Budaya Beat Jan Feb 2016

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Contents FOCUS 4

2016: Together We Can!


Volunteer Congress 2015: Back to Basics


Altruism & Volunteerism


Volunteer Your Way to Success


Reaching Out Via Social Media


Conquering the Fear of Speaking in Public


Fiery End to VC2015






Getting to Know our 2015 Galatti Award Winner


November 2015 American Abroad Student of the Month: Fay Lee


Mengikat Kasih Sayang Tanpa Sempadan


A Black & White Farewell


The Ups and Downs after Six Months in Malaysia


Meet Kedah Chapter


Fabian Schiffer: A Constant Challenge


AFS students celebrate Thai Pongal Festival


SMK Hosba: “To Travel is to Live”



Chief Editor: Khalilah Talha


Contributing Editor: Gaya Velayutham

E-Magazine Coordinator: Zaina



Fui Ting: My Journey in Japan


Toasting the Old Year, Ushering in the New with a Year-End Bash



Bukit Tinggi: A Refreshing Retreat


Unmasking Venice



Life Quotes


AFS Malaysia Facebook Photo Caption Contest

46 Around the World of AFS


A Word from

National Director

“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change -”


― Heraclitus

nd indeed 2015 has been a year of change. After 11 years in Damansara Jaya, we moved to our new office in Kelana Jaya. With a new Board leadership eager to propel AFS Malaysia forward, the National Office followed the beat of the new drum and streamlined all work tasks and procedures. With the current political and economic uncertainties, we anticipate a big challenge in our participant recruitment, both for hosting and sending programs. This year, we plan to strengthen our program support and content, enhance our branding and visibility and develop our talents to cope with the changes that are fast enfolding. Every end marks a new beginning. 2015 passed in a blink of an eye. The winds of change that blew at the beginning of last year are now in full swing as we embark on the new year. 2016 will see more changes as we go forward realising our Big Five goals.

Atty Sulaiman AFS Malaysia National Director


al Izuddin Saharudin

13 Designer: Nurhasliza Sahadi


2016: Together Focus

We Can! Message from Yayasan AFS Malaysia Chairperson:


ear all,

How quickly the year draws to a close. It seems like only yesterday that I took on the mantle of the Chairmanship of AFS Malaysia and already it is time for a review and renew message! As we start a New Year, it is perhaps useful to review our past‌ after all, it is easy to lose sight of such things amidst the clatter of daily events. Let us recall our achievements in this year:


1 2

We set up proper Chapter Committees in Pahang, Ampang, Klang, Perak, Johor and Damansara

We introduced a Chapter Charter and started a pilot project with selected chapters to assess its effectiveness


We began the arduous task of documenting all our systems and processes and best practices so that there is clear guidance, method and record of all that we do


We voted in a new board member Dato’ Chris Tan who has extensive experience and influence in government circles


We appointed Rezal Jaafar from Khazanah Nasional to further strengthen the Board


We officially set up an AFS Returnees Alumni Group under which all other loose alumni groupings would fall under


We concluded Regional & National Level W workshops where more than 250 participants were impacted by the programme


We organized and conducted an inaugural ICL Link National Level 1 Workshop and became the first partner within the entire AFS network to conduct such a Workshop


We organized an inaugural “Passport to the World” Intercultural Fair that generated much public curiosity and interest


We introduced Social Media Guidelines for staff and stakeholders in recognition of its growing importance


We told our stories better, resulting in greater coverage and publicity in both traditional and digital media


We did away with the newsletter format and launched a new bi-monthly e-magazine called “Budaya Beat” featuring a fresh design and editorial style

10 11

We co-partnered an Educational Assessment Pilot Project with AFS International

We successfully promoted new Sending destinations: Italy, Hungary & Brazil for the Semester programme and Brazil, Denmark, Finland & Hungary for the Year programme

12 13 14

We increased our numbers of Sending students for Year and Semester Programmes We achieved an increase in applications for 2015 by 65% (1400 applications from 850 in 2014)


We recorded a 100 per cent On Time Placement for hosted students for the fourth consecutive



We launched a Mobile Friendly AFS MAS website

Our Social Media presence saw a steady increase in fans and followers on our facebook, twitter, instagram and youtube platforms




We purchased our own Building, a “home” to call our own at last!


We showed great teamwork in hosting the Partner Network Meeting 2015, an international meeting that is second only to the World Congress in terms of its importance in the AFS calendar


We demonstrated our belief in our young returnees by giving them the responsibility to organise Volunteer Congress 2015 which proved a great success


But the highlight among highlights was the news that Madam Lucy Lim was named a Galatti award winner, fittingly announced during the recent World Volunteer Day. It has been a long while since Malaysia had such an honour, our first recipient being Siti Khadijah Hassan way back in 1997 so it is truly a welcome recognition from AFS International for our team of dedicated volunteers! As you all know, we are an organisation with a great past. The challenges ahead are no greater than those behind us. 2016 will see our sending numbers reduced because of our declining ringgit and the uncertainties and insecurity, real or imagined, created by fear mongers around the world. This will affect the confidence of potential sending parents and their children. Similarly, we will continue to face challenges in finding host families and schools, developing new programmes and enhancing our relationship with government agencies, embassies and related authorities. But we can surmount these challenges if we work together. We can be what we wish AFS Malaysia to be, but only if we make the necessary effort. In these challenging times, it is no longer Business as Usual as we must make adjustments, be flexible and more professional in our approach. Already we can see the difference….there appears to be more urgency, enthusiasm and renewed energy amongst us so let us keep up the momentum and forge ahead. “Together, we can”, to paraphrase a certain US president’s tagline! So let us ring out the old but do not lose the lessons of the past that will make us better in the future. On behalf of the Board, here’s wishing you the gift of peace and prosperity throughout 2016. Happy New Year! Khalilah Dato’ Mohd Talha


Volunteer Congress 2015:



n a hard-hitting official opening address, AFS Malaysia Chair Khalilah Talha reminded volunteers and staff on the meaning of volunteerism and the dreams of AFS’ founding fathers to see a just and peaceful world. Using images from the popular movie franchise “Back to the Future”, Khalilah reminded Congress delegates that volunteering one’s time and energy for the good of the community should be done as a social responsibility rather than for any financial reward. She said the annual volunteer event was not only meant as an appreciation to volunteers through team bonding and knowledge enhancing opportunities but was also meant to refresh their understanding of the true spirit of volunteerism and the AFS vision. “The benefits are manifold, from expanding one’s network of friends to maintaining good mental and physical health, gaining new skills and knowledge, adding fun and fulfilment to one’s life, giving motivation and sense of achievement, embracing

new experiences and renewing creativity,” Khalilah added. However, she acknowledged that there were instances where volunteers suffered burnout and fatigue. She recommended that the volunteer base be expanded and younger returnees be included in Chapter operations and management so that there is better delegation among volunteers as well as identification and mentoring of secondary leaders. She also chided those who have become insincere, materialistic and calculating in their volunteer work. “I would suggest you seek another organisation that offers you such self-gratification opportunities as AFS is not the place for you if you are seeking personal glory and rewards,” she said. Khalilah also shared the Board’s upcoming initiatives which included application for tax exemption status, official Ministry endorsement and new program development for 2016.

