My name is Vivian and I was a participant in the STORM program for two weeks. I first heard about STORM in church through publicity and my peers who had been involved. When I learned that the program encompassed teaching English at a literacy center in Battambang, Cambodia; I was interested. I’d always had a desire to dedicate a part of my time to teaching English to those without the resources and liberty to learn the language. A few months ago, I had decided to return to Malaysia from the U.S. for the summer. I was then reminded of my desire to teach, and contemplated going to Cambodia for a part of my break. After seeking guidance from the Lord and getting my parents’ approval, I expressed my interest to join STORM to Terence and Deborah via email and locked down the dates. I allocated some money from my campus job towards the trip and in part got financial support from my mother. After finals, I flew home for a few days and then jet set again to Cambodia.While my STORM experience was just two weeks, the life lessons I acquired are timeless. There were a few things that truly stood out for me:
1) GROWTH IS INTENTIONAL
Although there are varying evidences and degrees of growth that each program period mandates, I have learned from my STORM experience that while physical growth happens naturally, holistic growth – of our mental and spiritual faculties, is something we must inevitably choose for ourselves.
When we pick growth over stagnation, there is without a doubt a need to step out of our comfort zone.
As someone who thrives on certainty and organization, teaching three classes at LOHI without any enlightenment on the means of execution or prior teaching experience really thrust me out of my element, requiring me to adapt to that role. Furthermore, I also had to initiate conversations with others – something I’ve not been fond of; and learn about and respect the local culture, as I tried to do by adopting a few Khmer phrases to relate to my students and be conscious of the lens in which I viewed the place. While how people adapt differs, doing so is certainly a choice, and often, it calls us to step away from what is familiar. Yet, we do this not on our own but by trusting the Lord, who guides our step and provides us with all we need to grow.
2) TEACHERS DESERVE MORE APPRECIATION
Having been a student for over a decade, taking on the teacher’s role has made me realize that teaching takes effort. Each day witnessed as I brainstormed ideas with my fellow STORMers on how to convey the lesson of the day or spam Google Chrome with recent searches like “English games for preschool” or “Fun English activities.” Some of those efforts were fruitful as the students really enjoyed themselves, but others were not as great. There were times my students couldn’t grasp where I was going with the game or there just wasn’t enough time to finish an activity. I also felt horrible when I wasn’t able to answer some of the questions I was imposed with. Faced with these frustrations, I realized that teaching isn’t a walk in the park. Back in school, I was always quick to condemn teachers whose lessons were uninteresting, or wasn’t to my liking. Being placed in their shoes has made me reconsider what it really takes for one to teach. While there certainly is good and bad teaching, there is no doubt that we ought to show more grace and appreciate our teachers for the good work they have done.
3) EDUCATION IS IMPORTANT
I had always believed in the importance of education, but I could never quite grasp its weight until joining STORM, where I saw the need and became actively involved in meeting it. For many Cambodians, having the opportunity to learn is a luxury. When I was assigned to teach English to the students at Puk Chmaa Primary School, I had met and conversed with a local teacher named Souvong. He informed me that English was not taught in Khmer schools, which only accommodated subjects like Mathematics, Science and Khmer. English classes were an extra in Puk Chmaa school, and they relied on foreign volunteers to run them. When there aren’t any volunteers available, the classes are halted. While other subjects were taught in schools, English remains all the more crucial, as acquiring fluency in it opens doors to development and sustenance in the country. The situation is similar for the village folk as well, although it can be even more challenging. Villages tend to be far away from the city, where most educational resources are.
For many villagers, having the chance to learn is a luxury and they truly cherish it when volunteers come and teach them English.
Seeing the determination of the local teachers and students in pursuing quality education really drove home this point to me (and demonstrates the next point).
4) SHARE AND GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY
As horrifying a prospect our government sanctioned education system is, I am grateful for the educational opportunities I have had. Nevertheless, just being thankful isn’t enough. I’ve realized that as a young urban Malaysian, I have had access to the resources that have led to my mastery of English, but many others – not just those abroad, but Malaysians as well – who haven’t had the same opportunities. Being a part of STORM has made me realize that the need for education is universal, and is very much close to home. As such, I hope someday to reach out to the Malaysians who live in the places we often forget exist, by sharing my knowledge and my faith with them.
I believe that we are stewards of the gift of education, and in return should continue giving back to society, as we have been empowered with the experiences and the resources to do so.
All in all, my experience in STORM is one that’ll stick with me for quite a bit.
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