是她们每一天的三餐,也根本就不足以填饱肚子。祖母也说因为年纪逐渐增长,没办法下田工作,所以她每一天只能在鱼池里钓鱼,再把钓到的鱼拿去卖以维持两人的生计。

和祖母的谈话中,我看得出祖母的忧虑,祖母告诉我说“随着年纪的增长又加上老毛病缠身,不知道还可以活到多久,而Parama又会由谁来看顾呢?”而我听到这里真的感到很心酸,一个这么活泼开朗的小女孩,从小就要面对被父母抛弃的事实,以及生活在那么恶劣的环境里,但她并没有因此而气馁,反而把悲伤化为她求学的动力。Parama和她的祖母感情非常好,她也说她想考取好的成绩,将来找到一份好的工作照顾祖母,以报答的祖母对她的养育之恩。小小年纪 却那么懂事的她,真的叫人感到安慰,渴望着可以收到良好教育的机会。在我们离开前,我可看见Parama和祖母眼神里的不舍得,她们所给予我们的拥抱让我深深得感受到那份爱与感恩。

在吉隆坡那繁忙的城市里,我从来无法真正想像或体验到他们现在所面对的贫困,然而这一切就在这旅程一一的呈现在我眼前,让我更无法想像的是他们却能每一天这样过着生活。Purnima和Parama都一样喜欢上学的小孩,但她们每天都必须步行去上学,而我们每天都有那疼爱我们的父母陪伴与载送。他们和我们都一样,但他们每一天却要面对着种种的困难和挑战,过着今日不知明日事的生活,但在他们身上我们可以发现原来平凡单纯的生活也可以很快乐。他们持续着正能量,相信着会有人会给予他们希望,他们从不放弃自己,也没有被贫困而击败,每一天的努力,就为了得到那二至三餐温饱。在城市里的生活,每天都是冲冲忙忙的,只要您肯停下脚步放慢自己的生活节奏,关心那需要被关怀与爱的贫困居民和小孩,也许这会使您的生命更有意义。能帮助别人的至于,心中的那份爱和快乐永远胜过一切。

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哟! 让我们煮出健康

“厨房传来那阵阵香而迫鼻的咖喱与那熟悉饭香味,仿佛勾起我儿时,妈妈经常为我烹饪的咖喱菜肴。”煮了一大锅的饭菜,终于明白妈妈每天躲在厨房里为我们准备的每一餐,是真的不容易啊!

UMANG Programme 也被称为烹煮营养食物醒觉教育。这个醒觉活动是世界宣明会开启的其中一个计划,目的就是为了教导妇女们如何烹煮营养食物给她们的小孩、提供保健咨询及教导纯母乳喂养新生儿的重要性。0-3岁的小孩必须要有足够的营养才不会影响发育,所以在这个重要期,世界宣明会志工都会呼吁妇女们踊跃参与其计划。不但可以增加知识,同时也可以让他们的小孩得到所需的营养。我们四子在那里也参与这一次的醒觉活动,希望在这醒觉活动里能给予居民良好协助。虽然我们语言不通,但从她们的脸上的笑容可以得知出当地妇女都很享受和我们在一起准备这营养餐给予她们的孩子。让我最感动的是,当地的孩子比起现今在城市里的孩子还显得格外独立,他们不需要大人的喂食,也不需要大人的人督促,并可以慢慢的把自己盘里的食物吃完。除此之外,在这醒觉活动里我学会了如何测量小孩子们的体重,也了解到获取足够的营养对成长中孩子是非常重要。根据世界卫生组织显示,2010年全球估计约有1.71亿五岁以下儿童发育迟缓,1.04亿五岁以下儿童体重不足,而在儿童死亡率里,有三分之一是死于营养不良。如果当地能加强了卫生系统,为所有儿童提供了这些措施将能拯救与保护许多幼小的生命,当地父母也不必担心自己的孩子容易患上任何的疾病。离开之前,我们也和当地小孩们玩了一些简单的小游戏,唱歌,无穷的要把欢乐带给他们。