Excerpts from the power point presentation




Altruism Volunteer


hy do people volunteer?’ Could it be fill up spare time and looking to do something more worthwhile? One can ask, “Can it be the passion towards the mission that drives these volunteers to volunteer? What could the motivation be for people to take their time, money, and talent to be involved in an organization like AFS? What does it take for people to be involved and stay involved?

For nearly a decade now, we know that our volunteers’ work with our participants and host families allows them to understand their own culture better, develop leadership skills and take an active role in local community activities. But the bigger question would be WHY?

Volunteering is good for them: Over the years, m volunteers have said over and over again, how volunt is good for them physically and mentally. Being with AFS environment, they have learned how to focus the and energy to overcome their own personal problems

Empowerment & Better perspective: AFS Volunte trained to deal with a variety of situations and sometim be faced with heart-wrenching scenes. AFS Voluntee directly involved with participants and host families, means most often than not, they have a firsthand persp on strengths and weaknesses of the program. With training and support given, these volunteers are expec stay calm, collected and positive especially in hard-p situations. Through this, the volunteers are able to and hold bigger responsibilities at all levels. In return volunteers are empowered within the community that the same interest. It makes them feel useful, responsib accountable.

People are driven by different levels of motivations to volunteer. This is proven through Maslow’s theory of ‘The Hierarchy of Needs’. Maslow’s theory captured the idea that human beings are propelled into action by different motivating factors at different times. This could be from biological drives, psychological needs, higher goals etc. Self-Development The positive impacts of AFS Volunteers are unden For some, it could be the psychological effect of altruism. They not only cultivate future changemakers but als Altruism is very much a part of human nature. It’s quite an important role in preparing future generation t normal in our genes to help others and be supportive of a the country. AFS offers continuous learning journ certain causes. Maslow describes this as self-actualization volunteers and through the skill building preparation where an individual feels ‘inspired to grow, to explore they could also act as mentors outside AFS network. potential and become more of what we feel we can be.’ basic intercultural learning, counseling skills to netwo Altruism can be also seen as ways to protect a person from volunteers learn about every aspect of managing exc being surrounded in negative elements and tendencies. programs and providing support to all stakeholders. Th Volunteering activates the feeling of being rewarded and in trainings, these volunteers are enabled to reach and ga return it increases an individual’s happiness. Indirectly, the skills, absorb leadership roles and possess new tools to psychology of altruism also reduces feelings of loneliness them to excel in their career or give them a comp and helps us to feel good about ourselves. advantage within the community.

In short, altruism has a ripple effect in a community. Within Mingling and meeting with like-minded people: P the AFS context, this ripple effect can be expanded to many tend to mingle and spend their spare time with other reasons to why they volunteer. that share similar values and priorities in life. Conn


“The best way to


many of teering hin the eir time s.

eers are mes can ers are which pective proper cted to pressed o grow n, these shares ble and

niable. so play to lead ney for given, . From orking, change hrough ain new o allow petitive

find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”

Mahatma Gandhi

with strangers within the community over shared passions for a mission or cause like AFS is a great way to network. AFS Volunteers circle of friends can get a whole lot bigger in just a short amount of time. At the same time, it allows these group of people to expand their horizons while celebrating other cultures and people. Personal ties to the cause: Many volunteer has admitted that sharing similar experience with others is one of the main motivations why they volunteer for AFS. Personal experience motivates these volunteers to give back and make the difference in the lives of others that is going through the same experience. This is why AFS returnees often come back as volunteers to continue the unfinished journey. It makes them feel good to give back while being reminded of their personal experience. Above are just some examples of how altruism plays a huge role in motivating volunteers to volunteer. In summary, it’s safe to say that most people respond to three levels of motivation: • Basic level; Self-serving drive: People often join an organization because it meets their needs. • Secondary level; relational drive: People volunteer because of friendship and connections they have made. • Highest level; Belief drive: People join and volunteer because they believe the cause is right. While the act of volunteerism can carry altruistic component reasoning, it is clear that the benefit reaches out both ways.

People people necting



Volunteer Your Way to



xperience gained through skilled volunteering is taken into account during an interview, while skilled volunteer experience makes a job candidate more desirable, according to a 2013 Deloitte Volunteer Impact Survey conducted in the United States. In another study published by BMC Public Health, volunteering is associated with lower depression, increased well-being, and a 22 percent reduction in the risk of dying. These insights were shared with delegates of Volunteer Congress 2015 by Chun Wah Hoo, Director of Outreach & ngohub.asia in his presentation titled ‘The Journey to Volunteerism’. “What drives you, your personal opinion, what concerns you and who are you are some of the values that lead you to volunteer. It’s a journey of different levels, till you feel ready to share and give your time to commit to a cause,” Wah Hoo said. His engaging presentation opened a good discussion among volunteers as to why they volunteer for AFS and what motivates them to stay on as volunteers.





t is not the product but the experience associated with the product that matters.

“How we promote the services/product is crucial. Targeted audiences don’t look for product information anymore. They look for the experience it sells. Think of what your audience needs and tap on that,” was the sage advice given by social media guru, Taavi Kuisma in his session on reaching out via social media at Volunteer Congress 2015. His session covered Content Strategies for social media platforms and making better use of social and digital communications. “We need to start thinking outside the box. With rapid changes taking place in the digital world, we are forced to think of new ways to reach out to audiences who are presented with a myriad of information, all vying for their attention,” Kuisma added. The workshop taught volunteers to think of new content strategies that could position AFS differently in the digital world. The dynamic hour and a half session was well attended mostly by younger volunteers hoping to expand their skills in utilizing social media platforms to promote AFS.



