The first, but definitely not the last.

17 Feb 2014

A memorable trip for Gan Wei Yi, a Singapore International Volunteer (SIV) who recently volunteered with other NUS undergraduates for the Words on Wheels project in Bandung, Indonesia.

This being the first time I served as an overseas volunteer, it is particularly meaningful for me to participate in the Overseas Community Involvement Project through the Singapore International Foundation (SIF)’s Words on Wheels project in Bandung. Most of the volunteers were also first-timers, and together, we took up the challenge to plan a programme aimed at improving the Indonesian students’ English competency. Over five days, we visited a primary school (Wilujeng Sumping Di Sdn Cipaganti) and secondary school (SMP Negeri 14 Bandung). I’m really glad we took the opportunity to embark on this trip; put smiles on the students' faces, and undoubtedly learnt more about ourselves through the experience.

The SIVs with the mobile library for the Words on Wheels project in Bandung, Indonesia.

The preparatory phase began rather haphazardly as we lacked prior experience in such engagements and had a hard time envisioning the trip itself. Luckily for us, we had the guidance of experienced SIVs who went on similar trips before, giving us valuable insights which managed our expectations. For the few months leading up to the trip, the team met up to brainstorm ideas, rehearsed our planned activities, and prepared the necessary logistics required. We wanted to create a series of exciting programmes to keep the students engaged throughout the day. Eventually, we decided on a theme based on stories, songs and dances for the primary school children, while we had more competitive games for the secondary school students to put their English skills into good use.

SIVs sharing stories with the school children and engaging them through various interactive activities.

Despite having much preparation done prior to the trip, we were still very apprehensive of what was going to happen on the trip. There were too many uncertainties – possibility of unforeseen level of language barrier, children finding the games too complex and hard to understand, activities not being receptive due to cultural difference, etc. Nonetheless, the entire team had a common objective in mind, which was to make a difference to these children’s lives. With that strong belief, we were driven to push for things to happen, and make this trip worthwhile. I daresay that the trip went beyond everyone’s expectations, and we had a good time engaging the students, as well as making friends with them.

Exchanging smiles and laughters along the way, making friends for a better world!

Throughout the trip, we received support from many people, and were sincerely grateful for their help. The principals and teachers were very hospitable and provided food and drinks for us. A few librarians set up a mobile library van at the courtyard to allow students to pursue their learning. We also had translators with us who took care of the situation in Bahasa when the students did not understand what we were trying to do. I’m heartened by the effort that everyone put into making this trip a fruitful one, for not only the Indonesian students, but also for me and the rest of the team.

Overall, the Words on Wheels trip had provided me with a really good opportunity to give back to the community. I would highly encourage everyone to go for at least one of such trip and experience the magical feeling of making positive changes to communities beyond your home.

We definitely like to thank SIF, for without them, this trip would not been made possible.

This account is contributed by SIV, Gan Wei Yi from National University of Singapore, who recently went for the Words on Wheels project in Bandung, Indonesia. Click here to view more photos of the trip!

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