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结束了UMANG Programme,我们便要去探访当地居住在海边的Priyanka 。刚来到他家时,大家都很好奇为什么他们的家前面要建起一个堤岸。经过深入的了解后才知道原来一旦遇到雨季,他们的的村庄将面临水灾来袭, 而该堤岸则是用来防止水灾,避免水灾直入村庄。今年8岁的Priyanka喜爱上学阅读。她共有三位兄弟姐妹,而她则排行第二。他们的家里附近有一片红树林,然而每当雨季来临时,海水会因水量增加而导致涨潮引发水灾。四年前,她们的村庄曾经发生过洪水来袭,这也使他们的家园在一瞬间摧毁,当时们他们却只能暂住在学校里。每当水灾发生都会漫延一至一个月半,水的高度都能淹盖了他们大半个房子,然而无辜的村名都必须用上十五天的时间来重新盖好他们的安乐窝。

我们也发现当地居民所拥有的卫生知识不强,Priyanka和其他居民都习惯的使用他们家旁的池塘洗澡、洗衣服、洗餐具等。也因为这样导致Priyanka 一家都容易患上皮肤病,他们所打捞的水就只能用来饮用或煮食。该池塘可说是高度危险地区,根据村民们说曾经有一位七至八岁的小男孩跌进池塘里而身亡。Priyanka 的弟弟Ranjit曾在池塘边玩耍也不小心失足掉进池塘两次,而她的婆婆也曾因为钓鱼时不小心掉进池塘里,使她的半身已经瘫痪。Priyanka 的爸爸是一名渔夫,每个月爸爸不管风吹雨打都冒着生命的危险去出海捕鱼两次,就只为了给予一家人温饱的三餐。每一次出海都是六至七天,我们无意间从Priyanka 母亲口中得知,Priyanka父亲已出海至今已十二天了却还未归来,音讯全无 ,在母亲的眼神可看到那忐忑不安与担心丈夫的伤感。对Priyanka的遭遇,我感到十分同情,Priyanka一家每一天都要应付着不一样的挑战,为了明天和明天而生活,那份坚信与意志力不是你我都一定拥有的。

对此世界宣明会也打算在未来计划里为该地村民开启Umang Programme、建起一所社区中心以便居民可在水灾时当作一间紧急庇护所或是一个让他们一起商讨和举行会议的地方。他们也将会开启家禽养殖计划和提高紧急救援以便改造他们的生活素质。此外,由于当地的厕所只建设在树上非常简陋与危险,因此印度世界宣明也承诺将会为当地居民设置一所良好的公厕,以方便当地居民使用。由此可见世界宣明会的努力是有目共睹,也希望有爱心的您可伸出援手,帮帮这班居民和小孩,让他们不再生活在恐惧和忧虑里。

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启程了!前往沙丽国境

青年特务印度传爱之行
– 青年特务谭淑欣

印度之旅启程咯!从被选为青年特务到现在我们都期待这一趟学习之旅。做好了所有的准备终于来到了这一天,五彩斑斓的莎丽背后,隐藏了什么故事?我相信这趟之旅必让我大开眼界。 乘坐3个小时半的飞机来到了陌生的地方。刚开始的心情当然是兴奋既紧张因为这里的环境、语言、文化截然不同,但一下飞机就被热情的印度世界宣明会工作人员带上花圈,让我感觉这里的人都好热情,紧张情绪立即消失。

下了飞机我们还得乘坐了4个小时的车程才能到世界宣明会社区发展的小村庄。一路上我们看到了许多人群、这里的环境和空气都非常恶劣、许多被废弃和无法完工的建筑物、路况都很糟糕。看见当下的情况,我希望自己可以适应及体验这里的生活,好让我可以了解世界宣明会如何帮助这里贫穷的居民和小孩。