Conquering the


in Public O

of Speaking

ne of four concurrent workshops at VC2015, the public speaking track saw both young and mature volunteers picking up valuable tips on how to speak better in front of the public.

She cited Martin Luther King as an example of a master speaker who established historical context for his messages.

Workshop facilitator Khalilah Talha surprised participants as soon as the session began by asking them to reach under their chair and those who pulled up folded papers either had to do an impromptu speech or play a role as either timekeeper or “Ah” counter, a term in toastmasters for a person who counts the number of filler or crutch words a speaker repeats in the course of his speech. In just a 90 second speech, one participant unconsciously had 21 filler words which consisted of “okay”, “er”, “actually” and “like”. All four impromptu speakers were then evaluated on their performance before participants broke up into groups to come up with as many qualities as possible on what makes an inspiring speaker. Groups later presented their findings and common among all were preparation, rehearsing, vocal variety, eye contact, the right body language, grooming and passion.

The best speaker and team were presented with Christmas tokens from the facilitator.

The four initial speakers later did a repeat performance of their earlier speech but with some preparation and help from team members and all achieved better results the second time around. The best speaker and team were later presented with Christmas tokens from the facilitator. “One of the best ways to really engage your audience is by becoming a good storyteller,” said Khalilah. “The best presentations don’t feel like presentations, they are simply stories told by people with interesting experiences. You can include stories of your own, or use classic stories to bring context to your speech.”


Participants broke up into groups to come up with as many qualities as possible on what makes an inspiring speaker


End to VC2015 W ith the theme “Ignite”, and workshop sessions featuring sizzling hot topics to fan the interest of delegates, it was no wonder that everyone’s attention was completely riveted…until the final session on the last day when hotel staff alerted delegates that there was actually a fire that had broken out in one of the outer kitchen areas! Despite the urgency of the situation and with smoke building up on the mezzanine floor where the main plenary session was taking place, delegates remained calm and filed out of the hotel to assemble at the car park area. A fire brigade arrived soon after to put out the fire within a few minutes. There was no casualty and only minimal damage to the hotel itself. Congress co-chair Kevin Hui admitted that when his committee chose “Ignite” as the theme for this year’s event, they did not have in mind a dramatic closing involving flames and smoke! “We are glad all’s well Hotel guests and participants gather at the assembly point that ends well but I am sure the 2015 Congress will while waiting for firefighters to extinguish the fire be remembered not just for its impactful topics but also its side drama. Thankfully, it happened just as our last session for the day was ending so all our Smoke building up on the mezzanine floor where the efforts did not end up in smoke!” he joked. main plenary session took place


Getting to Know our

2015 Galatti Award Winner E stablished in 1983, the Galatti Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service honors AFS Volunteers whose commitment, dedication and exceptional journey with the organization have advanced the mission and goals of AFS.

In 2001, the Terengganu Chapter was officially established by Jody Lim, ABM Hosting Coordinator. She was my ex-student and a returnee from Japan. I was appointed as the Chapter Support Leader, taking charge of support issues.

Madam Lucy Lim was recently awarded the 2015 Galatti Award by AFS International in recognition of her 32 years of volunteering with AFS.

Since 2007, due to the change of name in the Organizational Structure, I am still holding the post of Vice-President till today.

Representing AFS Malaysia and Terengganu Chapter, we share with you a brief history of Madam Lucy’s contribution in AFS.

What can you say/remark on your journey being an AFS volunteer? A challenging journey with lots of ‘ups and downs’ as an AFS volunteer. It needs lots of patience, understanding, commitment and sacrifices. Being a school counselor makes my job easier in support issues. I get great satisfaction when the AFS students complete their one year-stay. I am indeed blessed to have a team of reliable and committed volunteers in the chapter as well as getting full support from Board members, AFS Mas staff, CPs, host families, JPNT and school authorities.

How long have you been an AFS volunteer? I have been an AFS volunteer for 32 years. I was introduced to AFS much earlier, in 1968, by my school teacher, Miss Bien and a U.S returnee. What is your role in AFS Terengganu Chapter? I am the Vice President of the Terengganu AFS Chapter, responsible for support matters/issues. Can you share the history and nature of your service to AFS Terengganu Chapter? In 1984, I first got involved with AFS when the late Principal, Mdm. Wee Beng Tang, a 1958-U.S returnee, assigned me to handle the AFS students’ placement in school as well as student applications. In 1988, I took over the post and handled matters dealing with schools. I had to do all the groundwork , find host families, write testimonials and oversee the students’ well-being when the principal was stricken with cancer. It was the dawning of a new era in our AFS world.


How did you feel when you received the Galatti Award? Surprised and honored! Never had I expected to receive such a prestigious award which in itself is a recognition and appreciation for the service rendered to and by AFS. My heartfelt thanks to the Board Members, AFS Mas staff, CPs and volunteers for their continuous support. Special thanks to the Terengganu AFS volunteers who have been with me through thick and thin all these years, giving their undivided support.

Above: Lucy in the thick of action at AFS roadshows and external roadshow events

Right: With Melissa Liles, AFS International Chief Education Officer during the 2015 Partner Network Meeting

With other AFS Volunteers and an exchange student on a Mangrove River Cruise



November 2015 American Abroad Student of the Month:


ach month the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S Department of State will featured one American student who is on an exchange programs.

