written by Solomon Yau

I’ve sat down here at my desk for the past week or so typing and erasing each file over and over again more than I’d like to admit. There’s just too much to say with too limited amount of words to describe the entire trip over at Sabah. I’ve always had a rough idea of what living in the countryside/kampong was like. Growing up in the Philippines, I was exposed to what the life was like, but it was always from a privileged perspective, to think about it now, I question my understanding of what it meant to actually live a life of simplicity.

What are my biggest take-homes (lessons learnt) from the trip?

I think one of the most important take-homes is to be efficient in saving water. When we visited the first hostel (Hostel Lily Mangkapon) the hostel didn’t really have much water, to begin with and was relying on a pump that was pumping water from the nearby reservoir that was almost dry due to the 3 month drought that was ongoing. It was honestly eye-opening to the amount of water wasted not only in city but on a day to day basis while people over there are showering with yellow water and just barely getting by without it.

Aside from that, and to be more on a personal and emotional level, I’ve always wanted to be able to see God in each and every single situation and thing in each day. Sounds cliché and all but I’ve always wondered how people that I have looked up to did that, and I’m ever so grateful that I was finally able to experience it over there.

One last thing is that the devotions that we did opened my eyes to the injustice not only within the nation but within ourselves and the people around us and to actually see the ‘Broken Relationships’ and not the ‘Problem’ within a person. And to understand that just because you have good intentions doesn’t mean you still won’t hurt someone unintentionally. It made me really appreciate the fact that I’m glad that STORM was my first ever trip.

Did you experience any challenges? If yes, what were they and how did you overcome it?

Many. *insert laughing emoji* I’m a huge introvert, and being around people, meeting new people and just stretching my comfort zone is super draining on my social quota/tank. But, with that being said, I think another big take home was to be able to see God at work while you rely on him when you really are at your wit’s end. I remember both my first days at both Hostel Lily Mangkapon and Hostel Marigold, I was dreading about how I would even create a bond with the boys that I had to stay with. It’s funny how God can work wonders when you just truly let it all go and let him take full control. My second night at Mangkapon, the boys brought me into the room to show me some ‘stars’ by splattering a glow stick around the floor (don’t worry they cleaned it after), but it brought such immense joy and made me feel like I could do this forever. As for Marigold, a boy named Peter that was sleeping above my bunk bed started conversations with me which made me feel ever so welcomed and it made me feel even more welcomed when the others joined in and asked for questions about my faith and how to overcome their own obstacles. Let’s just say I’m attached and miss them.

How did the trip impact you and how would you do life differently?

Like I said in the beginning, I’ve always thought that I had a grasp on what a simple life over in the countryside was, but to actually live the life that they lived and to be able to share the simplistic immense joy that they find in each and every single day makes me rethink about how I focus so much on the things that make me unhappy and makes me want to recenter my thought process about not only seeing His beautiful work in my life but to be able to appreciate the things that I have and the people around me that I have been blessed with.

Do you think volunteering is for everyone? Why?

Yes and No. Reason why I say that is that I don’t think many people can actually handle sudden change of lifestyle. It really isn’t for everyone yet at the same time who am I to limit what God can do within a person and what he can do to change their perspective on things. With that being said, it honestly is for some people and isn’t for others. It really varies on the person I guess. But I will say this, if someone is already open to taking a chance on what it is like to not only experience but embrace the change, and to be able to see what it’s like outside of your very comfort zone. Then by all means, it is for that person.

With all of that said, I’m so grateful and appreciative that I was able to not only experience a trip like this but to create bonds and relationships with people. I look forward to more opportunities like this.

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