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踏入印度的第一天

第一天我们来到了印度世界宣明会的办公室,在那儿我们认识了当地的工作人员,透过他们的介绍,让我对当地的社区发展工作有了基本的认识。世界宣明会社区发展计划为期至少十五年,迄今,这儿已步入了四个年头,这儿面对最大的问题是缺乏粮食,目前有3000名小孩等待被助养,这里的计划与施展工作项目包括灾难重建计划、儿童营养粮食辅助计划和综合性儿童与社区发展计划等等。初步了解了世界宣明会的工作范围后,我意识到开启社区发展的工作是一项艰辛的任务,我对当地工作人员的付出和精神钦佩不已。兴奋和期待是我接下来这几天的心情,好奇心驱使我更想知道扶贫工作究竟是怎么一回事?怎样的帮助才能带给社区、家庭和孩子真正的改变?

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他从死荫中走出来

"食物卡在我的喉咙,我感到好辛苦,就像快晕了!!"Samiran 道出。
慢性扁桃体炎,一个关乎生命生与死的疾病,若无法获得医治将夺走他的生命。我们驱车前往到一个受过世界宣明会帮助的小孩家庭 – Samiran Biswas, 刚抵达他家时,我感到非常惊讶,住在狭小和缺乏基本设施的空间里,那是怎样的生活与滋味呢?

疾病让他饱受折磨,茅草盖成的屋顶虽然可以遮阳和挡雨,但却无法抵寒。冷天来临时他就一直咳不停,进食时,他都会觉得喉咙疼痛。他的父母习惯性地用手电筒照他的喉咙,看看他的喉咙是否好些或是被食物卡着, 然而这又如何能改变孩子承受病痛的事实? 他们接受了当地医院的基本治疗,但无法获愈。眼看孩子的疾病一天比一天严重,他们更是心急了,于是送往城中看病,医生告知必须动手术才能康复,而手术费是42000 卢比(约RM2408)。天啊,这对一名劳工及季节性农民来说是一场重打击,收入每个月大概是1500 卢比(约RM86),都已经无法维持家计了,又如何获得这笔钱呢?

天无绝人之路,所幸马来西亚世界宣明会在当地开始了社区发展工作,协助支付手术费等开支从而解决了当务之急。我站在Samiran住的土地上,听着他们娓娓道出病魔对抗的日子以及对生命的坚持,从失落到重获希望的喜悦,我看见爱如何蔓延到印度的一个小家庭,再传入我的心间,我真正地体验到助人为快乐之本的意义。

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告别了Samiran,我们前往一所综合儿童发展计划中进行墙壁绘画。通过搭配合作下,他们开始了一项紧急营养与成长计划(名为UMANG Program (Urgent Management Action Nutritional Growth)。这计划的目的是为了让更多的妇女了解以及教导她们如何让0-3岁的婴儿获取足够的营养,解决营养不良的危机。我和其他的三个特务齐心合力把那幅墙填满色彩,试图让这个环境充满温馨的景象。

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我们画上了太阳和彩虹,代表希望和力量,想告诉当地的每一人无论生活遇上什么拦阻和挫折,都不要轻言放弃生命。

结束了一天的行程,感觉很累但是我们相信这一丁点的付出是值得的,继续为明天加油吧!

The Worldwide Calling

By Brandon Ng
30-Hour Famine Advocate 2012

The last part of my trip involved visiting a district where World Vision has already been a part of for the past few years. The objective of the visit was to see the difference in the standards of living after World Vision had started helping out in the commune. The district was the Yen Thuy district.

World Vision Vietnam has established the Yen Thuy ADP since 2008. They had set up a variety of different programs and resources for the community such as starting up a nutrition club for wives around the community. Mothers and wives from around the commune would meet every month or so to learn about the preparing nutritious food for their family to treat malnutrition. When we were there, we actually visited and took part in one of the nutrition club’s sessions. The session for the day was about diarrhoea. Each mother had to draw on mah-jong paper and present their opinions to everybody else. It was so gratifying to see the women take part in the session and interact so well while learning.
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After the session, we visited one of the women’s (Sen)family. While we chatted, we could see the confidence of the family – much more than that of the previous families we had visited. They were more composed,they smile easily and answered our questions cheerfully. They had a baby, called Hoa, and she was 9 months old. Hoa was 9kgs at her age! Healthy as an ox. The family told us how much World Vision has helped improve their living conditions. Sen, who participates in the nutrition club, was taught how to raise Hoa properly to the healthy baby she is today. The family, while far from being rich, was in a much better condition and much more self-sustainable compared to the previous families we’ve visited.

