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OVERSEAS VALUES IN ACTION, LAOS 2012
Our overseas VIA team, comprising 25 student volunteers, 3 teacher-mentors and an accompanying YMCA volunteer, set off for Vientiane, Laos, on 18 November 2012, to undertake a challenge. We printed our challenge on our T-shirts: “Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something” as we believe that our expedition is our opportunity to do our bit for the Laotian community.
Our itinerary allowed us to spend 5 fruitful days in Na’ang Village teaching the students at their one and only elementary school. For those few days, we were split up into groups and took turns teaching English and Mathematics through sports and games. Armed with our lesson plans and basic Lao phrases, we taught our first lessons in an environment that was spartan and new to us. The classrooms had no fans or lights -- a big change compared to our air-conditioned classrooms -- and our students were unable to understand, read or write English. The language barrier coupled with our lack of experience teaching English made the implementation of our programme challenging. We spent our evenings listening to each other and talking about our ideas and frustrations and through it all, we bonded strongly as a team. These sessions undoubtedly helped us to communicate with our students better, and while doing so, we also learnt a lot from them and each other. Using the daily activities as discussion triggers, we took time to reflect on who we are as individuals, our hopes and aspirations for ourselves and our community.
When we were not teaching, we spent our time painting a full wall world map mural (which turned out to be amazing) and helped to harvest the rice crops in the paddy fields. This combination of experiences showed us that truly, with God all things are possible (Matt 19:26). Before Laos, we never taught a class lessons, never collected a harvest or painted a full wall mural. We worked together to help in preparing our own meals and to prepare a barbeque that required us to descale and degut fish for the villagers. In these 9 days, we lived as a team, supporting each other in the activities through the ups and downs of our time in Laos. This expedition has taught us humility, a heart of gratitude and service.
We left Singapore on 18 November as 25 student volunteers but returned to Singapore on 26th November as ONE VIA team. To our teacher-mentors who made our expedition possible and the community of Na’ang Village, a million ‘khawp jai lai lai’s (thank you very much). We thank God for providing us with such an unforgettable and humbling experience.
Grace Png, 2SC8