Fourteen Tembusu College students, with support from Firefly Mission in Singapore, engaged in community service at a Youth Development Centre (YDC) at Parahita Monastery in Shwegyin Town, Myanmar from 26 December to 7 January. They built a fence for a preschool, conducted workshops and brought a group of youths to visit a vocational training institute and a noodle factory.
The Centre houses approximately 180 students aged 4 to 18 years. Many of the students are orphans or come from impoverished families. With the support from Firefly Mission, a Buddhist organisation in Singapore, YDC provides the students with food, clothing, and education.
Welcoming the efforts of the Tembusu College students, YDC Head Dr Ashin Aggasara said, “Students here are very weak in English and due to this, they suffer when they go to higher grades.” Without the necessary skills or the prospect of higher education, many students quit school to enter the unskilled labour force.
The enthusiastic students from Tembusu College embarked on three projects during their stint in Myanmar. At Dr Ashin’s request, they constructed a fence around the preschool located within the centre. The fence would help to prevent stray animals from entering the school premises.
The second project saw the students conducting a series of workshops on hand and oral hygiene, simple first aid as well as character development. To effectively cater to the children's needs, the workshops were designed with the different target age groups in mind.
For the final project, the Tembusu College students brought 21 youths from the centre on a day trip to Yangon, where they visited the Singapore-Myanmar Vocational Training Institute (SMVTI) and the Mama Noodle Factory. This proved to be a highlight for the Myanmar youths as most of them had not travelled to Yangon before.
The students from Singapore took the Myanmar youths under their wing, acting as their mentors and friends. Apart from listening to their dreams, aspirations as well as the challenges they faced, they gathered feedback on the programme. The Myanmar youths shared that the excursion had inspired them to work harder to pursue the myriad of employment and educational options beyond their hometown.
As a few of the Myanmar students had indicated keen interest in applying for the programmes offered at SMVTI, the Tembusu College students also offered to help prepare them for the selection process by giving interview tips and boosting their confidence in conversing in English.
Some of the participants from Singapore found it surprising how the children and youths at the centre always wore a smile on their face despite their emotional and physical challenges. “This trip has definitely allowed me to understand how people can be content with their lives, despite the serious challenges they face from a very young age,” shared Kyaw Zay Nyein, a Year 2 student from NUS Design & Environment.
By Rajesh Mishra, Year 2, Faculty of Science