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Little Hoa and her family were the last people we interviewed and visited on our trip. Our group headed back to Hanoi to rest for a night and for some sight-seeing.

Overall, my visit to Vietnam opened my eyes to a few things.

1)    About the reality of poverty running rampant amongst the people around us.
I met with people who were actually living below the poverty line and watched how they struggled through their daily lives, not knowing how much yield they would get from their crops, not knowing when their next meal would come.

2)    Charity work is not just about donating money.
I mean sure, most times you think that as long as you have the money you can do anything. The important part is collecting as much money as you can right? Wrong. The crucial part to charity is the implementation. The allocation of funds would be crucial to building a sustainable life. The key to helping these communes would not be to just give them the money, but using the money for them to build a sustainable life.

If you give a man a fish he can eat for a day, if you teach a man how to fish, he can eat for a lifetime.

3)    The improvement that World Vision has brought to the community.
World Vision Vietnam has improved the lives of the people in the HuuLoi commune by leaps and bounds. I can only hope that the same improvements can be made in the future for the various communes in the Mai Chau district for the people I’ve come to meet and know there.

Poverty is man’s greatest enemy. I’ve seen the war and I’ve been part of the battle. And here we are, hand in hand, fighting the good fight. Will you join us?

The Side You Don’t See

By Brandon Ng
30-Hour Famine Advocate 2012

The next few days were a whirl of events. We interviewed three families, visited a school and a health station.

In the Tan Mai commune, one of the families we visited was Toan’s family.  The family works on a farm.  The plight of Toan and his family truly had a big impact on me. Toan is a 6 year old boy who walks at least 2km to and fro from school every day in the hot sun.

His younger brother, Tinh, recently underwent surgery at a hospital in Hanoi to treat his leg, suffering from muscle inflammation. Their parents had to borrow up to 20 million dong (approx. RM3,000) from relatives in order to treat Tinh’s leg. However, after the surgery, it was found that Tinh’s bone in the leg had not been rejoined properly, and was growing at an awkward angle.

The situation is quite dire and the parents are financially tight. Even as they struggle to pay the enormous debts they owe to their relatives, they have no idea where to get the money to be able to pay for Tinh’s second surgery.

They earn at most 17 million dong (RM 2,720) a year of which they spend at least 7.2 million dong (about RM450) at least on food – mainly rice and fish. They really want to send Tinh back for treatment but they have no means to. There is no more pain in the muscle but the bone is not fixed together properly after the surgery and that would affect Tinh’s development if it isn’t fixed soon.

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We also had the opportunity to visit the Toan’s parents’ farm. And boy was it difficult to reach. It was set on the mountain, and all of us had to hike up the mountain to get to the farm. Some of the people in our group couldn’t even make it to the top. This puts things into perspective. Day in day out, Toan’s parents have to climb all the way up the mountain to do their farming, with only very minimal yield, insufficient to sustain their daily needs.

I used to love to play games like Farmville, or Harvest Moon which simulates farming on as a video game but this; this was a totally different ball game. This was a huge reality check for me. In reality, farming was not an easy task, the uncertainty of the yield, the dependence on the weather. Farming as a job was just too unpredictable.

Another activity that we conducted was that we attended a primary school in the Pu Bin commune. I was in charge of the games and we played various games like “Eagle and Chick”, kite-flying, football, and a little bit of catching. We had a wonderful time with the children and I think they had fun too.