Fay’s memorable experiences include celebrating Hari Raya and going to prayers with her host family, participating in school dances, organizing a trip to the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, attending the Kuala Lumpur Eco Film The Bureau fosters mutual understanding Fest, learning cultural dances, attending between the people of the United States a Hindu wedding ceremony, and and the people of other countries to stumbling upon a Buddhist Temple in promote friendly and peaceful relations. Kuala Lumpur and talking to a bookstore ECA accomplishes this mission owner for hours about Buddhism. through academic, cultural, sports, and professional exchanges that engage Her initiative to identify and pursue youth, students, educators, artists, opportunities throughout her exchange athletes, and rising leaders in the United has been constant, and she remarks: “I States with more than 160 countries. love how unexpectedly amazing things can be, especially when you try to put In November 2015, Fay Lee, who is yourself out there. I’ve had countless currently in Malaysia for the Kennedy- thought-provoking conversations, Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) formal and informal, not only with my Abroad Program was selected as the host family and at school... I do believe American Abroad Student of the Month. in the power of these intercultural interactions to fill the world with a little An Olympia High School student, Fay is more understanding and love,” says Fay. studying abroad in Shah Alam, Malaysia, where she has sought out opportunities At school, Fay has enjoyed the little to share her American background interactions: “My classmates have been while learning about the cultures of so curious and so receptive. They help Malaysia. Fay volunteers weekly at the me learn about myself, Malaysia, and the PT Foundation, a community-based world, and I share as much as I can with organization that provides assistance them.” to HIV/AIDS affected populations and advocates for sexual health, gender Congratulations on being in the spotlight identity, and HIV prevention. Fay also for November, Fay! joined a YES alumni initiative to facilitate a “U.S. Information” booth hosted by AFS-Malaysia during a “Passport to the World” event. Fay spoke with Malaysian visitors to the booth about life in the United States, and connected with her YES peers.


Fay and host family in New Zeal

Picnic by a beach with her host

y Lee

land for their Year End Holiday

mother and brothers

The amateur photographer pose in front of Sydney’s iconic Opera House


AFS staff, students and participants having fun taking pictures at a photobooth

A Black & White Farewell


othing in life is quite black and white, including goodbyes, but black and white were les couleurs du jour at a Farewell dinner hosted for SH15 students who had completed their year and were heading for their respective homes in Japan, Germany, Chile and France. The evening’s entertainment was provided by the outgoing students themselves with sketches, song and dance and even games. A sharing session by host father Mr Ishak underlined the deep relationships that had been forged between the host families and their new sons and daughters within


the space of just a year, and one that he believed would last a lifetime.

Students were also presented with certificates and gifts and Tanimura Jinta from Japan was awarded Best Student from the SH15 Group while Fabian Schiffer from Germany emerged as the best participant from the 18+ Group. Several Best Dressed awards in various categories were also given out that night to acknowledge the effort guests had taken to come attired in the theme colors.

Japanese School Based students share folk songs with the audience

A performance from 18+ Community Service Participants

Fabian Schiffer from Germany emerged as the best participant

An upbeat performance from School Based Students livened up the mood and had the audience clapping along Tanimura Jinta from Japan was named Best Student


Chapter Chats

Kedah Chapter

We-fie with Dato’ Seri M Menteri Besar of Kedah

Students take part in an event, suitably dressed f


I was practically running the Northern Chapter alone. I stepped down around 2006 due to health reasons. By 2009, I was back helping with support issues but I came Can you please introduce your Chapter and share with back volunteering full time in 2013until today. us how your affiliation with AFS Malaysia began? First of all, I am delighted to announce that finally Kedah What are some of the activities that Kedah Chapter Chapter has a structure after so long running the chapter has conducted and please explain the impact towards like a one-man show. Our structure was set up on 15th the target audience? January 2016. Yes, very new indeed, like you can still Being in a rural farming state, most of our activities smell it fresh from the oven! I hope this new team made revolve around village life like ‘gotong royong’ for a up of young volunteers is ready to take up the challenge kenduri, padi planting, fishing in padi fields where we of takingKedah Chapter to new heights. are involved with the village folks. We also get involved with the Kedah State Education Department for state In 1998 when I came back from the US after years of living level school related activities. We are also invited by the there, I was looking for an organisation to volunteer with. Department of Arts & Culture to be involved in dance Volunteering for NGO has been a way of life for me when performances. We are lucky that Kedah has Lembah I was living in the States. I wanted to continue doing it Bujang, an archeological site where students can get a in Malaysia. I found an article in the New Straits Times taste of life as an archeologist by volunteering at the site. featuring AFS with Brian Lariche’s contact information I must say, these activities give AFS Kedah Chapter the in it. I contacted Brian Lariche who was in Damansara at exposure we need to make people aware of our presence. that time and he told me that I can try contacting Sharifah Of course, the impact on the target audience is big. It Shakirah in Perlis to volunteer with AFS. So, I got in opens their eyes to AFS and many villages, schools and touch with Sharifah Shakirah. Back then Kedah, Perlis other organisations are interested to work with us. and Penang came under the Northern Chapter. By 2003,


or this edition, we sat down with Mdm. Rohaya Md Yusoff, Chapter President of Kedah Chapter.

Mukhriz Mahathir, the then h

Art & Culture for the part

Above: Students attempt to break open coconuts in the traditional way

Right: Chantal from Italy helps out at Warung Roti Canai Celaru after school

What is the biggest challenge you face? How do you overcome or mitigate such challenges? AFS presence in Kedah can be felt only when there are students hosted in the state. My biggest challenge is to find families interested in hosting AFS students. Many people I approach find the duration of hosting a turn-off because they feel one year is too long. Another reason is also culture and religious differences where ‘aurat’ is a big issue, especially when it comes to asking Malay families to host. Bad news also travel fast in cases where students misbehave,,and we have lost host families as a result. Those interested to host will pull out for fear of facing problems with the foreign students. I remember there was one time we lost seven interested host families due to one student’s bad behaviour. Our host numbers haven’t grown over the years because we always have to rely on repeat host families. Perhaps one of the ways to overcome the problem is to let them host over a shorter period, say half a year instead of one year. Also, with the new chapter line up, with more people in the committee maybe we can aggressively recruit more host families. Yes, people are interested to do activities

What can a student who is placed in Kedah look forward to in terms of intercultural opportunities? Kedah offers a lot of opportunities for students to grow interculturally. For one, most of the host families are still very traditional. Most of the time students placed in Kedah pick up the Malay language very quickly, they even speak Malay with a Kedah dialect. Usually Kedah Chapter organises activities that are cultural based. So, students coming to Kedah can look forward to many intercultural activities be it Malay, Chinese, Indian or Siamese. I think students coming to Kedah are lucky to have opportunities to experience Siamese culture which is prevalent here. What does Kedah Chapter hope to achieve in the next 3-5 years? We hope to be able to grow in terms of hosting and sending. So far we have only hosted school based students, so we plan to include Community Service participants in our hosting list. We also plan to open our chapter for STE hosting and develop Langkawi Island as a STE placement option. We also plan to increase the number of volunteers in our register.


