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From Roots And Shoots Award To Volunteering At The Perhentian Islands

From Roots and Shoots Award to Volunteering at the Perhentian Islands

3 mins read

I’ve always had a passion for volunteering work and I made an effort to pursue it every year. This year I was lucky enough to go volunteering in Perhentian Islands with Ecoteer. Everything started last April, when I came to know about the Roots and Shoots Malaysian Award (RASMA) programme thanks to a close friend of mine. It’s a brilliant award scheme for Malaysians aged 16-25 that gives the opportunity to join different volunteering projects around Malaysia. However, only 30 candidates can pass the selection process and go volunteering.

Chapter 1 – I got accepted

I had a 9 months long break after completing my pre-U studies, therefore, I had enough time to spend in volunteering work. After my initial application, the whole process lasted 2 months, including the final interview. The organization accepted me (yay!) and they told me I would go volunteering at the Perhentian Eco-Education Project (PEEP) and the Perhentian Turtle Project (PTP). Before this, I had never heard of these projects nor Ecoteer. Lastly, I had to attend a Google Outreach Workshop where I learnt useful e-tools to apply whilst volunteering. 

Chapter 2 – My experience with the Perhentian Eco-Education Project

volunteering perhentian islands
Melanie leading the Senior Eco Club class

My volunteer period at the Perhentian Islands lasted for 3 weeks. I was assigned to PEEP for 2 weeks and then PTP the other week. When I was at PEEP, I was taking part in a wide range of eco-friendly activities to educate the village children regarding environmental awareness. I went kayak patrolling and conducted beach cleanups one day. The day after I did mural painting at the primary school and planned and led Eco-club lessons. I learnt how to cook kuih (traditional dessert) during some kuih making sessions with Kak Dah and one night I had Malay dinner at a neighbour’s house.

However, the highlight of my time with PEEP was the coral watch activity, in which we free dived with the Eco-club kids to check the health of corals based on a coral bleaching chart. I’ve learnt from the kids, especially Kasih, Alif, Kalisha things that I never thought possible, from the little jokes and puns to how to conquer life one at a time. 

volunteering perhentian islands
Malay dinner with Ecoteer staff and volunteers

Chapter 3 – My experience with the Perhentian Turtle Project

My last week in the Perhentian Islands was a hectic but a meaningful one. I joined PTP and got my freedive licence the same week! Also, I was involved in a turtle awareness talk at Mimpi Resort Long Beach, kayak survey at Turtle Point, turtle IDs, data analysis. I also camped with another volunteer and some staff members for two nights at Tanjong Butong. To be honest, I was pretty frustrated at first because there was no turtle in sight.

The following night, we were lucky to witness a turtle nesting in around 6 am, somewhat an unusual sight. The feeling when you first see a nesting turtle in your life is magical, unique and spectacular, something that I cannot get off my mind until today. The hard work, patience and perseverance that all the PTP staff, interns and fisheries put in to ensure these young turtle hatchlings get a chance at life, amazes me.

It reminded me of my favorite quote from Jane Goodall, ‘The least I could do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.’.

volunteering perhentian islands
Sunset from a nesting beach


My stay at the Perhentian Islands was definitely an unforgettable one. Cheers to project managers Kak Naquiah and Melisa and the project interns for making my volunteer experience a memorable one. Also, to RASMA and the Fuze Ecoteer team, thank you from the bottom of my heart for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Melanie Oon Ying Hui, RASMA Volunteer 2019
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