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I realised one thing through this activity, though — Football is in every little boy’s blood. While there was lukewarm response from the children in our efforts to fly the kites that we brought, the moment we took out the football and gave it to the children every boy came out and started chasing after the ball. And I mean every boy. The sight was incredible, how 30-40 boys were screaming and chasing after the ball.

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Children after an exciting game of football. From left, Jym from MY FM, Al from Says.com, Brandon the Famine Advocate, Michelle the Famine Advocate behind in blue and Kimberlylow.com at the far right.

In our sharing that night, Jym, from MY FM, said : “When I played with the children, I realised that happiness is shared by everyone. When we were playing we didn’t care who was black or brown or yellow or white, but we were all happy together. Even though there was a language barrier, where we couldn’t speak Vietnamese, we were all still able to enjoy a great time together.”

It was quite gratifying for me to see how even when living in such a poor state, the children were capable of being so happy. But I really believe, to the core of my heart; that these children deserve so much better. A better life, a better future, not to be stuck in this vicious cycle of poverty they’re in if WE DO NOT DO SOMETHING.

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Stepping Up, Stepping Out

By Brandon Ng
30-Hour Famine Advocate 2012

So there I was, at the airport, at 7:30 in the morning, after being dropped off by my parents. There, I met up with complete strangers.

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Brandon, the youngest in the group is seated in the front wearing black. Photo by kimberlylow.com

You see, me, little old me, was chosen, to be one of five Famine Advocates to be – well, advocates of the 30-Hour Famine cause in Malaysia and I was chosen to take part in this media visit, with other people from various media portals. I was going to Vietnam to witness World Vision’s community development work in 3 communes. To witness the poverty that is actually happening right now in Vietnam. To be honest, right down to the very last hour I felt that the whole experience was pretty surreal. I truly did not know what to expect from this trip. I was leaving Malaysia, my home, behind and venturing into a different country, a different culture, to have a hands-on insight into the reality of poverty.

If that wasn’t counted as stepping out of my comfort zone, I don’t know what is.

The timetable on the first day was pretty easy on us. There wasn’t much to do besides being on the road  day. After touching down at about 12pm local time, we headed straightaway to the Mai Chau district, in Hoa Binh province. It is 130km away from Hanoi and 40km from Hoa Binh city. The whole journey took up to 5 hours on the dusty, dreadfully bumpy roads of Vietnam. I was quite shocked by the culture and the driving habits of motorists on the roads of Vietnam. It seems as though they use their blaring horns every other second to notify other motorists of their presence on the road. Then again, it was interesting to be on the right side of the road for a change.

As much as the roads in Vietnam were dreadful, the scenery, on the other hand, was beautiful. The road that we took passed by lots of mountains and hills. The view was the postcard-material kind the whole way. Talk about greenery at its finest.

We checked into the hotel late evening and had our dinner at a nearby restaurant. After that we walked to the very recently set-up World Vision office (that very day in fact) in the Mai Chau district 1km away for the briefing and introduction to the Mai Chau Area Development Programme. There we learnt about the different communes that were in the Mai Chau. There are a total of 23 communes and World Vision Vietnam has pinpointed the 5 poorest communes to partner with – Pu Bin, Noong Lung, Tan Dan, Tan Mai and Phuc San, and have begun to work with them. The two communes that we were planning to visit were Tan Mai and Pu Bin commune, where the poverty rate was estimated to be at 83% and 54% respectively. There, we were going to meet different families to learn about their struggles of living in poverty.

It was made known to us that these five communes were going through A&D, i.e. the Assessment and Design process. It is essential that World Vision build a good relationship and co-ordinate with the children, families and communities. This relationship had to be built over time to enable the workers to determine the source of poverty among the villagers and to decide on the best way  to utilise funds to help the villagers create a self-sustainable environment to live in.

That, in a nutshell, was my first day in Vietnam. We walked back to the hotel after the briefing and had a good rest, as we were all tired from a whole day of travelling. There was a spirit of anticipation in the air as we looked forward to the next few days, where we would truly step into the actual world of poverty.

