Yuk Wai, I really wish you'd get on FB, then my other friends wouldn't have to hop, skip and jump over the 'repeat' posts (like this one!). :)
Serene sent me an email this afternoon asking if I was tired from travelling up and down to Singapore for Expedition Agape. I was thinking about that and about Expedition Agape on my way home from work, and it made me smile....
I think I’ve told most of you about Expedition Agape... and if not, my excited ‘squeals’ on my status on FB speak for me! Expedition Agape is an amazing 6 month journey for the at-risk youths in Singapore. The journey spans 6 months from August through to February of the following year. EVERY week, the youths participate in leadership development, character-building, team-building and community service activities.
The youths ‘buddy’ up with a volunteer who will be alongside them until the end of Expedition Agape (and sometimes the bonds of friendship last beyond that!). They learn about giving their all and doing their best; how to care and love those less fortunate then themselves and to ‘give’ to them; to trust, to believe, to stand on their own two feet, to grow beyond what they ever thought they could.
And halfway through the journey (normally in December), the youths get to go for a 2 week Expedition overseas! There they will visit an underprivileged community and put into action all that they have learnt in the previous four months of Expedition Agape.
During the last Expedition, the team went to Cambodia. They stayed in an orphanage and painted murals and conducted activities run bythe youths, they visited a hospital for children with AIDS, they distributed food and clothing to families living in a garbage dump site, they visited a leprosy centre, and much more.
There is no way you can leave an experience like that unchanged, and the youths’ lives reflect those changes.
The volunteers continue to journey with them along their new paths for the next two months as the youths try out their new ideas and new ways of thinking and seeing and believing in themselves. The messages of the Expedition are reinforced until they are stuck in the youths' minds and hearts.
Change. The youths are changed by being empowered, seeing themselves as leaders, believing in themselves, trusting others in the team, softening their hearts enough to let others in...
Next year, the Malaysian orphanage youths will join this amazing journey. They will participate in the same activities conducted in Malaysia, and if I learn everything I’m supposed to (*crosses two fingers and two toes ... in fact, crosses all fingers and toes!*) they will have grown enough in the Expedition Agape program in time to join the 2 week Expedition trip overseas.
We will continue to journey with them for the remaining two months, and hopefully - and I believe so - their lives will never be the same.
That’s why I’m travelling up and down each weekend! To learn all I can from Expedition Agape. And that’s why I think I’m the luckiest person in the whole world!
Because you see, and I believe other volunteers in Malaysia can bear witness to this, we don’t have such an exciting, life-changing program in Malaysia. We’re all trying our best for the kids, but honestly, we don’t really know which program works. We run about like crazy trying program after program until I suspect our kids in the orphanages and shelters must feel like lab rats, the amount of ‘stuff’ we try on them!
This Expedition Agape's life-changing journey works.
And the best part? It’s in Singapore. Just across the border.
I can’t get over that, I really can’t. Every time I ride the bus to Singapore I think how very fortunate and blessed I am that this program is available in Singapore. Normally, a great program like this would only be available in somewhere like the USA! And then I would be eating my heart out with envy, wishing our youths could participate, but knowing it will take someone going all the way there to bring it back to Malaysia.
And the Singaporeans have opened their hearts and moved over to make space for our Malaysian orphanage youths to join them. How very wonderful is that and how blessed are our youths to have that kind of friendship and generosity extended to them?
So... am I tired from travelling? Yes, sometimes. But I just can’t stop thinking how very very very lucky I am that there is Expedition Agape and that I can be a part of it. And best of all that I can bring this program back to Malaysia and give our orphanage youths the chance to join Expedition Agape.
That makes every step of the way worth it.