Students Partake in Thai Pongal Festiva


very year, the Tamil population in Malaysia celebrates Pongal on the 15th of January. Pongal is a thanksgiving festival, marking the end of the traditional farming season and giving thanks for an extensive crop.

was started. A pot was hung up in a tree around one meter above our heads. It looked like a Mexican Pinata, except this one was the Tamil version called sokka panai and it was filled with money, water and flowers. Everyone who wanted could take a turn and try to hit the sokka panai blindfolded with a Perlis Chapter president Dr. Hari wooden stick with a single blow. Ram invited us, three exchange If the person failed it was someone students and two volunteers, to else‘s turn. join him in a Pongal celebration. When we arrived the first ritual Soon we got hungry and walked we experienced included pouring over to a table where already some some cow milk and a clay pot. food was arranged for everyone. The milk was poured into the pot One could choose between and then heated over a fire until it different rice varieties, curries overcooked. The spilled milk is a with or without chicken, Dhal, metaphor for an overflowing and fresh vegetables like cucumber successful harvest. While the milk and also capati were served fresh. was heated up, a few people started Two dishes were new to us: vadai clapping and dancing around the and karipap. Vadai is a small ball pot and invited us to join them, made out of lentils, chickpeas, which we unabashedly did. beans and onions and karipap is a pastry pocket filled with curry With the milk still cooking a game potatoe paste. We tried it for the


first time and it was delicious.

Later the milk from the first ritual was mixed with rice, brown sugar and cashew nuts and served hot. All in all the food was really good. While we were eating, next to us some games were started, for example rope pulling, that both young and old could join in. At the end of the celebration some prizes were awarded. Two of them were handed over for the best male and female traditional dress. Two of us, both of them exchange students from Italy, won a set of glasses. Our stomachs full, we left the celebration happy and fulfilled. A lot of thanks to the people who welcomed us so warmly and shared their culture with us. We truly had a lot of fun. By: Laura Berkes, 18+ Program, Germany

al Above: Trying to break the sokka panai pot blindfolded! Left: Taking part in preparations to boil milk, symbol of a plentiful harvest

AFS Participants enjoying sweet cakes and tidbits at the festivals


Family Highlights

Mengikat Kasih Sayang Tanpa Sempadan Oleh: Ishak Md Shah


agi saya, AFS ialah jambatan penghubung kemanusiaan sama ada dalam aspek budaya, sejarah, persahabatan dan keamanan. Tanpa meletakkan garis sempadan antara agama, kepercayaan dan geopolitik AFS berjaya menghubungkan nilai-nilai setia kawan yang sejagat. Atas hakikat dan kepercayaan bahawa manusia mempunyai persamaan dalam hak untuk hidup, bersaudara dan saling berkenalkenalan, AFS berjaya meletakkan dirinya sebagai sebuah organisasi yang cukup cakna terhadap peradaban dan nilai-nilai kasih sayang. Tanpa diikat oleh apaapa perhubungan darah, genetik dan bangsa seseorang anak angkat boleh tidur nyenyak di atas riba ibu angkatnya. Ketika itu tiada gap yang memisahkan betapa mereka cukup banyak berbeza dalam segala hal. Demikianlah hakikat, manusia walaupun berbeza dalam pelbagai keadaan, namun manusia tetap sama dalam cita rasa untuk saling sayang dan saling dihormati. Apa-apapun, hakikatnya tetap sama, walau apa-apa bangsa jua darah manusia tetap merah, justeru dengan perkataan yang lain kita adalah sama.

Sirosadah Binti Ismail, dengan rela hati dan cukup berbangga apabila ditawarkan untuk menjadi keluarga angkat kepada seorang anak gadis manis dari Roma Itali, iatu Chantal Viola. Chantal Encik Ishak berkongsi pengalaman ketika Sesi Tak menjadi anak bongsu kesayangan di Crystal Crown Petaling Jaya kami dan bermulalah suatu episod baru untuk kami saling mengenali antara satu dengan yang lain. Pelbagai soalan mula meredah masuk dalam kehidupan. Antaranya, berapakah elaun yang dibayar? Di manakah tuntutan harus dibuat dalam urusan yang menyangkut dengan perbelanjaan mengurus anak angkat. Tidak kekokkah apabila ada orang lain yang berbeza agama dan bahasa berada di dalam rumah itu? Begitulah soalan yang terusmenerus menjadi dilema. Namun, di sebalik soalan-soalan itulah yang menjadikan keluarga kita semakin mendapat perhatian

Kehadiran Chantal seolah-olah sesuatu yang dirancang agar nama keluarga kami mula dikenali. Sikap peramah, aktif dan keinginan belajar yang tinggi menyebabkan Chantal berjaya mencipta nama dalam statusnya yang tersendiri. Beliau tidak kekok untuk mencari pengalaman dengan secara sukarela menjadi pembantu kedai di warung roti canai yang kini amat terkenal Berpegang kepada prinsip dengan Warung Roti Canai Celaru. tersebutlah, saya dan isteri Puan Memang benar penglibatannya


“Kehadiran Chantal

klimat Keluarga

seolah-olah sesuatu yang dirancang agar nama keluarga kami mula dikenali. Sikap peramah, aktif dan keinginan belajar yang tinggi menyebabkan Chantal berjaya mencipta nama dalam statusnya yang tersendiri.�

Ishak Md Shah, AFS Host Father

Chantal menunjukkan kemahiran memancing dibantu rakan sekolahnya

Atas: Chantal bersama ahli keluarga angkatnya ketika menyambut Hari Raya

Kiri: Encik Ishak dan Chantal menunjukkan ikan yang berjaya dipancingnya

di situ tidak memberi apa-apa impak kewangan kepada saya, tetapi tahukah anda betapa ribuan pertanyaan terbit bahawa anak siapakah, si gadis bermata biru yang bekerja di warung roti canai itu? Demikianlah Tuhan mengangkat imej kita tanpa perlu kita membuat sebarang iklan untuk menjadikan diri kita gah. Ingatlah bahawa dengan sumbangan yang kecil kita tidak menyangka bahawa imbuhan dalam bentuk yang cukup relatif berjaya kita raihkan. Saya dan isteri amat bersyukur kerana hingga kini Chantal tidak hentihenti menghantar mesej dengan menyatakan beliau terlalu rindu akan Malaysia dan teristimewa rindu akan ayah dan bonda. Itulah hubungan kasih sayang

yang tidak boleh dibatasi oleh ras dan budaya, segala-galanya terbina di atas paksi kejujuran dan hati yang ikhlas. Kesimpulannya, jikalau manusia berjaya menghayati falsafah yang diungguli oleh AFS, tiada sebab manusia tidak boleh hidup secara aman di atas muka bumi Tuhan ini. Ingatlah bukan wang ringgit dan material sahaja yang menjadi penyebab kita memperoleh kesenangan, sebaliknya jiwa yang tenteram, kasih sayang, saling hormat dan kemahuan untuk berkorban menjadi seseorang itu tenang jiwanya. Demikianlah AFS sebuah organisasi yang memupuk kesedaran bahawa manusia diikat dalam erti kasih sayang.


