Cambodia: Less is More

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As of today is has been one day since we’ve landed back in Singapore from the week of our lives in Cambodia; I’m thankful for the team of 25 of us together with our amazing 2 teachers and helpful YMCA chaperone who got us through the week and helped us all grow and learn significantly with the little things that we experienced and I have many thoughts on my mind. I can’t put into a single post what exactly I learned from Cambodia and its people because every interaction, every observation and each story exchanged has given me incredible insight and reflection about how I view the world and my own way of life. And today, I think I’d start with the most prominent lesson we constantly learned and re-enforced over the trip: making more with less.

We all know that Singapore is a developed country and we have infrastructure, resources and a growing economy that those developing or less developed don’t have. We also know that the less developed country have it harder, and they lead different lives from us. But it’s not until you see and experience it for yourself that you realise they lead very, very VERY different lives from us and with the little that they have (compared to us) yet they make so much more out of it than I ever do with the abundance that I have everyday. On the streets alone near the orphanage, there aren’t beautifully paved roads with lines and traffics lights or direction signs. All these replaced with sand and rock to create a bumpy road that the children cycle on to get to school every single day. The air is less clean, and the people very much coexist with nature’s insects, bugs and animals all around. Their access to water is less than half of ours and so is their electricity, probably. And your most accessible transport tool is your legs- you either walk or you cycle. With all these differences, not only are they equally happy as we are with what they have, they are stronger and they have the amazing ability to adapt and make the best with what they have. They aren’t ‘making do’ or ‘getting by’ like we’d imagine they are, they’re living and breathing and enjoying every moment they have with whatever they own. They have so little (compared to us) but they share and they love and they give.

It seems as though they have just as much, if not more, than us.

At the end of the trip our YMCA chaperone left us with this, ‘Contentment in a simple life is gain. And contentment in a complex life (like ours) is greater gain.’ And I think this will map out my direction in shaping the way I see all the things that I own and have for an extremely long time.

When the photos are finally up, I will have countless of posts all about the trip and what it has left me with, but in the meantime, today I enjoy the second of my relaxing and contented day since I’ve returned from the beautiful place with beautiful people.

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Now I’m Ready

Looking back at the first half of my year, I have so much to be thankful for:

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The opportunity to find myself back in front of a classroom, this time executing an initiative I had a big part to play in.

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The chance to act on my continued support towards the arts scene with a godsister I’m so thankful to have (here’s us at Shakespeare in the Park!)

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The platform to serve

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Another family I can go back to frequently and call home

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The opportunity to find myself back on stage

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To be blessed with old friendships that continue to last

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To have a team that continues to support one another in whatever way we can

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And a fan closest to heart that I continue to be thankful for every single day

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And then there’s the people whose friendships with me are just getting started.

I like to look back once in a while to see how far I’ve come and how much I’ve done with the time that has passed. It’s difficult to realise that when we keep looking forward. Contrary to popular belief, it’s just as important to turn back once in a while and enjoy the picture you’ve painted with your brush of time. After all, every part of it would later contribute to that one big masterpiece you’ve been working on all your life. You’ve to make sure the pictures add up and you don’t paint the same things twice. 

Thanks for joining me in my milestone check, now I’m ready for the real holidays to begin! Have a good one too!

 

 

May 2014

 This is my favourite photo taken this May because it has all the people I love in it and I am so thankful that they love me back just as much, if not more. Today, I’m lying on my sofa at home for the longest time ever watching movies, eating home-cooked food and finding time for myself. It’s been a while. And I find myself here, reminding myself I’m not any more different from a normal human being who needs love, support and rest; instead of dragging myself around at CCAL camp as if it would prove anything more than my stupidity.

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Looking back at May, it’s been a hell of a month- 2 Interact Events back to back (Dine in the Dark and Youth Got Heart) followed by Runway’s Show of the Year and finally rounding off one of the Room to Read Initiatives that dates back from a really long time. All these things have come together to make May the best month I’ve had yet and all these opportunities that JC has given me are only getting better with time. Alongside these numerous people who have proven to stand by me whenever I needed, I’m thankful to have friends like them, each, one in a million in their own ways.

Thanks to them, I learn to love myself more.

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Engage

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Just last week, the programme which we designed from scratch to teach Primary School students about being more aware about their emotions and to enrich them with a better understanding of their emotions came to an end- our trained Volunteer Leaders stood in front of classrooms leading classes of students in the games and in small group reflections, we spontaneously adapted classroom management skills and leaving with bright smiles on our faces, the team and our Volunteer Leaders were satisfied.

It was an overwhelming feeling to be thanked repeatedly by teachers and children and Volunteers for the experience that had been created and the satisfaction of finally delivering a programme that had months of behind-the-scenes work is almost impossible to describe. But I guess this tinge of excitement, adorned with pleasant surprises and joy from the little things that happened is the reason why I enjoyed this initiative so much and definitely the reason why I continue to volunteer in more initiatives to come and more volunteer opportunities I can find.

There is self-discovery in every opportunity of serving others besides oneself– and this time, I have learned the power of engagement. Over the course of planning and training and executing, the one thing we could never completely prepare ourselves for was the classroom management style because every kid’s learning and every classroom’s atmosphere is necessarily different. Some kids learn better just listening, others have to write to understand and there are those who don’t really get it until you actually make them try it; so the challenge was to engage while standing before an entire classroom or even facilitating group discussions in a group of students with completely different personalities. And the key, I learned, was to connect at a level that they understand and they feel for. It’s easier said than done- as I watched Volunteer Leaders stand before the class for the first time, I could only recall and imagine the first time I did so, heart palpitating and cold sweat running down the sides of my face, which flushed.

It really is a skill to show people you truly care and you really understand, to make them feel connected and bring a relationship of trust that allows you to best offer them what you know, it’s challenging to engage and I’m glad this opportunity put us all in a position where we learned to.

I have little else to say except that I hope to find myself standing in front of a group of volunteers or a class of students like I have in the course of this initiative again, working hard to engage.

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