A Small Gesture from the Heart

A Big Difference to a Child’s Future (Part 5)

World Vision Sponsors’ Visit to YongSheng ADP, China (25 Mar – 1 Apr 2012)

by Jesper Chang

Postscript:

World Vision Malaysia was kind enough to arrange some post activities after our Sponsors’ Visit to make our trip a more worthwhile and enjoyable. I guess we all needed some time to recuperate after our energetic 3 day visit to the ADP.

Among some of the highlights were visits to the snow peach plantation, bio-gas powered homes and solar-powered heater homes (all of which are also part of the many projects undertaken by World Vision YongSheng).

Another place that we visited was the YongSheng wet market (which has a wide variety of food, and for once we did not hesitate and took out our wallets and purses to buy whatever that tickled our taste buds).

On our final day, we even managed to squeeze in some last minute shopping at the Kunming Walmart before departing back to Malaysia.

All-in-all, I really enjoyed this trip. We had a great team of child sponsors, fabulous World Vision staff, the adventure was awesome, the food was commendable – but most importantly, the bond that we created together will forever be cherished in our minds.

Words are just not enough to describe the many feelings and experiences which I’ve gone through throughout these 8 exciting days. It really was an adventure of a lifetime for me.

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Couldn’t resist taking a group shot with our ever-friendly World Vision drivers who drove us through the rough terrain throughout the entire trip

Nonetheless, one thing that I really want to do is to express my sincere thanks to the many people whom I had the chance to get to know and fostered good friendships with throughout this trip.

To James (ADP Manager World Vision China, YongSheng Office):
Thank you for doing a remarkable job helping & developing the YongSheng County. You and your team have done so much – the progress & results speak for themselves. And thank you for your warm hospitality which you’ve extended to us throughout our stay in YongSheng.

To Pei Ling & Angeline (World Vision Malaysia):
Much, much thanks for putting in all the blood, sweat & time in organizing this wonderful trip. Your efforts have paid off really well and you’ve succeeded in every corner with flying colours. Thank you for taking care of everyone – whether it’s during moments of joy, sorrow or stress. We salute you both!

To my fellow child sponsors:

–    Annie, Ming Wah & Peggy
Thank you for being such good sports. You girls were always there to cheer us up and crack jokes whenever we encountered tricky situations or when some of us were feeling down and stressed.

–    Mr. Tan & Elaine
I didn’t have much chance to interact with the both of you but I do look forward to seeing your photographs. I’m sure you are a professional photographer and I can’t wait to view your beautiful pictures.

–    Mr. Teng
Thank you for helping us out during our classroom teaching session at the Secondary School. You were fantastic. A really good role model for the kids. And a fabulous teacher, so to speak. Not to mention a very good fatherly figure to your sponsored child too. We have much to learn from you.

–    Choy Wan
A big thank you for being our (my dad & I) wonderful travelling companion for most of the trip – especially during the sponsors’ visit. You were an excellent conversationalist and I truly enjoyed our conversations. Much thanks too for being the interpreter during the long road trips whenever we conversed with the driver.

–   Karen, Eloise & Catherine
A million thanks to all 3 of you lovely ladies for being my “official” translators during the meet-up session with my sponsored child. I can’t thank you enough for the help which you’ve rendered upon me for that day. Without you ladies, I would have never made it through that very day and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you all very much.

–    And to my Dad
Thank you for coming with me on this trip. I hope whatever you saw & experienced during this journey will give you a better understanding of what a great organization like World Vision is doing. And I hope that you too, will help spread out the word in asking more friends to join in & be part of this wonderful organization in its quest to bring hope to those in need.

Lastly, before I sign off, I’d just like to say once again – this trip has totally changed me. My character, thinking and vision towards life has been greatly affected by what I saw and experienced. Whilst we are only humans and we can only do so much for those in need, but I always maintain to the saying: “50% of Something is BETTER than 50% of Nothing”.

We can’t help everyone, but we sure can do our best to make the world a better place to live in for the children of tomorrow.

Cheers to all!

