Spotlight: Local volunteer moved by their determination
THE six children listened with rapt attention as their teacher told them the story of Goldilocks and the three bears.
The Myanmar refugee children, between the ages of 10 and 12, clearly loved listening to their teacher, 73-year-old Hor Tuck On.
Hor has taught them for the past six months and despite his age, he is sharp and active.
Speaking to the New Straits Times after one of his classes, the former lecturer and consultant said he never thought that teaching refugee children could be so rewarding.
"I had just retired for the second time a year and a half ago and I did not know what to do with myself.
"A church friend suggested that I volunteer at a refugee learning centre and I agreed," he said.
After a brief orientation, Hor was sent to the Matu Social Organisation (MSO), where he now teaches Mathematics and English on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays for two hours.
"We were told during the briefing what to expect, the not-so-good teaching conditions, children who knew little or no English at all and the other problems.
"So I prepared myself for what might come."
Hor said he was shocked to see how malnourished the children were.
"They fall sick frequently and most of them come to school without having breakfast and lunch," Hor said, tears welling up as he spoke.
Moved by the children's determination in coming to the centre to learn despite their circumstances, Hor along with other volunteer teachers, decided to provide meals for the kids in the centre.
They put the word out to friends and family and food donations started coming in.
The kids are now able to have a simple breakfast before classes begin and lunch after lessons.
"We even took the kids to KFC once, which they enjoyed thoroughly," he said.
Hor said his students had come a long way since he first started teaching them.
"They hardly spoke any English but now they can hold simple conversations and understand what I tell them.
"It was challenging and they were very shy, but I encouraged them to talk about their experiences.
"These kids have gone through so much and have a lot to talk about," he said, adding that their ability to grasp Mathematics easily was astounding.