Nermesh Singh’s 3,000km journey to Philippines

The Sikh youth from Malaysia joins a 3-month MyCorp humanitarian mission

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Nermesh Singh *right) taking a photo with a group of kids
By Nermesh Singh | THE PHILLIPINES | EXPERIENCE |

Guru Nanak Dev Ji gave us a powerful truth: Ek pita ekas ke hum barik. A universal message of brotherhood, peace and unity. Recognizing the human race as one.

When we talk about helping people who are in dire need, the first thought that would probably come to our mind is by helping them with funds. In general, it is true that money is the main factor when lending a hand. However, helping people isn’t just only by giving them money. It can also be delivered via our good actions.

I was given the opportunity to practice humanitarianism in a 3-month program called MyCorps by Malaysia’ Ministry of Youth & Sports. I was selected out of more than 300 applicants. MyCorps is a life-changing experience designed for Malaysian youths aged 18-30 years old to discover potential and purpose, by serving communities around the world while deepening understanding of different cultures. The movement was initiated by the ministry with the support from the minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman. It aims to prepare young and energized volunteers that would characterize themselves as role models and volunteer leaders to cultivate the spirit of volunteerism and humanitarian among Malaysian youths.

Past MyCorps projects included missions to Cambodia, Middle East (Jordan, Lubnan and Turkey), South Asia (Sri Lanka & Bangladesh), Afrika (Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda) and recently in the seven states of Malaysia.

This MyCorps mission to Southeast Asia is the seventh mission whereby youth volunteer leaders from different backgrounds come hand in hand to address issues and problems and propose solutions that would create a better place for underprivileged and indigenous people of Indonesia, Laos, Philippines and East Timor.

The volunteers served the communities in the areas of education, medical, social and economic development to the marginalized societies. Volunteers were collaborated with local communities and implemented related projects for sustainable living.

This program was implemented in three different phases. The first phase was called Pre-departure Training (8 April 2019 to 8 May 2019). This service training is a combination of fast-paced, action-packed sessions to prepare us mentally and physically for a month to make a positive impact in communities. I met 41 like-minded Malaysians who became my friends and then a new family. Together we underwent intensive training at Outward Bound School, Lumut, Perak where they tested our skills in kayaking, rock climbing, camping and mountain rappelling.

During this phase, we were selectively paired with local impact partners and will receive technical training based on the unique challenges we will solve in your international Mission. Each mission is unique and addresses different issues, thus around 46 training modules covering aspects of education, emergency disaster management, first aid course, human rights, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and many more were designed to expose us to the relevant skills we will need; from building houses to surviving in the wild. Also, we conducted fundraising online and on a weekend basis to collect funds from Malaysians to finance our projects over in Southeast Asian countries. Trust me, it was not easy to roam around under the scorching Sun, asking for donation especially with all kinds of ways to persuade the donors.

Upon the final week of the training, we were announced on our placement during our deployment. With god’s grace, I was offered the Philippines to serve for 2 months. My teammates were own experts of Agriculture (Animal Husbandries), Chemical Engineering, Education, Human Resource and myself from the Medical(Pharmacy) aspect. I was fortunate to be on aired on Selamat Pagi Malaysia@RTM 1 forum show to discuss on our preparedness to get deployed.

The second phase is called the Deployment Phase (14th May 2019 to 14th July 2019). We flew to Manila and met the Chief de Mission of the Embassy of Malaysia. He gave a few tips on how to report if anything goes wrong or if any disastrous takes place knowing that the Philippines lies along a typhoon belt called Ring of Fire, where many of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.

Then we ride on a 13-hour bus trip to Legazpi, Albay region in which we were offered conduct our projects. Our team was hosted by the Social Action Center, a non-government organization in which they assisted us in introducing us to the Albay community. Knowing Legazpi was the capital city of Albay, we decided to shift our attention to lesser privileged municipalities: Ligao & Tiwi. Ligao has the largest number of barangays (villages) among all municipalities in the Albay province. At first, we had difficulties in finding a home to stay, but thankfully one of the barangay captains decided to offer us a home for free. Frequent blackouts occurred during our stay and the Albay community said the blackouts are quite common since years and told us to be prepared for emergency lights.

In the first two weeks, we conducted needs’ assessment in which we were to recognize potential projects in the upland (geothermal villages) and lowland (coastal villages) in Ligao. Communication was an issue as could not understand the native language of Bikol. The saving grace was that the language shares about 2,600 words with the Malay language. For example payung (Bikol)= payung (Malay). We managed to pick up from the surrounding community.

Throughout the remaining 6 weeks, we surveyed and discussed the potential projects based on our skills and expertise.  We also had 15 mini-projects, mostly one-off programmes in which we contributed toiletries to prisoners, newborn preparatory kits to mothers, sports carnival for the deaf, etc.

Throughout the deployment phase, I was in charge of leading the healthcare-based project, photographer/videographer and preparing press releases. On the last day of our deployment, we had official visits from the ministry, city mayor and city officials to officiate our closing ceremony and projects over in Maonon.

The last phase is called the Assessment and Recognition (15 July to 20 July 2019). In this phase, we were back to the homeland in which we were to finalize the financial accounts and final project reports. During this phase, I have learned the importance of managing accounts and donations. Every cent counts!

I have always wanted to serve my people because I believe humanity is the biggest religion. Throughout this mission, I have overcome my fear of hiking, cave rappelling, approaching strangers and being a glossophobia. Abundance heartfelt gratitude to MyCorps for acknowledging and empowering Malaysian youth to help others across borders. To my fellow youth out there, let’s walk on the path of Guru Nanak and his teachings in ‘recognising human race as one’.

 

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Khalsa Aid relief work in Syria a ‘shining example of humanity’ (Asia Samachar, 4 March 2018)

 

ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs / Punjabis in Southeast Asia and beyond. Facebook | WhatsApp +6017-335-1399 | Email: editor@asiasamachar.com | Twitter | Instagram | Obituary announcements, click here |

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