As a Vice-Principal of a primary school in the UK, I get to enjoy a six-week summer holiday each year during the months of July and August. This year, during my summer break, I had the privilege of spending two-and-a-half weeks volunteering in one of El Shaddai’s Learning Centres in Klang.
This was my first ever visit to Malaysia, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. All the people I met were so welcoming and friendly, but the weather is much warmer than the summer temperatures back in the UK and of course, I enjoyed the delicious Malaysian food!
My time here was to be spent amongst the students and staff, primarily dispensing my near two-decades of experience and skills to help develop the teaching skill of teachers working within El Shaddai. Through coaching and mentoring I worked with a teacher on areas of practice we had identified together. Over the two weeks I was in the school we worked together on a number of aspects to support him and to sharpen his teaching practice.
The context of my work challenged my own practice – in my school, classes are never as big as 50 children (usually capped to just 30 students) and never are the classes as mixed with different cultures and countries represented here. Such experiences this summer have helped to shape and further improve my own practice as I return to my own school for the new academic year this September.
Experiencing first-hand the heart that El Shaddai has for the diaspora community within Malaysia was truly inspirational. The love and compassion for these displaced people shone through in all the work that I saw. From my background in the UK, where the media and current government view refugees and migrants negatively, the compassion shown to them in Malaysia was a stark eye opener. Speaking to students about their own and their families’ stories made me appreciate in ways that I had not understood before, especially the challenges and on-going difficulties that the refugees face. Suddenly, the faceless refugees I had only heard about in the media became real people with real plights and challenges.
I believe I have returned home with some of that heart from El Shaddai for these brothers and sisters that are fleeing persecution and troubles. My hope is that I can continue to support the work of the El Shaddai Learning Centres remotely from my base back in the UK and that I may return again soon to continue my work in supporting the inspiring staff and students. My view of refugees within the UK has changed too and I hope that through this experience this summer, I may be able to get involved with similar ministries here.
If you are thinking of volunteering with El Shaddai, please do. You will come to give but you will also receive so much in return as well.
Contributed by James Hancock