Malaysia Moments

Paulina Brüling:

The Ups and Do Six Months in M I am currently placed in Ampang (KL area) under the Ampang chapter. At the end of November, I changed families. I was hosted by a family who already had an exchange student from Italy living with them. Just a week ago, I moved to my new host family.

However, in communication saving “face”.

These difficultie I would never in my home cou I have not started school here yet because the during the short visa has to be changed, but I will relate about week with an In my experience in my previous school in Bangi. The culture is a close to this fam Being an exchange student there brought with it a lot of unwanted attention. Wherever I went, Would I enco I could be sure of a lot of glances that would Malaysia for the follow me. I felt really uncomfortable in that that but I will s first month but after a while, I got used to it. both good and b People started to talk to me, even though most to make their ow of them weren’t confident enough to talk a lot with me. So sometimes it just started and ended with a smile and a simple “hey”.


y name is Paulina Brüling, I am 15 years old and I come from Germany. Last year I decided to go on an exchange to experience different cultures, lifestyles and surroundings.

My first day of school made me nervous. I was afraid that I would not make friends and that I would feel lost there. Fortunately one girl from New Zealand knew what it was like to be “the new one” and that’s why she started to talk to me immediately and showed me around. As time passed, I made friends with my classmates and those of other classes too. It was largely due to them and a really friendly principal that I had a lot of fun in school, despite not understanding much at first because everything was in Malay. But as a result, my Bahasa Melayu improved a lot.

My family and I are used to traveling a lot, and this was how I got to know about Malaysia in 2012. At that time I was already fascinated by the nature and the diversity, so I promised myself to come As mentioned at the beginning of my report, back. not everything is easy here. My way of I didn’t hesitate about going 10.000km away from communication is very different from the my home because I knew that it would be the right Malay one. In Germany people are direct and choice, even though not everything is as easy as tell their honest opinion even if they might hurt someone’s feelings but being forthright one might wish. is important to prevent any misunderstanding.



friendl mates, school underst becau in Mal one, m im

owns after Malaysia

Malaysia people practice indirect n because of their concept of respect and

es aside, I experienced things here that have had the chance of experiencing untry. The most memorable so far was t festive exchange where I lived for one ndian family to celebrate ‘Deepavali’. amazing and in that one week I got so mily that I really miss them now.

I won the Best Dress Award during Merdeka Raya Celebration at school

ourage German students to choose eir exchange year? I remain neutral on share with them my experiences here, bad. In the final analysis, they will have wn decision.

Due to my really ly principal and my I had a lot of fun in l, despite I couldn’t tand a word at first use everything was lay. Therefore later my Bahasa Melayu mproved a lot.”

Having fun with my schoolmates

With my one-week Indian family where I celebrated ‘Deepavali’


Malaysia Moments Fabian Schiffer:


have very mixed emotions about my experience in Malaysia. My life here has been a constant challenge but I´m so proud to say that I made it. I had some hard moments where I did not know what to do and how to react but I had so many good reasons to stay strong and hold on. My community project is and was amazing and I´m so thankful to those who hosted me. The children in my Project helped me to stay strong and we could share many happy moments together. Being a mini ambassador of Germany wasn´t that easy because my country is famous all over the world, sometimes for the wrong reasons, and there are many prejudices about Germany. I hope I have managed to clear up a few of these prejudices. I can say now I know that Germany is totally different from Malaysia, and I´ve had my up´s and down´s since I arrived here in February. I think one of the biggest differences was the food. For example, before I came to Malaysia I didn´t like spicy food but now I can say that I practically love spicy food! Malaysia has changed my food habits in every way. There are so many different types of food in Malaysia, from every culture, Chinese, Indian and Malay. You can find Western Food in some places but it is usually not as good as the local food here. The best part of my year was the work with the children in the orphanage I worked in, I think I did my best as a friend for the children as well as being a “warden” and to keep an eye on them so that nothing bad happens. As I said before, my job working with children helped me get through this sometimes difficult year. I think Malaysia has changed my life completely, turning my world and myself upside down, more than any other experience would have done. I´m really thankful to everyone who helped me during this year: my friends, my project, the AFS volunteers and staff.


A Constant Challenge

Above: Visiting a Chinese cemetery area with AFS Volunteers

Below: Joining his host family in visiting relatives during Hari Raya Aidilfitri

Above: Fabian was named Best Participant for SH15

Left: A group photo with batchmates during SH15 Farewell Dinner


School Spotlight

SMK Hosba:

“To Travel is to Live” C

an you please introduce yourself and share with us how your affiliation with AFS Malaysia began? My name is Nor Azira Aziz, and I am currently teaching in SMK Hosba, Kedah. I hosted Jinta Tanimura from Japan in 2015. I started to know about AFS through a friend who was then helping another friend look for a host family. It was the end of 2014 when I got a call from Puan Rohaya. She was desperately looking for volunteers to become a host family for a Japanese boy. I agreed to ‘help’ and thus began my journey with AFS.

in English and showed interest in Activities that your school does knowing more about Jinta and his related to intercultural learning? We thought having an international country. student would bring many Every part of the school Jinta went problems to the school and the to, there were always students who host family especially. However, were trying to have a conversation our first experience was awesome. with him. It was so funny to see We managed to minimize the gap the students attempting to speak in (language) and treated him as part English when all the while English of the family. He also fitted in well Language was the most hated with the community and made friends easily at school. subject among some of them.

