written by Nicholas Kong

Negative impressions about people in poverty tend to occur such as being uneducated and less intelligent. Some might even say they just don’t work hard enough hence, their situation. However, my short but very fulfilling one week stay at Kampung Mangakapon taught me many great lessons and values.

The biggest take home message for me, was the massive potential the kids had in their studies and education. The issue isn’t them not working hard enough, it is the lack of opportunity. I mainly took care of the Standard 6 kids and I saw first-hand the amount of dedication and will they poured into their studies. In just one single week, they went from not understanding fractions to being able to answer questions involving fraction conversions, percentages, and ratios. I was so amazed and proud of their improvement and results that I challenged them with difficult questions and they still pulled through, with guidance, of course. Brilliant scientists, doctors, writers, artists, engineers, etc could be born from kids like these if only they had the opportunity to develop their potential. Meanwhile, people like me skip lectures just because I can’t get out of bed.

In the story of five loaves and two fish in Matthew 14, the disciples wanted to send the crowd away to nearby villages to eat, Jesus said, You give them something to eat”. Instead of wondering why poverty/evil exists and blaming God for it, I believe this verse has the answer. You” is referring to all of us ordinary people, we are the ones who need to take action.

During my time there I realized the true value of many privileges we take for granted, especially running water. There were moments when the taps were dry and the kids would collect filtered water from the river into buckets for showering. I am used to showering with warm water, however, there was no water heater at the kampung so I had to adapt to cold showers. Now, I’m so conscious about taps left open when I’m not even using the water and I have been showering in cold water ever since.

I would say my biggest challenge was language. I had not used Bahasa Malaysia properly in years and to suddenly immerse myself in that environment really pushed the boundaries of my BM skills. Thank goodness for the offline Google translate app. By the end of the trip,however, I suddenly found myself understanding the locals more easily and confidently conversing with them. Crash course BM 101. This trip has really moved me and it’s an experience I will remember for a lifetime.

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