By Ee Mei Chin I had the opportunity to volunteer with “Build for Tomorrow” (an organisation that focuses on identifying needs for sustainable building and affordable housing options in Asia) in 2015. The focus was building the first earthship in Malaysia for an Orang Asli family in Titi, Jelebu. The interest that I have always had, pursued by my friend, Lalitha has always been community projects, especially in terms of environment and children. The project was labour intensive and included shoveling, pounding tyres, filling up sand bags, cutting and cleaning bottles and plastering.
Being part of this project has taught me a few things
- Get out of your comfort zone to do something extraordinary
I am someone who looks for excitement and new things to do (within my fear zone of course!). We were only planning to go for one weekend out of the duration but ended up going back week after week. This was because we were learning something new and the progress of the project grew. We did not want to be known as volunteers who only “pounded one tyre” and that was it. This project definitely put us out of our comfort zone especially when we had to do tasks that we do not do on a daily basis.
- Get involved
The local community was also part of the project with the land owner and his friend working as builders and several ladies as cooks for volunteer meals. They taught me how to use tools and even the basic idea of building a house (I am a city girl after all!). We had meals together which allowed us to know them and their families on a personal basis. One experience I remember was a Chinese boy who sat across under the rubber trees watching us shovel soil into the wheelbarrow. After sitting for a while, he came over to help us and not long after that, his father came along too. What caught me was their cheerfulness throughout the day, which made the work a lot easier.
- New Circle of Friends
Volunteers came from different walk of lives (nationality, career, culture etc). As there was limited mobile coverage, we had no choice but to use the spare time to talk to one another. We sometimes forget that we create our own barrier to know the other person better. Those weekends turned out to be very valuable because new friendships were born.
- Counting blessings
Being brought up in the city, we are used to being provided for. The project made me realize that I am blessed in so many ways, especially having a shelter over my head and food on the table.