Thursday, December 8, 2011


The farm suddenly looked deserted as the last car turned the corner at Wak Sarip's farm. In fact I could have sworn that the tree branches seemed to droop lower than usual as if in mourning. Loui certainly looked sad. Having been locked up for three days he only had one hour to play with the children before they left. He lapped up all their love and attention, but too soon it was over.
For three days we played host to Menonproactive Sdn Bhd for their Teen Empowerment program. 11 children ages between 14 to 16 from the city came for the program. Joining them was a teenager from Hulu Langat itself, fully sponsored by Menonproactive, very nice and generous of them.
I could still remember their faces in the van windows as they drove into the farm, a mixture of curiosity, amusement and maybe even dread. What have they got themselves into? Another of those boring weekends strongly "persuaded" by their parents with promises of "fun and adventure". Yeah .... sure... lets see.

Tumbling out of their van they stood arkwardly in their new surroundings not quite sure what to make out of what they see, what more with all the new faces. They were shown to their tents where they will stay for the next 3 days and 2 nights. Not much use in trying to choose the right tent mates, they might as well be from Jupiter or Mars.

After the usual intros and layout briefing, the first order of the day was the customary farm tour. Almost immediately they melt. Very hard to maintain that unconcerned macho and cool serene looks with all those humongous, cute, adorable and fascinating animals around you. Very soon the questions came in torrents about the dogs, horses, deers, chickens, turkeys, goats, etc. The goats being the most tame were subjected to hugs and kisses.
Farm tour over it was back to the Kedai Kopi (Coffee Shop) for tea. Following which was an exercise in trust, teamwork and leadership, so it seemed to me from far. Everyone seemed to take it very seriously. Not often you see that from teenagers. Dinner was typical Kampong Malay cuisine to which one teenager asked if it is alright to give the cook (my wife) a hug. By all means young man. After dinner was more in-house exercises and discussions which went on till supper. Lights out was suppose to be at 11.30 p.m. but we could hear chattering and laughter in the tents way into the night. Mohan insisted to maintain vigil throughout the night though we informed him that our personnel will maintain guard and that the perimeter is well fenced and lighted.
 Next morning began early with a predawn exercise before breakfast. After breakfast the farm serenity was broken by the roar of Mat Brons's scrambler as he drove through the driveway - our instructor for the nest event - jungle trekking and survival demonstration. I must say this session must have been one of the highlights of the 3 days. The teenagers were given an introduction to new world altogether. They were taught to highten their awareness of the world around them, to appreciate and value the environment and to care for it as well as how to seek sustenance from the land without hurting it. They were taught that there are other ways of doing things, to think outside the box and how to make do with less. All essential traits to survive in the concrete jungle out there.

Setting traps
Rice cooked in bamboo
Chicken cooked in bamboo
As they walked through the jungle they were taught names of various trees and plants and what are their uses, be it for food or for medicine or even glue. They were taught how to find directions by using natural signposts, how to make shelter and animal traps and finally how to cook in the jungle without your shiny cookware.

We do not anticipate that they will use these skills in the daily lives, but the key learning point here is that LIFE IS FULL OF POSSIBILITIES. Do not be trapped in a certain mindset or way of doing things.

Back to the farm a short debriefing followed by lunch. After lunch was a visit to the Goat Farm, again  a new experience to most city folks and an exciting one it was by the look of it.
Apart from further debriefing, the later part of the afternoon was given to an  introduction to horse riding and fishing. The group was broken into two groups, one for each activity. Though the horse riding was short it was an exercise of confidence. Apart from one or two, most of the teenagers had to conquer their fear just to get on the horse. That in itself is lesson learned, how to overcome one's fears. The anglers did not however have to overcome any fear. Their's was more an exercise of patience, what with the spool getting tangled all the time. Nevertheless two good size fish was landed which added to the barbeque menu that night.

Dinner was a lamb barbeque ala Uncle Ba'ah's recipe topped up with bread pudding which received all round approval. We got news that some were hoping for some left over bread pudding for breakfast. Time to relax and enjoy great company under the trees.

The third and last day was spent largely in rounding up what they have learnt with another round of horse riding and fishing for those who did not do so the previous day. The last session of conclusions by the teenagers were simply astounding. Difficult to imagine such insight and understanding coming from the mouths of 14 year olds.Pearls from the mouths of babes, they'd say.

If there is anything I could have got from the 3 days with this group of teenagers is the renewal of hope and confidence in the human race. After spending 30 years in the corporate world one could be forgiven for thinking that corruption and disease is order for mankind henceforth, but the teenagers taught me one thing. That beneath every human being is a goodness waiting to come out. Cover them with love, understanding and respect a beautiful flower blooms. Surround them with filth and instant gratification then reap the consequences. So get them young.

Well done Menonproactive. I have been to and seen countless courses and seminars, but none like what you did. God bless.

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