Follow Mira Emilia Drahman’s story on how her participation in the YSS-ASEAN Student Volunteers Mission to Ban Soukhouma, Lao PDR last March, 2016 has made her dream came true. This young lady is a gem indeed!
ACT Team: What’s your discipline/degree? Where are you studying currently?
Mira: I am a TESL Teacher Trainee at Institut Pendidikan Guru Kampus Tun Abdul Razak, Kota Samarahan, Sarawak.
ACT Team: When did you first join YSS?
Mira: I first officially joined YSS during my final year of degree in the first half of 2016. I was undergoing my third phase of practicum at a school in Serian. I received a call from the head of students’ affairs department telling me I was chosen to be a part of Yayasan Sukarelawan Siswa for a mission to Lao PDR.
Long story short, all I remembered was me screaming, jumping up and down when she told me the news – may I remind you, I was at the school parking lot which is located at the center of the school, where everyone could see me. I was ecstatic!
ACT Team: What was it like? What made you join YSS?
Mira: For the first time in a long time, I was a part of my old-time dream of becoming a volunteer. I have lived a mundane lifestyle for the past four years in campus. I took on a variety of roles and responsibilities and it had taught me the managerial aspects of some sort at one point or another, unfortunately I grew tired of it.
The leadership culture in the campus was lacking, let alone to volunteer. No one was willing to carry the burden, no one was willing to learn – in another word. The culture was to get away with things, to not be assigned for any kind of leadership as it is viewed as “it’s not my job”, “it’s difficult” “leceh lah” mindset. I craved for the sincerity of completing a task and giving their all with responsibility. I craved for the willingness to serve for people’s best interest. Hence, with that mindset, and for good ol’ time sake of a childhood dream – I decided on joining the interview.
The first offer to join YSS for the year of 2016 was for a mission at Batang Maro, Sarawak. I obediently waited for any kind of calls and kept myself updated with the recruitment news. My friend whom I persistently persuaded for days to join me successfully got into the mission at Batang Maro. I was truly excited and happy for her, as I cried horribly on my own afterwards – because as I foolishly claimed, they would not choose students from the same campus again, won’t they?
The next thing I know, I was on my flight to Vientiane, Lao PDR with my fellow classmate for a volunteering mission. It was unimaginable. It was indeed a dream come true, and for me that was all enough reason to feel infinite gratitude for that special opportunity in my life.
ACT Team: Was it a game-changer – a life-turning experience?
Mira: Given the opportunity to join YSS – I was dumb-founded at first. Everyone I met was a gem of its own, one of a kind. They were experienced leaders in their respective campus, joined an amount of unthinkable programmes I have never heard of yet at the same time – down-to-earth, respectful, and one of the best kind of people one could ever meet. It was a precious and humbling experience first, due to the people I have met and known joining YSS. They came from a colourful background, and I was forced to strive, and to be inspired by their knowledge and experiences.
Not to mention, meeting the influential people in and out of Yayasan Sukarelawan Siswa, whom mostly first started out as an average student like I am. Meeting the V.I.P.s of the Malaysian embassy, as well as getting to know Dato’ Zuraidah Atan herself whom I have only read about before – was one of the most impactful one. I had never thought I would get the chance to speak one-to-one with them, let alone be in the same community. I felt similar to a fish out of water, but I learned to adapt and learn instead, and reminded myself I can be like one of them too one day – in my own ways.
Being sent off to Lao PDR, a place I have barely heard off, I was eager than ever. Volunteering is a new concept to me, being abroad, too. What I have gained the most was the reflection of myself, of my own set of abilities and limitations. I finally realized what are things I am good at, and the things I can contribute to the society. As an English teacher-trainee, I was given the once-in-a-lifetime experience to teach English to Laotian students, and from there I have gained a new set of perspective in teaching. I was introduced to a new group of students who can barely speak a word of English. Frankly, Malaysian students may be far ahead in terms of proficiency but these Laotian students wins in their willingness to learn.
It was an eye-opener to be introduced to the never-ending lists of projects, program and ideas to be carried out. From the infamous hanging garden, health screenings, repairing of facilities, ASEAN Day and the list goes on. I was also given the opportunity to do the things I never did. Be it labour work, gardening, cooking the old-style way (using charcoal), dancing traditional dances and so much more.
Most of all, I was given hundred more reasons to NEVER bow down to limitations, that I can do anything I have set my mind to.
I had to admit, it was not an easy feat, I had to get myself out there, opened up and learned to be an opportunist. Not including the sleepless nights of completing reports, the days of late-night showering (or not showering at all), the long hours at airports, the overdue longing for halal, edible and sufficient food and beverages – of which without our own realizations of things, persistence and strong mindset, the experience would not be more than a suffering for some people. I was grateful, humbled and at loss of words on what I have achieved at the end of the day.
ACT Team: Did you join more missions after that? Why?
Mira: In terms of YSS missions, I had to take a break from joining most of them due to academic responsibilities as I was finishing my degree year. Nonetheless, I have joined various volunteering events locally, although it does not amount to much yet, I am still taking this new journey step by step.
This is because, since then, every work and task I have taken upon was regarded as a learning experience – not merely a responsibility to complete. I have learned to be more spontaneous, to take things more easily, and then strive to succeed. Thus, I wanted to widen my horizon by being a part of more volunteering activities as life is a continuous learning journey, and success is such a sweet addiction.
However, as much as I have gained from YSS, I have also realized the most on what I am lacking in, what I needed to further improve, what I have to learn more. I still have hundreds of rooms for improvements, and there is a whole wide world out there for me to explore and I’ll never stop.
Joining volunteering mission requires taking brave and confident steps in doing what we aim to achieve. YSS taught me on how to speak up more, to always voice out my opinion and express my feelings in the right channel with the right ways. A beneficial skill I intend to continuously improve in time.
Volunteering has made me more of a risk-taker in everything I wanted to do in life. From a girl who had always done only what is right, I grew to become someone who learned to do more of what is best instead.
While answering to these questions now, I am one day away from ending my degree life. And ending it with a package of experience of joining a Yayasan Sukarelawan Siswa mission was just, perfect. Thank you for making my year, for being the best thing I have done this year.