By Sheela Faizura
When the seed of volunteerism is sown in the early years of a child, they will realise the importance of showing acts of kindness to other people as they are growing up. Consequently, the flowers of kindness will smell as sweet as their continuing contribution to society. Volunteerism opens the heart and broadens the minds to flourish as a thriving nation.
Volunteering is an act of kindness that can go a long way.
It may lead to a better path that has never been explored.
When I was informed that we will be involved in two local community projects, I jumped with excitement. Never have I imagined that I would be involved in international community projects. All I want to do is to have the experience of serving the international community.
The first community project that my students and I participated in was gardening at a local community garden centre called Dekalb County Community Gardens (DCCG). Owned by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) of the local community, the objective of DCCG is to end hunger, empower individuals and grow the community. DCCG aims to ensure that the Dekalb community would thrive and self-sustain.
When we arrived, Mrs Brown welcomed us with open arms and a wide smile. She explained the tasks that we needed to complete.
The first task was to mix the soil and lay the foundation for new vegetables. Then, we planted seeds for beans and cabbages.
The next step was putting molded bottles and watering it. The next step was interesting as we lay a veil on top of the soil. This is to ensure that cute little rabbits would not eat more than they should from the community garden. The last task that we did was making new composts.
We put card boxes and food waste that have been collected in a designated site. Mrs Brown mentioned that the composts will deteriorate and be ready within one month.
Interestingly, all the vegetables that have been harvested in DCCG will be distributed to the local community. The NGO has identified families who are in need of food supply. A mobile truck will deliver fresh vegetables to the families biweekly. Additionally, the families are also taught to be self-sufficient such as maintaining their own gardens as part of DCCG’s educational plans.
I believe the sustainability goals in agriculture should also be implemented in Sarawak. Imagine the large number of families that we could help when we have our own community gardens in Sarawak.
Secondly, we volunteered at Feed My Starving Children (FMSC). FMSC is operated by volunteers of FMSC NGO. The safety protocol was really tight; we had to put on hair bonnets, wash our hands with soap and use hand sanitiser before putting on our gloves.
After a video presentation and explanation by the FMSC authorities, we were divided into groups based on the countries that we would be sending the rice supply to. Some of the countries were the Philippines and Ghana.
We packed 2kg of rice mixed with dried vegetables and vitamins and air-sealed it. Then, the packages were boxed and labeled to be sent to the respective countries. Each box contained 20 packets of rice. In the end, our SEAYLP group managed to pack 113 boxes. We felt so proud to accomplish such a feat!
In both volunteering activities, we learnt that we should not take our lives for granted. As we connect to other people, especially those who volunteer together with us, we realise that they are more than what we could offer to the world.
We listen to stories of how other countries emphasise agriculture. Reminiscing on Sarawak, perhaps more awareness on the importance of agriculture should be freely available for people to join. We might have heard about being self-sufficient, but have we ever been fully implementing it?
Undeniably, I also had great fun while volunteering. To illustrate, we even sang while we were packing for FMSC. We felt the excitement and joy when thinking about the children that we were helping. We talked about each other’s hardships while growing up. The challenges we had faced while we were young had definitely made us stronger. Hence, we prayed that the children will also be strong in facing their challenges.
On an international level, we learnt new ways of organising community-based projects. We need to be cooperative and innovative in contributing to society. Since it is mostly volunteer-based, we could not force anyone to help us. We need to attract many interested volunteers because they are the backbone of the projects. Without the volunteers, none of the volunteering could be made into reality.
Volunteering provides a communal platform for development. The community moves as a group to improve their living conditions. They are responsible for taking notes on issues and finding the solutions. Most importantly, they create a strong bond to co-exist. When the community is strongly attached to one another, it will influence other communities to create a ripple effect. It really does take a village to raise a good community.