A Small Gesture from the Heart

A Big Difference to a Child’s Future (Part 4)

World Vision Sponsors’ Visit to YongSheng ADP, China (25 Mar – 1 Apr 2012)

by Jesper Chang

Day 3 ADP visit:

The final plan for our sponsors’ visit today would take us to Yongping Village, where we’ll visit the Secondary School.

I was told that this school is a brand new project that World Vision YongSheng has taken under its wings just slightly over a year ago. The school was previously in a bad state, and since it got help from World Vision, it has changed immensely. The grounds and the premise have been rebuilt and everything looks neater, cleaner and more organised.

When we entered the school’s main entrance, we were given an overwhelming welcome from the kids with hands clapping and cheering. I felt on the top of the world! I guess this is their way of thanking us for what we have done for them.

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A grand welcome for our entourage by the children of the Secondary School

Today’s visit would be longer as it’s the last day of our sponsors’ visit, thus Pei Ling said we would spend as much time as possible with the kids.

The tour started off with the usual introductions and speeches. The highlight of the event was when our group was split into smaller groups of 3-4 and we were asked to go into some classrooms to mingle and to  “teach lessons” to the kids. As I’m illiterate in Mandarin, I was fortunate enough – AGAIN – to receive great help from my fellow team members who were always ready to take the helm in conducting the lessons.

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“Lesson” in progress as the child sponsors become “temporary teachers”

Although the students in my class were rather shy at first, but they soon warmed up to us and went with the flow. After all, it was only a “casual class lesson” – nothing serious whatsoever. The initial soft & shy chatter soon turn to laughter, and it proceeded even further until it became like somewhat a “brainstorming” session as everyone wanted to give their input to the questions thrown at them 🙂

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Group shot of our class after the lesson ended

Our session at the school ended close to 1pm. After lunch, we made our way back down the hilly mountains of Yongsheng again.

As I was leaving the premise, I looked back at the school one more time and said to myself, “Not bad, not bad at all. What a great transformation”.

For a school that was on the verge of “sinking”, World Vision YongSheng has done a remarkable job in turning it around and bringing it back up to the surface. It has saved the school from submerging and rescued the children from “drowning”. And because of this, the children now have a brighter and more solid future to look forward to.

A Small Gesture from the Heart

A Big Difference to a Child’s Future (Part 3)

World Vision Sponsors’ Visit to YongSheng ADP, China (25 Mar – 1 Apr 2012)

by Jesper Chang

Day 2 ADP visit:

This would be the happiest and most memorable day of my entire trip to YongSheng.

Why?

Because this was the day I was going to meet my sponsored child. After sponsoring her for 5-years (beginning in 2008), I was finally going to meet her for the very FIRST time.

We began our trip into Shui Jing village that morning. Thereafter, we entered a community hall where we waited for our sponsored children to arrive.

When I first saw her walking in with her mom, I knew that was her. My heart skipped a beat, I was lost for words and I didn’t even know how to react. She was so different from her photo – different in a sense that she looked very mature and seemed to have grown exceptionally taller. But she was still who she was – my dear sponsored child. I immediately shook hands with her, and took pictures with her and her family.

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Couldn’t wait & just had to take a shot with my sponsored child, Yu Xiang upon meeting her for the very first time at the Community Centre

We exchanged greetings before World Vision staff organised a lunch for us and the families. What a great plan! Thank you, World Vision for organizing it this way.

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Lunch time with Yu Xiang, her parents, child sponsors and World Vision staff

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A family portrait with Yu Xiang and her family

As I am illiterate in Mandarin, I was very lucky to have 3 sponsors who were very willing to lend a hand in becoming my “official translators”. I felt like a V.V.I.P that day 🙂

After lunch, we proceeded to her school in the township of Guanghua where again, we met up with the rest of the other kids and interacted with them through games and sharing.