Some of the students even consulted the teachers to help them translate sentences or questions to be used with Jinta. But after a few months, things started to change. Jinta began to understand Bahasa Initially we planned to only become Malaysia and he even spoke using a temporary host family for Jinta. I a Kedah slang. was sure Puan Rohaya would be able to find another family for him. Intercultural wise, we saw that But somehow or other, I began to the students were more interested love hosting a ‘stranger’ that we in knowing about Jinta’s culture decided to ‘keep’ him for the year! rather than the other way around. They seemed to compare their How do AFS programs impact way of living with Jinta’s. Their your school from an intercultural knowledge about Japanese culture learning perspective? was so limited to only what they Jinta was the centre of attention saw on TV (Doraemon, Crayon in school when he arrived. It is a Shin Chan) until they had the rural school so, having a foreigner real-life ‘Nobita’ right in front of around was really a big deal for their eyes to give them a first hand the students. They started to speak account of life in Japan.


In your vision as an educator, can AFS play a big role in shaping education for the 21st century? AFS is like a passport for the students to travel and learn about culture. This is vital in shaping education for the 21st century as learning should not only be done at a specific place during a specific time. Experience is the best teacher and going on adventures are the best way to learn. This includes living with strangers and trying to adapt to an alien culture. Hans Christian Andersen said, “To travel is to live”. When you travel, you will experience all sorts of things you can never imagine. Thus it gives power, love and fulfillment back to your life.

“the first experience

was awesome for us. We managed to minimize the gap (language) and treated him as part of the family. He fitted in well with the other students too.” Puan Nor Azira, The school entrance

Teacher of SMK Hosba/ AFS Host mother

At a class group presentation

Jinta with his friends during the school’s sports day

Jinta also fitted in well with the community and was popular at school


Returnee Reflections

My Journey in

JAPAN By: Fui Ting


onnichiwa, I am Fui Ting and I joined AFS one-year exchange program to Japan three years ago. I can still recall how extremely nervous yet excited I was as I began a new chapter in my life. Being together with my host family was definitely one of my favorite moments in my exchange year. Even though everyone in the family was very busy, they would always spend some time with me. My host parents also treated me as their own child and gave me unconditional love. I am very grateful to be a part of the family. During my stay in Japan, public baths were also one of my favorites. Can you imagine taking a bath with people you don’t know at all? You may feel uncomfortable at first but you will definitely love it! Not to mention that Japanese cuisine is also the best! Everything was so delicious especially the Obento my host mum made for me every day and as a result, I gained so much weight in Japan. But seriously, it was worth it. Other than that, joining a Japanese Archery club was also something new and memorable for me. At first I could hardly balance the bow as it was about 50cm taller than me! After a few months of practice, I finally managed to play it better. I also liked the fact that we had to wear Hakama while playing Japanese Archery.


Of course, there were also some bad times for me. For the first few months in Japan, my learning pace was so slow compared to my other friends who were also in Japan. In school, I could barely speak well in Japanese and that made me have some difficulties in making new friends in the beginning. My family, classmates and teachers, however, tried their best to teach me their language and after three months, I suddenly realized that I could almost understand all the things my friends were talking about in Japanese! I would say the last month of my exchange program was the hardest month for me. I couldn’t wait to meet everyone back home in Malaysia but at the same time it was really hard to say goodbye to everyone and everything in Japan. It was after three years of leaving my host country that I finally had the chance to meet my host family again – they came to visit me here! It was only a 5-day-4-night trip but I enjoyed spending time with them so much. The bond between us became stronger and it was really wonderful seeing the whole family again. I am not sure when we will meet again but yes, we will keep in touch and won’t break the bond. Thank you AFS for allowing me to meet these awesome people and making my life more colorful!

We wore Hakama during Japanese Arch

My beloved Japanese family

Oishii Obento made by my host mum


Reunion in Malaysia with my host family after three years apart


Alumni in Action Toasting the old year,

ushering in the new with a Year-End Bash


hat better way to end the year and welcome the new than with a year-end BBQ party at poolside with an amazing view of the evening sunset! The party at PJ8 Suites kicked off in the late afternoon. Returnees from different backgrounds, exchange year and experiences got together, albeit hesitantly at first because they didn’t know each other well enough yet but by the time the evening progressed, everyone was treating each other like a best friend.

Alumni President, Kevin and his enthusiastic team were on hand to receive guests

Drinks and long chats by the poolside

Besides the BBQ menu, the AFS tradition of celebrating parties the potluck way was also evident when everyone brought different types of food including satay, fried chicken, mee and even pizza, truly living up to the adage that variety is the spice of life. The barbeque station was set up by several members of the AFS Returnee Alumni committee who had everyone in stitches when they could not light up the fire despite trying for quite some time! Finally though, the pit was ready and grilling began in earnest with committee members taking turns at grilling duty. Guests also were required to bring a gift for a Secret Santa segment where a gift exchange was conducted. However, in order to receive a gift, everyone had to first take part in a charade game which resulted in a lot of fun and laughter. By: Fadhli bin Hj Ahmad (Gee) Returnee JENESYS 2011


Focusing on preparing the food...

Kevin grills sausages to be served to guests

Still early but the gifts for the gift exchange session were already coming in slowly but surely...


Travel Tales - Domestic

Bukit Tinggi A Refreshing Retreat


ocated in the Bentong district of Pahang, approximately 48 km away from Kuala Lumpur, and easily accessible from Karak Highway via a 45 minute-drive by car, lies a beautiful and peaceful highland retreat known as Bukit Tinggi.

is modelled after the 16th Century Colmar Village in Alsace, France and has retained the authenticity and European feel of its counterpart. You can submerge yourself in the French countryside ambience here as its beautiful architecture and furnishings hark to the days of yore.

There are three main attractions that beckon visitors to the cool heights. They are the Rabbit Farm, Japanese For the children, a Rabbit Park where white fluffy Village and the piece de resistance, Colmar Tropicale. rabbits are allowed to roam free is a favourite attraction. Visitors are encouraged to cuddle them, Colmar Tropicale is a unique French-themed attraction feed them and give them some tender loving care! at Bukit Tinggi Resort. The first of its kind in Malaysia, it



The main attraction at the Japanese Tea Garden is the photography opportunity where you can rent a traditional Japanese Kimono and take pictures with a Japanese styled little hut as your backdrop. The setting is so realistic that you can get away with telling your friends that you’ve been to Japan and have the pictures to prove it!

