2016 Matilda Project Sabah Trip


Aoi Kanda, Xuan Lin Tan and Qi Lin Kong


During the last week of Term 3, 10 ten exuberant students along with two sporting teachers travelled to Sabah to visit Asrama Desa Pukak. We were welcomed by 29 children on arrival, all of them shy but curious. After a round of introductions, we ran along to the field to join them for their evening playtime. Most of us split into football teams, some just ran around the field, and some joined Ms Alex and Ms Derham for yoga and games. Everyone was awkward and nervous during the first few hours of meeting, but before we knew it, we were all enjoying conversations and messing around. The children became more approachable, coming up to us with silly faces, sneaky jokes, and inquisitive questions.

The daily life of the children there wasn’t very different from what we would have. The only difference was the environment around them. While we see malls and tall buildings on the way to school, they see rice paddies and green mountains. They’d wake up, pray, eat their breakfast and walk to school, walk back while chatting with their friends, do their homework, read, pray, have dinner then go to bed. Our daily life there included rotating morning chores, visiting schools, being  teachers and planning lessons and just messing around with the cheeky kids all day. The children showed how the hostel was run and we stuck to their weekday routine. It was a rare experience for us to become morning people! One of my favourite things was helping out with preparing for dinner. We learnt about papaya flowers and different types of vegetables from the garden and I just enjoyed having some calm time in the kitchen with the happy and generous staff.

The students at the hostel attend SK Pukak Tuaran, which is only a two-minute walk from the hostel. We started off the program with some fun sports such as netball, futsal and football. Then the morning continued with creative English lessons. Beatrice, Regina, and Haylee taught craft activities to the Year 1 and 2 students. Kim, Carey, and Suzanna led the Year 3 and 4 into the world of storytelling. Xuan Lin, Qi Lin, and Aoi led sentence and essays writing activities with the Years 5 and 6.

We also visited SK Mantob, where we had to cross a wobbly bridge and tread through paddy fields to get to the school. The student ensemble played the gamelan as we walked in, and it was followed by a dance about harvesting a paddy field, and also a traditional Sumazau dance. After some lessons by the AISM students, friendly matches of badminton ensued, where Qi Lin and Aoi came out on top in the doubles game.

Due to the afternoon downpour each day, we all had to stay in during the evenings instead of playing at the fields. However, we took that chance and read to the kids, hosted ping pong competitions, enjoyed dancing, drew and coloured, played indoors games, and listen to some of them practice the guitar. For the after dinner activities, we planned easy-going activities while embedding language teaching along the way.

On Wednesday, we were lucky to be able to experience white-water rafting at the river right next to the hostel. We were able to jump into the fresh clear river at certain points before the next rapid. During the afternoon, despite the heavy rain, we made our way through the muddy paddy fields with the Year 6’s. They guided us towards the waiting paddies, which we dug out in order to replant them in the field. We also got to experience weeding and removing snail eggs from the paddies. Sandals got stuck in mud, weeds and mud was pelted around, and water was splashed everywhere. But everyone was laughing and having a great time even though we were saturated and muddy.

By Thursday, everyone was anxious. It was our last day with the children and we were feeling sad as we made preparations to leave the next morning. Instead of night activities, we had a farewell night which proved emotional - we were both sad to be leaving, but happy due to the friendships we had formed and the experiences we had. The children did a performance for us. Unexpectedly as they sang, tears rolled down our cheeks. It got quite emotional on the last night and we all stayed up an extra hour reading personal letters from them.

Needless to say, it took a lot of tears and heartbreak to leave the children. Although we taught and led the children through various lessons and activities, they taugh us the importance of sticking together, helping each other, being understanding towards everyone, and to be true to yourself. By the end of the trip, the AISM students were hugely impacted by the strength and persistence of the children and we have learned that whatever the circumstances they may endure they will always be happy and look forward with a positive attitude, which inspired us.

Asrama Desa Pukak is a well-built community, where all the children and volunteers have an unbreakable bond and love. The AISM Sabah Team 2016 bonded thoroughly with the ADP community and we were honoured to have been welcomed into their lives for the week. We hope that our relationship with ADP continues to flourish in future years and we are thankful to the AISM community for supporting the hostel through the Matilda Project.