2018 Chang Gung University International Volunteer Services in Penang, Malaysia
Division of Extracurricular Activities, Office of Student Affairs
As Taiwan’s international volunteer services gradually become more developed and rampant, we should let the world see the warmth of Taiwan and spirit of Chang Gung University. Following the success of the 2017 Chang Gung international volunteer services in Vietnam and with the full support of the school, Chang Gung international volunteers travelled to Penang, Malaysia this year for voluntary services. We tried a new approach of services this year, with book donation as our main theme. This was different from last year when services were offered to high school students. The service this year was at Han Jiang Primary School in Penang, Malaysia.
The Division of Extracurricular Activities of the Office of Student Affairs, general coordinator Mr. Lu Jun Rui of the School of Medicine, and vice coordinator Ms. Du Jia Chun of the School of Traditional Chinese Medicine formed the volunteer service team. Mr Liu Jia Wei, a Malaysian Chinese student as well as the general coordinator of last year’s international volunteer service team to Vietnam, assisted with the main operation of book donation and voluntary service at the primary school. With the theme of donated books in mind, we devised the first lesson: cultivation of interest in reading. We also planned activities based on the donated books’ contents. The goal was to further cultivate children’s interest in reading by stretching their imagination and encouraging them to analyse the storyline. In total, approximately 3000 donated books have been received. Through the careful selection of more relevant and English books, a total of six boxes (approximately 200 kilograms in weight) have been selected. As a result, the “Book Donation with Love” was completed successfully.
In addition, after the discussion of core team members, we finalized various lessons, including medical hygiene education, recycling education, student performance night, and filming a documentary of interviewing local children, etc. The first preparation meeting provided an opportunity for team members to get to know each other, to inculcate the right mentality of service, and to track the progress of lesson preparation. Furthermore, strong knowledge of local needs was deemed important. Therefore, we requested that the first lesson report should include the source of references, which could help volunteers to get a hold of the knowledge that the students have already possessed as well as various areas for improvement. International volunteers usually have difficulty carrying out field inspections; thus it could be hard to gather first-hand sources. This explains why information had to be gathered through Internet research and briefings of Malaysian students. Despite these difficulties, the volunteer team managed to increase the service quality by preventing any unnecessary repetition of what the children have already learnt.
After several revisions in the preparation meetings and mock lessons, 23 of us set off on the 7th of July. We firstly conducted a field inspection of the actual venue and gathered the donated books before sending them to Han Jiang Primary School library for categorization, indexation, and archiving. In total, we donated 544 books and helped create new value out of the donated books. This was how we completed the book donation, which was the first phase of our voluntary service.
The second phase of our voluntary service started with the feedbacks that we gathered from 129 local children. Upon gathering their feedbacks, we adjusted the lesson plan accordingly. This was the part where international volunteers had to think and act on their feet. For example, since students had already learned dental hygiene and related lessons before their third grade, the volunteers had to make appropriate changes of the lesson plan to make space for other topics such as reading, medical hygiene, recycling and other important topics without affecting the main thrusts of the lessons. On the last day, we invited the parents of the children (approximately 300 of them) to attend the final performance event. However, most of the children did not have previous experience of performance. As a result, many of them were too shy to perform in front of their parents and peers; they hid behind the stage. This observation surprised us even though our team members managed to accompany the children to complete their performance. For the children, this opportunity was rare, and our activities gave them an unprecedented experience. Because this was also the final day of the voluntary service, the vice principal of Han Jiang Primary School asked every child to line up to express their gratitude to all the 20 volunteers. Tears rolling down the children’s cheeks touched our heart. Although we could not make any tangible promises, this memorable experience left a deep impression in us, and the experience itself was the best reward. Through the editing of the recorded videos, we have collated all the snippets of the past few days into a video montage which left a deep impression in the children about the fond memories over those past few days.
According to Mr. Lu Jun Rui, the main reward of being the general coordinator is the chance to work with the volunteers in a non-hierarchical way from the start to finish. Besides, forging international friendships, expanding horizons and improving planning and implementation skills are the rewards of this experience. It is hoped that more international partners can take part and spread the message of warmth and service without borders.