Afiq Nazrin is enrolled in the Bachelor of Business program at QUT. Afiq has been supporting the SEE Project for some time now. He volunteered in some activities that involved our project. At SK Temai – he was a part of the team that taught students how to create digital books. He played a significant role in ensuring that the activities in his classroom flowed smoothing.
My name is Afiq, and I am a member of the QUT STOMP/SEE project team. I have to say I had mixed emotions about the trip. I was anxious, and a bit apprehensive, but, for the most part, I was excited. I was looking forward to returning to my home country for the delicious food, and I couldn’t wait for the new experiences and challenges that were to come. Malaysia has a population of about 30 million. Islam is the religion followed by more than 60% of the population. My religion too is Islam. What would my colleagues think of my country? More recently some in the media, for example, have not portrayed Islam for what it stands for. Mercy, compassion, and beauty are some of the words that can be used to describe my religion. Regrettably, it is sometimes interpreted as a religion that is intolerant, backward, alien and so on. What exactly is Islam? That in itself is a whole other topic that requires much scrutiny and time, but it was not why we were on this trip. It’s such a big part of the experience, and, therefore, I felt it needed to be addressed. One of the greatest things about our project was the cross-cultural experience. We got to experience the culture firsthand. Although it was only a 9-day trip, I did wonder whether it changed the participants perspectives about people, their religion, and culture.
My group consisted of a team of nine amazingly cool people, three from QUT (Casey, Kate and myself), and six from UPM (Kim, Ain, Syu, Aisyah, Nadhirah and Munirah). We were also very fortunate to have Ms. Nurhezrin Anuar in our team. She is an Education graduate from QUT and is now teaching in a primary school in KL.
Deforestation was the theme for the lessons. I thought that this was an important issue. It’s a huge problem in Malaysia, and Southeast Asian in general, and it’s something that needs to be addressed and brought to light. The haze which blanketed Malaysia for the whole time we were there was a testament to the impact of deforestation.
The third day of the trip was officially our first day of being introduced to the kids, but due to the severity of the haze, the government had closed the school for the day. Our idea was to teach the children how to create a video using a program called Openshot. But with the realization that we only had a limited time (credit goes to Kate for taking charge and coming up with another plan that could be achieved), we decided to make an e-book instead. We started reading books centered on deforestation so the children could get a good grasp of the concept, and then followed it with storyboard puzzles and drawing exercises to develop students’ skills on digital book creation. The children seemed to enjoy this as we moved through the stages of creating digital books such as cover page, beginning, climax, and conclusion.
At first the children were shy and withdrawn but it didn’t take long for them to get comfortable with us. One of the most memorable moments I’d say was when we got the children to read to us. I was amazed at how well the kids can read. I pointed to the first word of the cover, and it took about a second for them to realize what I meant with that gesture. “The last tree in the city” all in synch, reading the words out loud. I was impressed; they were no doubt intelligent kids eager to learn, and by the end of the day, they were all smiles. I wished we could have stayed a bit longer because the kids had just started to open up to us more on days 3 and 4.
I am missing the crew. The QUT students and staff are some the coolest, most down to earth, intelligent, and a dedicated bunch I’ve met. I found it a bit intimidating at first (because I’m the total opposite). But these qualities of our team members motivated me to work hard. The Malaysian UPM students, with their warm generosity, and hospitality, were some of the friendliest, most down to earth, and most genuine people I have met in a long time. It is good to know that there are Malaysians out there that care about the environment. I think I can say from all of us at QUT that the UPM students made it lot easier and played a big role for us regarding our engagement with the kids. There were times when we struggled communicating with the kids, but having the UPM students by our side, meant that they were able to clarify things for the children. We would not have achieved our objectives without students from UPM. The support of Ms. Nurhezrin Anuar was invaluable.
It’s been huge a privilege working with everyone, and hopefully I’ll get to meet everyone again sometime in the near future. This was a meaningful engagement because it was loaded with new experiences, and developed new friendships. It certainly added a new dimension to my education at QUT!