But the time that I was really looking forward to, was the one-to-one meet-up session for every sponsor and his / her sponsored child. And when my time came, I was all too eager to proceed with it. We were ushered into an empty classroom, where the World Vision YongSheng staffs were at hand to act as translators too (due to the different accents of Mandarin). Together with my 3 “official translators”, we all sat down and I began to present her the gifts I bought for her. Her eyes beamed with joy when she opened the presents one by one. We explained to her what some of the gifts are and showed her how to play with some of the games, and she even wrote a Thank You note for me there and then itself.

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The one-to-one meet up session. Thank you Karen, Eloise & Catherine for being my interpreters!

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Karen, Eloise & Catherine being as helpful and patient as ever in helping with the translation throughout the session

Alas, like all happy journeys, all good things must come to an end. And the time to say goodbye and bid farewell came soon after. I took this opportunity to take a few more shots with her and used the last few minutes to give her a warm inspirational chat. At the last few seconds I shook hands with her and gave her a warm hug before she made her way back to her class. I promised her that I would come back to see her again when World Vision organize another trip to YongSheng in the future. Even as she walked back to her class, she turned and looked back at me a few times.

I’ve always been a strong person, but on that day, I felt really emotional and tears did flow a little. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay and talk to her more, I wanted to guide her through her studies, teach her new things, play games with her – but I know it’s just not possible. The time has come and I had to let her go.

Sitting in the jeep on the way down and back to the hotel, many thoughts raced through my mind. Visions of my sponsored child and the “very few moments” that we had together came flooding back. Tears started to flow again. I do not know when I’ll be able to come back to see her again. But one thing I know is, the events & memories which took place today, I will cherish forever in my heart.

A Small Gesture from the Heart

A Big Difference to a Child’s Future (Part 2)

World Vision Sponsors’ Visit to YongSheng ADP, China (25 Mar – 1 Apr 2012)

by Jesper Chang

Day 1 ADP visit:

Prior to departing to our first designated venue, we stopped by World Vision’s YongSheng Office for an introduction session of the YongSheng ADP by its very friendly ADP Manager, Mr. James Leong. We were showed round the office, from its administration centre to its training rooms and even the dorms – which are used to provide lodging to students, staffs and visitors. After almost 2 hours at the centre, we began our journey to our first destination.

Today’s agenda was to visit the Liude Primary School. This school is situated somewhat on a hilltop, and the remaining 500m to the school was excruciatingly bumpy due to the rocky & sandy road.

Once we arrived at the school compound, we were surrounded by the many kids that were all too eager to meet us. Comprising mainly of primary school children, they were extremely enthusiastic when they saw us walk into their school grounds.

Pei Ling, our ever helpful tour and organizing team leader, gave an opening speech, thereafter, we joined the kids in playing games, interacting and taking photographs with them. It truly surprised me that many of them were actually very good at posing for shots – especially the girls!

While some of the team members met up with their sponsored child, I made my way out to the school compound and met up with the headmaster of the school (really neat guy!) and asked him questions about the school’s facilities and what the government and World Vision has done to assist them – and I must say the things he told me were very convincing. I was extremely impressed when he showed me the school’s Computer Lab. Flat screen monitors and high performance CPUs, coupled with internet access – now that’s an eye-opener for me, for a school that’s located deep in the woods & mountains of YongSheng County.

I was told that YongSheng has suffered drought for the past 3 years, and there hasn’t been a drop of rain since then. That said, the government has implemented water rationing for most of its areas – including schools. It broke my heart when I saw the kids queuing up and taking turns to feed themselves with water when “drinking time” came. My dad even wanted to give them his mineral water bottle but the official said it would be of no use. There just wasn’t enough to be passed around.

Our session ended at approximately 4.20pm when we had to bid farewell to the kids. We shook hands, took last minute pictures with them and said our goodbyes before boarding our vehicles for the long way down again.

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Briefing in progress at World Vision’s YongSheng Program Office with ADP Manager, Mr. James Leong

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The children at Liude Primary school. Didn’t I say they were photogenic 😉

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Our team members having fun with the kids

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The impressive & real neat-looking computer lab