JUNE 7 TO JUNE 10 : 20 children from 10 schools in Kedah, Perlis and Langkawi spent 4 days 3 nights at Uluhati learning about the environment, catching up on their English skills and generally having lots of fun. The program was sponsored by CIMB FOUNDATION as one of their corporate social responsibility activity and was managed jointly by Ekoknights, an environmental NGO and ULUHATI. As usual Ekoknights did all the environmental bit whilst Uluhati focused on the outdoor activities.
The children were around 10 to 11 years old coming mainly from rural families. It was therefore quite common to hear them talking about helping their parents in the padi fields after school hours and having to manage between school work and farm chores. We have seen many children come and go at Uluhati, most of them from Selangor as well as children of the expatriate community and foreigners. I guess this is the first them we had a big group of children from rural Malaysia and they struck me deep inside. After the initial shyness and tiredness (long bus journey from up north) they demonstrated that they were of different mettle altogether. Weak English aside, they demonstrated an impressive level of confidence, alertness, intelligence and overall street-wise attitude which placed them well ahead of their city counter-parts. I guess when they had to learn to handle responsibilities and play an active part in the family economics at an early age they grew up faster.
For me they were simply amazingly great kids. It filled me with fresh hope in the future generation of this country, yet filled me with a tinge of sadness. How many more of these high potential children are out there in the country-side growing up unnoticed and not developed to their fullest potential. After a while the free spirit in these children will slowly lose its confidence and luster and resign itself to its fate. In the end the nation loses out on the great things these children could have done if only given a chance.
So I think it is a great thing what CIMB Foundation did and I understand this is an ongoing program. Many more corporates should emulate this for there is really potential out there in the country-side. But what follows afterwards? Is there a way to really identify the high potentials and nurture them by way of scholarships or other special closely monitored programs which a give these potential a chance to bloom. So I hope more corporates would follow suit as I am sure everyone will agree that the strength of any social group, be it a family, a community or a company, or the country even, lies not in its shinny towers, but in the quality of its people. So well done CIMB Foundation.
Just to demonstrate a point - horse riding. Within slightly over a hour I managed to teach 20 children not only to stay seated on the saddle but to trot and in many cases to canter as well. On the average it was 5 minutes per child. This was a for me a personal record. Not one showed any fear, only eagerness for more. So we did another round the next day.
|CAMP-BED IN TENTS - 2 IN A TENT|
|MEMORIES WITH MARY|
|PUAN SHARIFAH ALIA HANDING OUT THE CERTS|
Salam children. As I said, I expect to hear great things from some of you in years to come.