Continuing the journey I recounted in Part 1 yesterday, our mission group went on to a third refugee village in Sandakan.
Village #3 – Hajjah Village
This village was the very first to receive Goducate’s aid three years ago. You can see the vast improvement in the standard of living by the stark contrast against the other villages we saw.
Hajjah Village is a huge compound with brick buildings and clean floors, and an actual “school area” made up of a large number of classrooms that actually look like classrooms. The children here are also a bit less shy, on the whole. You can feel certain levels of confidence emanating from them as a result of three years of education.
Angelica (picture below) is 14 years old and has been learning English for two years. She was assigned to take our group around the compound and answer our questions.
You can tell she’s shy and nervous about her role but, at the same time, she answers questions with enthusiasm, eager to please. Her adeptness at communicating in English is remarkable after only two years of learning. Shyly, she told me that she hopes to become a teacher herself one day.
Angelica is one sweet personality who left a deep impression in my heart. I only wish I was able to chat with more children because I think every one of them has a precious story to tell.
The kids are truly a delight. In honour of our visit, they prepared a series of performances for us, dancing and singing songs in English. Most of them were quite shy about performing, some even looking traumatised but, on the whole, they seemed to delight in our visit.
After the performances, the kids hung around the compound and played joyfully among themselves. There was even a disco party of sorts at one time where they played Lady Gaga songs and sort of danced around by themselves.
The next visit almost didn’t happen. The sky opened and it started pouring crazily. We had driven to the the nearest point where our cars could be parked, after which we needed to make a 30-minute trek through a forest to get to the village.
The thunderstorm kept us in our cars for quite a long time. We didn’t have enough umbrellas for everyone to make the trek together.
Thankfully, at some point in time, some resourceful villagers on the outer edge of the forest noticed our fix and cut for us a whole bunch of banana leaves to use as umbrellas. By that time, the weather had also dwindled into a light rain.
With that, we managed to keep our date with the villagers.
The schoolhouse in this village was of the worst condition I’d seen thus far. It was a crude shelter of wood and zinc, forming a roof and support beams around, but no wall enclosure around the perimeter.
But the children nevertheless looked happy learning their ABCs. It’s quite a heartwarming sight to see kids enjoying their lessons.
Because the school compound is built away from the residential compound (which we didn’t get a chance to visit), the kids have to travel a distance through sloping forest paths every day, rain or shine, to get to school.
In the rain, the steeper slopes are hard to manoeuvre. A few of our group members slid and fell during the trek and were rewarded with dirty bottoms. It made us appreciative of the fact that we didn’t have to live on a daily basis around such conditions.
After Village #4, there was just one more village to visit. It was the one village that touched everyone’s hearts the most. That story I will share tomorrow.
Thank you for reading thus far!
[Go to Part 3]