For me, being a volunteer means being available. To be all at once a big sister, a mother and a teacher, to help the administration of the home and manage the house, help for homework, listen, play, sing, teach, advise, manage crises and disputes, accompany, pray, manage the timetables, cuddle. To be present for these children who grow up without their parents, and lack bearings. To help them grow up in a serene and fulfilling setting under God’s eye.
« Be open to any ideas »
It was the first time I set foot in Asia. I thought that my place of mission would be in a faraway countryside with earth roads and snakes everywhere, and then I arrived in Kuala Lumpur ! A developped city, but where the differences are very pardoxical, with, on one side, skyscrapers of forty stories, commercial centers at every corner of the streets, and, at the other, trash on the sidewalks, and people damaged by life. Two worlds where the division between rich and poor is striking. But they have in common their simplicity, their welcoming attitude, their kindness, and their helpfulness.
From the very first hours, I was treated warmly, and this made me forget the fear of the unknown. During the training at the rue du Bac, I was often told : « Do not be afraid of the unknown, be open to all ideas and opportunities. They are a path to the Other ».
It is in this daily life, with children who only see their family once or twice per trimester, that I became for the first time in my life a big sister to them. The contact took a few weeks to solidify, like a mutual familiarisation. Once this step was taken, my daily life and relationship with the children became more and more rich and sincere. I took time to listen to them, to get to know them and above all, to love them.
Everyday during the prayer time, a ritual took place : a prayer, often one of Saint Francis of Assisi, a time of praising, a time of silence, then a question : what made you happy today ? This time of sharing, all together, was important for me. The children shared their joy (going to school, or making a new friend) but also their difficulties and sadness (« I miss my mom »).
This time of sharing was important to better learn to know each other. It is also vital to confide to one another. These children are not accustomed to expressing their emotions and it is a sign of great trust. We became accustomed to each other and sincerely loved each other.
These six months allowed me to be a sort of connection between their parents and the board of directors of the home to help them build self-confidence, to express themselves freely and be aware of their talents through various manual activities : gardening, coloring, drawing, painting, reading, dancing or music. During these six months, life in the house became agitated, noisy, but full of laughter, sincerity and brotherly love. How good it feels !
The Vichy carrots
The daily life at the home, full of unexpected events, forced us to quickly put aside our European mentality. Plan A often makes way for Plan B. It is often the case in our missions.
When one is a volunteer, one comes to help and give of one’s time to others. Our mission adapts itself day by day and is no longer restricted to the job description. I was often a cook for the children, who discovered, with great joy, hard boiled eggs and Vichy carrots !
What is wonderful, here in Malaysia, despite the existence of different religions and cultures, is that mutual respect creates friendliness. They knew how to unite their difference to live together. It is the same with the volunteers I met here. Our missions, our lives as well as our history are all different but they became a family for me, brothers and sisters with whom I share my joys, but also my fears and difficulties. I also found, in the french catholic community, friends, who were like uncles and aunts who advised us, listened to us, and took care of the volunteers. Even at the other end of the world, we are not alone, but united by our daily life far from our families and fortified by the love of God. The oath of the scouts say « serve as best I can ». These words greatly helped me in my mission to not be discouraged. Some days, when I felt tired, or when the day was too agitated, or when I thought I lost my bearings, I often meditated this phrase. It was at these times that these words showed all their meaning. I knew deeply that the Lord was with me and that he prepared a mission for me with all his love.
The life in mission had difficulties, especially loneliness. Yet, it is also a richness : it forces us to go towards others, to experience our vulnerability and to better know ourselves. Little by little, we discover the presence of Christ deep inside us, but also in those we meet.
I live here strong experiences that strengthen my faith and change my view of the world, and I leave rich with my discovery of the malaysian culture, a different mentality, which has shaken up my way of thinking and my vision of the future. To continue my path after such an experience, I view it as a new adventure. Not to lose sight of what I have seen as essential here : a simplicity of life which needs only two things : The Other and God.
Olivia Dailliez, volontaire MEP