Monday, 19 November 2012

Service Learning - Where It All Began for Me

I remembered that expedition vividly and that was the trip-of-a-lifetime - it changed my remaining years of my life.

What is Service Learning?

Service Learning is a methodology integrating community service and reflection to not just allow individuals to understand the importance of service to others (service), but to also grow ourselves (Learning about self and the community we live in).

To find out more about Service Learning and the philosophy that goes behind it, do check out

How Service Learning began in my life....

It started off with a 21-days Service Learning Youth Expedition Project to this Iban Longhouse family in 2000, which included a 17-days' stay in this longhouse. A city girl, barely 19 years old then and there I was, all ready to challenge this Lemanak River with what I had or did not have.

This was the place where I first experience brushing teeth and showering by and in a river. 

This was where I learnt that rain is a Godsend to many other people in this World whereby clear water can be used to wash off the mud that is accumulated on one's body from the daily showering in the muddy river. Rain is a time to bring out the shampoo and soap to shower under the gift from God. Rain is a time to dance in celebration of the good things in life.

This was the place where I picked up real life lessons on humility - looking at how the well the young children climb trees, wield the Changkol, swim across the river that flows faster than I can run on the ground - and realizing that the World out there is so,so, so much bigger than I know.

12 years on, the knowledge and experience I picked up from there had encouraged me to move on to other places to share my love, but this is a place that had not be forgotten...

The river that was our playground, our toilet and our means of getting back to civilisation

To get to this Longhouse takes 3 hours' travel by bus from Kuching Town and another 1 hour upriver by longboat from the longboat pick-up point to the Longhouse. As mysterious as this place is - the Headhunters' history, their beliefs in the spirits of nature, the many unbelievable happenings during our stay there - it also has this tinge of inaccessibility in the era of land-lines rather than mobile phones back then. Thoughts of revisiting were dropped too often as it seemed impossible to get back there on my own.

Being one of the youngest in the team, the more senior team members definitely contributed a lot to who I am today with what they had imparted to me during the short yet memorable 21 days' expedition. They made me want to be like them. It was by no means a simple journey, set out, for giving to the community. It was more than that; it was a journey of exploration and growth.

This first Service Learning project is by far, the toughest of all the projects I have been on, but it had made me a stronger individual. It taught me that I am actually stronger than I think I am, and this had brought me through life very well till now.

Land of the Hornbills, indeed, was amazing. It was not just about building the dam and water piping system. It was also about learning to respect nature, live with nature and allow nature to nurture us as an individual. It was so much, so much more that the city life was unable to provide me with. It was a journey that left me hungry for more.

Beautiful sunset back in Kuching, but it did not manage to take my breath away as
I have met even more beautiful sights and people than this. 

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." ~ Mahatma Gandhi 

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