Living diversity in Malaysia

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In Youth 4 Global Goals: The Series Season 2, sponsored by PwC, 10 young people went across the globe on an AIESEC Global Volunteer experience to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. Read the story of Maria Bouzeghoub from Algeria, who went to Malaysia to contribute to Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education

What is it that I want to contribute to this summer? Where can I make the biggest difference and to whom? All of those are questions I kept asking myself when applying for my Global Volunteer and if the answer to the first one was easy: I definitely wanted to contribute to Quality Education. The second two questions left me wondering, and am I even capable of providing that “Quality Education”? Do I have what it takes?

I arrived there with quite an idea about exchange from all the stories I heard. I also had an idea about the country: It is a Muslim state right? How different can it be?  And an idea about the refugees: what a refugee is supposed to be, is supposed to look like and what kind of life they should be having I mean we all watch the news. Now after being done with it I am very happy to say that it was nothing like I expected!

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My questions led me to South East Asia, exactly in Malaysia where I spent 6 weeks working in a learning center teaching Basic English to refugee kids from approximately half a dozen countries and religions.

I was supposed to be the English teacher but I ended up doing so much more: English, Geography, Art and even soft skills and that in a creative unconventional way all in an incomparable atmosphere, this was no normal school; it was an exceptional school for exceptional kids.

What makes the school I taught in exceptional was that sense of community and family they built even if they had different nationalities, religions and believes they all shared the same values and that’s what matters. There the older ones took care of the youngest, the youngest respected the older, they prepared their lunch together in the morning, served it to each other at midday and cleaned all the school at afternoons. It doesn’t matter how much they had or what they had, candy or coloring pencils, sharing seemed to be a second nature there. They study together, play together, fight occasionally but go home at the end of the day clearly longing for the tomorrow they will spend together.

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It doesn’t matter how much they had or what they had, candy or coloring pencils, sharing seemed to be a second nature there.

They earned my respect from the first days from those simple behaviors and the fact that I never met kids that were more aware of the importance of education than them. The sad reality that they are denied that right in public schools made them appreciate and respect the volunteer teachers more. So, at the end of every day there after the morning and afternoon periods teaching different grades and different subject, I too was always longing to the tomorrow I will spend there.

The kids were one of a kind challenge that I got to experience in a fascinating country Malaysia a country that I am more than just found of now, a country that earned my greatest respect and admiration and that not only for its spectacular sceneries and quite delicious food but for something I have never encountered anywhere else in any country, its absolute biggest strength, its diversity!

In one country I got to experience three completely different yet somehow seemingly very complementary cultures: Malay, Chinese and Indian and the way they all live together and work together for a better country all united by one thing and under only one label: being Malaysians was for me the greatest representation of living diversity and living in peace and tolerance, a lesson I think many countries should learn from.

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Being Malaysian was for me the greatest representation of living diversity and living in peace and tolerance, a lesson I think many countries should learn from.

Well now I can confidently say that my exchange was the best and most enriching experience I have ever spent 6 weeks in my entire life doing. I got to experience so many things from majestic mountains to deep oceans, crowded cities to fishermen villages, mosques to churches to temples, playing with birds to swimming with fish, from tea plantations to underwater magnificent corals, from fire shows to mesmerizing bamboo traditional dances but what I will remember and cherish most is that feeling I had every week day morning when I arrived to the school, took off my shoes and saw the kids already there playing and jumping in all directions through the glass door nothing compares to the joy, excitement and a bit of anticipation I had every morning thinking that today is another day I will have the chance to spend with these beautiful souls teaching them English and learning much more from them.

I first got there feeling bad for these “Refugee Kids” and their situation but now having met them I am hopeful for a great future in which I am sure and despite of the not very favorable conditions they are faced with every single day, they will accomplish a lot and I hope they will find more people to believe in them and empower them in that future! Maybe someone like you, what are you waiting for?

Would you like to know more about my journey? Have a look at Youth 4 Global Goals: The Series! Would you like to live an experience like mine as well and create an impact for the Sustainable Development Goals? Sign up and become a Global Volunteer yourself!


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