RELOADED: “Warriors" Of The South
I once again set foot in the beautiful East Coast of Terengganu, which I had visited in April for the first time, to work with the Rovers from our southern neighbour. Their visit is an annual project aimed at serving the community and conserving the Setiu Wetlands, called Project Orion II. It is the Fourth Scouts of the World Award (SWA) Voluntary Service Project of the SWA Singapore Base, and nine passionate and dedicated Rovers visited this year.
As the sun rose and the clock hit half past six, I was all ready for "battle". We started off by having a wonderful home cooked breakfast at Kak Ta’s place. She is the leader of local community group Persatuan Wanita Kampung Mangkok Setiu/Kampung Mangkok Setiu Women’s Society (PEWANIS), entrepreneurs who participate in conservation work while undertaking cottage industry activities to enhance the livelihoods of the local community. We then embarked on our first mission, to repaint a wooden house, using my favourite colours: baby purple and scarlet! I am not fond of the hot sun and could hardly believe myself as I put down my camera, took off my shoes and joined the Rovers under the hot scorching sun. It was indeed a long and tedious, but the satisfaction of looking at our completed masterpiece was simply too great for me to describe.
Of the nine "warriors", there was only one girl: Ming Xian. Being the only girl, she was frequently teased by the guys, but her presence strengthened their bond. English language classes by the Rovers for the local schoolchildren began when the sun set. I was flattered as Chow Wee described me as "a knight in shining armour" after I rescued them from awkward moments caused because they could not speak Bahasa Malaysia, the only language that the local children speak fluently. For the first time in my life, I found the true value of being a Malaysian, a great blend of various cultures in our heritage makes each of us indispensable. I was glad to be of help. Tutors Calvin & Ming Xian, with me translating, were able to cover a syllabus on parts of the human body. It was a long day, and the next thing I remember was me lying on my bed refusing to go on beach patrol with the Rovers, even though I love turtles! A maximum of three Rovers per night were allowed to accompany our field officers on beach patrols to minimise noise and disturbance to the turtles.
Time started to run short, with five houses left to paint before the project ended, including the Pink House, the PEWANIS "command centre". In addition, a mural had to be completed for the Kampung Mangkok school. As the only member of the team able to speak Bahasa Malaysia, I acted as a guide and brought Ming Xian to the school as she draws very well. We started to draft the mural named “Sayangi Penyu Kita” / “Love Our Turtles” featuring a teacher guiding her students to release hatchlings into the ocean under a starry night sky. Regrettably, I had to return to my work in Petaling Jaya and was unable to see the mural completed. However, I was glad to be there at its conception.
That evening, after villagers bid us good night, I saw another side of the Rovers. They discussed various issues, analysing the needs and hopes of the Kampung Mangkok community and comparing it to their own nation. I find them intriguing, “warriors” for community service work in the morning, scholars at night. They find new ways and pour so much effort to ensure things get done. They have indeed made the Scouts proud.
I really grew to like them for, despite their young age they are committed, genuinely wanting to make a positive impact. Most of all, they were very open and eager to engage with a different culture. They taught me a lot and played an essential role in my life as they taught me the significance of treasuring our natural heritage and to be courageous in what you want to pursue. I sincerely thank the members of Project Orion II, a group who are great to work with and my new found good friends.