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
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.
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.’.
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