An Encounter with A Difference – A Visit to Rumah Amal Nur Murni

The girls at the Home learning to play the diabolo

   On the 5th of October 2019, the members of the English Club 2, Cultural Club and Diabolo Chinese Yo-yo Club visited Rumah Amal Nur Murni, a Muslim orphanage, located at Batu Kawa. The 27 students were accompanied by three teachers. This trip was part of our social outreach programme. The purpose of this trip was to expose the students to a different environment where children between the ages of 5-12 are brought up and live their daily lives with certain practices, restrictions, limitations and religious observances according to their Muslim faith. We gain insight into a “home” which is so different from our own family set-up.

   The teachers and students gathered at SJPS sometime before 8.00 a.m. After a roll-call and briefing by Mr Philip Yeoh, we departed for the orphanage at 8.30 a.m. We were divided into three groups. Our teachers, and a kind parent who had volunteered earlier, drove us to the orphanage. The journey took less than half an hour, so we arrived there before 9.00 a.m.

   Once we arrived there, we formed two groups according to gender. This is because Rumah Amal Sri Murni has a strict rule that the boys and girls are not allowed to interact with each other. Our students had been reminded earlier to be mindful of their actions and speech, and also to respect and observe the custom and practices of the orphanage while we were there. Our students remembered to remove their shoes and socks before entering the house. The girls were then welcomed by the young girls, while the boys were welcomed by the young boys.  Inside, the girls sat on one side of the room, while the boys sat at the other end. To kick off the event, an ice breaking session was held for a while, in which we introduced ourselves to the children and vice versa. It was pretty difficult to communicate with them initially, mostly because the children were very shy and some of us weren’t just the best when it came to speaking Bahasa Melayu, but we managed nonetheless.

   After the ice breaking session, the children entertained us with three simple but meaningful and thoughtful performances. I thought it was well done considering the fact that they had only three weeks of practice. After that, the seven members of the Cultural Club performed a simple dance.  This was followed by the Diabolo Chinese Yo-yo Club who showed their skills with the yo-yo.  Due to the lack of space in their living-room, we could only put up simple performances. We all had to make it work somehow. In the end, everything worked out and we were able to bring smiles to the faces of the children and volunteers.

   After that, the members of English Club 2 did a storytelling session with the story entitled, “The Perfect Heart”, with simple props and some acting. Since they wanted to teach the children some English and understand the message they were trying to convey in the story, some translations into Bahasa Melayu were done by Easter Jane, a member of the Cultural Club. The children weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the story, but our students did too. Then, they played a simple but fun game of Pictionary with the children. Whoever guessed it right would win a prize. I was happy to see that the children were able to get most of the answers correct, given how young they are and that their main language is Bahasa Melayu.

   We spend another half an hour interacting with the children. Most of them were fascinated with the Chinese yo-yo and wanted to learn how to play the yo-yo. While the girls were being taught to play the yo-yo inside the house, the boys were doing the same outside. The children were so fascinated by the Chinese yo-yo that a few of them managed to learn some basic yo-yo skills within that half an hour.  Later the boys were taught the names of the objects used in the Pictionary game by Mr Philip. It was heart-warming to see how responsive the children were.

   By then, everyone felt hungry and thirsty so we all sat down while some students distributed food and packet drinks to the children as well as the three caretakers.   Once they had said their prayer, we all dug in and had our tea break together. Our students made use of that time to socialise more with the children. I saw one of the girls teaching the children how to make an origami crane out of a brown paper bag while teaching them the importance of keeping our environment clean.

   To wrap up the day, Ms Winnie, Ms Maria and Mr Phillip gave short farewell speeches, telling the children and their caretakers how grateful we all were to be able to spend a memorable time with them that day. Miss Winnie presented Puan Murni, the head of the orphanage with a plaque while Miss Maria presented her with some bags of rice as a simple token of our appreciation. Puan Murni also expressed her gratitude in a simple farewell speech. Soon it was time to leave. We all said our goodbyes to the children after taking lots of memorable photos with them.

   I personally had a lot of fun visiting them. Though it was pretty difficult to communicate with them due to my lack of fluency in speaking standard Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Melayu Sarawak, I had a blast, learning not only about their religious and cultural practices, but also how they live their daily lives and what their future would be like when they grow older. This experience has taught not only me, but all the other students as well, the importance of gratitude towards our parents as they have brought us up with love and given us a comfortable and secure home. I also learnt the importance of caring for other people and respecting them regardless of their religion, race, background, social status or ethnicity. I hope that a chance like this might come up again in the future, not just for us, but for the other students of St Joseph’s Private School. I believe it will change students’ perspective of life and people; while planting a new-found sense of gratitude and respect in the hearts and minds of our students.

• Jecyntha Dymphna