Trudging for forty minutes from a homestay in a rural village to a school, braving the cold weather and navigating their way through a community of mainly Nepali speakers was all part of an adventure for 16 young students from INTI International College Penang (INTI), who recently participated in an eight-day volunteer programme to Nepal.
Coming from different courses, it was the students’ first international volunteer trip, which aimed to benefit students from the Shree Swochchhand Bhairav Higher Secondary School in Chitlang, Nepal, about a three-hour drive from the city of Kathmandu.
Armed with the willpower to experience a new environment and a noble purpose of imparting wisdom and knowledge, the young volunteers conducted workshops, classroom activities and outdoor tele-matches for the high school students. Among the subjects explored through the workshops were Science, Mathematics, Business and Marketing, as well as Arts and Crafts. Through these activities, the volunteers also provided opportunities for the students to improve their soft skills such as communication, team work and leadership.
22-year-old Samir Lim, who is currently pursuing the Bachelor of Arts (Honors) in Event Management and Marketing in collaboration with the University of Hertfordshire, UK at INTI shared how the team prepared for the trip by learning some basic Nepali, in order to ease the communication between the volunteers and the community they were assisting.
“We wanted the children and the community at Chitlang to feel like we were making an effort to connect with them on a personal level instead of just coming for the sake of doing some good and leaving. We had a great deal of help from our guide who served as our interpreter throughout the duration of our programme. It’s an amazing feeling to know that the act of kindness transcends any language barrier that may exist,” shared Lim.
Fellow student volunteer, Winnie Yeoh Wei-Jiun, shared similar sentiments that language was an initial barrier, but as soon as she put her effort and heart into learning, she was able to grasp the basic understanding of the language. The 19-year-old who recently completed the New South Wales Higher School Certificate programme at INTI initially questioned her mental and physical preparedness to go through the challenging conditions in Nepal, specifically the long walks to Chitlang in light of the under developed transportation system in the area. However, the excitement of being in a new environment and meeting new faces to share knowledge helped Winnie and her friends weather the long walks together.
INTI lecturer and coordinator of the Nepal volunteer project, Ooi Saik Huey, was very pleased with the outcome of the trip. She shared that students from the Foundation in Science programme at INTI organized various fundraising activities in preparation for the trip in order to raise funds to purchase materials for the workshops, pay for some of the meals for the students during the day camp, as well as purchase books for the school’s library.
“I am proud of how they managed to juggle their time between this programme and their studies. It takes great commitment to be involved in such a project and the students did really well. Beyond the voluntary aspects, this trip was also a great cultural exchange for our students and I believe it also helped them recognize the privileges they have living in urban areas, with ease of access to proper education,” she said, adding that this group of students were very supportive of each other throughout the entire process of the trip – making the preparation and trip a truly memorable one.
Ooi hopes to be able to spearhead more volunteer projects like these in the future with continued support from INTI and its students. INTI students are provided numerous opportunities to participate in charitable and community focused events and activities, which expose students to various cultural backgrounds and offers insights into the economic and social welfare of other nations. These initiatives also provide the opportunity for students to enhance their soft skills, from communication to problem solving, and collaborating in teams.