Colmar Tropicale - Berjaya Hills Bukit Tinggi, Pahang

Relish in centuries old Alsace charm at this French-themed resort, nestled at 2,700 feet above sea-level amidst 80 acres of rainforests

An entrance fee of RM10 nett per adult and/or RM8 nett per child (4-12 years old) is chargeable to enter the Colmar Tropicale, Japanese Village and Botanical Garden. Entrance fee of RM3 nett per adult and/or RM3 nett per child (4-12 years old) is chargeable at Rabbit Park.


Travel Tales - Domestic

Left: A tea house in the tranquil settings of the Japanese gardens

Guests can choose to participate in sessions daily) where one can lear Japanese culture or rent a kimono


Left: A mock medieval French village and picturesque surroundings bring you back to an era steeped in culture and romance

Right: Healthy feng-shui koi fish. A must at any Japanese Garden

n a Tea Ceremony (four rn a little more about for a picture session

Children are encouraged to pat and feed the animals in the petting zoo area

A pair of lovely swans greet visitors in the pond at Colmar Tropicale


Travel Tales - International

Unmasking L


a Serenissima (“the most serene one”), as Venice is known, is anything but. Celebrated for its art and architecture, the city’s economy is largely based on tourism with an average of 60,000 tourists a day that overwhelms the local populace. Thomas Mann had called it “half fairy tale and half tourist trap.”

completed in the early 15th century, though portions of it were rebuilt after a fire in 1574.Gold leaf carefully placed on handmade scented candles. The majority of the city’s traffic cruises up and down the Grand Canal, an ancient waterway lined with buildings - about 170 in all - that were mostly built from the 13th to the 18th centuries. Most were constructed by wealthy Venetian families. Foot Venice is built on an archipelago of 118 islands traffic gathers around three famous bridges that formed by 177 canals, connected by 409 bridges. In cross the canal: the Rialto Bridge, the Ponte Degli the old centre, the canals serve the function of roads, Scalzi, and the Ponte dell’Accademia. and transportation within the city remains (as it was in centuries past) entirely on water or on foot. The famous Bridge of Sighs was intended to connect the Old Prison and interrogation rooms in Venice is Europe’s largest urban car-free area. In the Doge’s Palace to the New Prison, which was fact, the sound of Venice is the absence of the sound situated directly across the river. There are a few of cars! The San Marco Basin—where a flotilla theories as to how the bridge got its name. The of speedboats, gondolas, and water-buses ply the first one involves the prisoners who would “sigh” waterways daily—and beyond to the Piazza San as they crossed the bridge, probably catching their Marco, is the epicenter of Venetian tourism. The last glimpse of the outside world. Another story says city is like a huge theater and the annual Carnival of that if a couple kisses under the bridge while drifting Venice only serves to heighten the drama. below on a gondola at sunset, they will enjoy eternal love. Thus, the “sighs” are said to come from lovers Tourists usually flock to the largest square in the city who are overwhelmed by the romance of the whole and the only one given the designation of “piazza”, scene.This romantic view was created by the Poet St. Mark’s Square. The centerpiece of the piazza Lord Byron with his writings: “I stood in Venice is the magnificent St. Mark’s Basilica, built in on the Bridge of Sighs, a palace and prison on each Venetian-Byzantine style, a mixture of western and hand”. eastern styles. Nicknamed the “Church of Gold” because of its opulence, it has been the seat of the However, a visit to Venice would not be complete Patriarch of Venice since 1807. without having your photograph taken at the most The other dominant building around St. Mark’s photographed bridge in Venice, the Rialto Bridge, Square is the Doge’s Palace. A beautiful gothic opened in 1591. For nearly three hundred years, it structure, it faces the Venetian lagoon and was was the only way to cross the Grand Canal on foot.


Visitors enjoy a leisurely gondola ride along narrow backstreet canals


Travel Tales - International

Above: The Ponte di Rialto is the oldest bridge spanning the Grand Canal Below: Creatively arranged fresh chillis at the bustling Rialto market


Burano is Venice’ most famous island, known for its lace and colorful buildings

Venetian arts and crafts tempt visitors to take home a piece of Venice

A centuries-old tradition, Venetian masks gained prominence through the Carnival of Venice


Life Quotes AFSers, whether Board Members, Staff, Returnees or Volunteers, share quotes that they live by.



Around the World of AFS JANUARY 2016

Peace Loving Youth Assembly Universal Peace Federation of Malaysia

A historical gathering of 2000 youth and leaders from various universities, colleges and high schools throughout the nation as well as international youth from around the world to stand for peace and purity. Date: January 23, 2016 Venue: Dewan Sultan Iskandar, UiTM JB

Kembara Borneo 2016 Global Peace Mission (GPM) Malaysia

Charity organized by GPM collaboration with ABIM and Yayasan Sabah. Volunteers will visit some rural areas of Sabah and Brunei. With the mission of helping those in need in terms of food, stationery, social service, education and programs with the orphans. Date: January 14 – 22, 2016 Venue: Kota Kinabalu, Kundasang, Tawau, Semporna, Ranau, Brunei AFS MALAYSIA EVENT

VSjnSH16 - DEN Pre departure Orientation A one day event prepared for the students on Very Short Program to Denmark. Date: January 5, 2016 Time: 8:30a.m – 6:00pm Venue: Level 4, Crystal Crown, PJ

YPysNH15 (YES) & YPscNH15 - Mid Year Camp

3 days 2 nights of camp for Year Program NH15 students Date: January 6, 2016 – January 8, 2016 Venue: Impian Rimba Resort, Hulu Langat

YPscSH16 & SMscSH16 (Year & Semester) Predeparture Orientation 3 days 2 nights event orientation before the students depart to South Hemisphere. Date: January 8, 2016 – January 10, 2016 Venue: Best Western, I-City, Shah Alam

SMysSH16 (YES) Pre Departure Orientation 4 days 3 nights students orientation before they depart. Date: January 22, 2016 – January 25, 2016 Venue: Best Western, I-City, Shah Alam FEBRUARY 2016

AFSMAS Roadshow

Roadshow by AFS staffs/volunteers to visit schools/states and encourage young Malaysians to join AFS exchange programs. Date: February 1, 2016 – February Venue: Schools/AFS chapters around Malaysia

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