Budaya Beat November - December 2017

Page 1




VC2017 Theme:

Rise as One I

n her opening address to delegates of Volunteer Congress 2017, the Chairperson of AFS Malaysia called upon volunteers to work towards One AFS in an environment of true partnership with shared responsibility and accountability in the delivery and support of the AFS mission and programs. Khalilah Dato Mohd Talha urged volunteers to not work in silos but to always rely upon each other in a healthy environment that provides support, guidance, advise and shared best practices.

“AFS’s most valuable asset is arguably its worldwide network of volunteers. Over more than 100 years the AFS network has become one of the largest volunteer based organizations of its kind in the world spanning more than 55 countries,” she said. “Volunteerism is deeply embedded in the history and roots of our organization going back to the “volunteer” ambulance drivers who comprised the original American Field Service. Those original volunteers founded AFS Intercultural Programs on the belief that by promoting the

Delegates listening intently during the session


Those original volunteers founded AFS Intercultural Programs on the belief that by promoting the exchange of high school students between local communities in the U.S and local communities in other countries, they could foster a worldwide culture of cooperation and understanding among peoples and nations,” Khalilah Talha

AFSMAS Chairperson

exchange of high school students between local communities in the U.S and local communities in other countries, they could foster a worldwide culture of cooperation and understanding among peoples and nations,” she added. “They also believed that local community volunteers were key to accomplishing this mission. From the very beginning, volunteers have been the heart and soul of the AFS experience - recruiting, preparing, and supporting our program participants, host families, and natural families while promoting intercultural understanding in their communities and around the world. The passion and dedication our volunteers bring to our programs has a tremendous impact on the experience of our participants and on how our mission and our organization are perceived in the local communities and in the schools in which we work. We do not believe that our organization could have the reach or the overall impact we currently have without our volunteer network.”

Delegates registering for VC2017

Delegates trying to build a 2D star using only 30 popsicle sticks in a teambuilding session

Khalilah added that moving forward, AFS Malaysia will continue to be committed to the promotion of volunteerism and to its vision of supporting a volunteer force that represents the rich diversity and culture of Malaysia.

Karmen Lee, Founder of TeenEdge giving her motivational speech to inspire participants to ‘rise as one’



Brainstorming For 60th Anniversary Events


C2017 participants were invited to present their ideas for AFS Malaysia’s 60th anniversary celebrations as part of the Congress program and they pursued the task with much relish and enthusiasm. They were divided into four groups under different categories, each focussing on aspects of planning, organising and implementation. The selected categories were Promotions & Visibility, Fund-raising, Anniversary Activities and Special Projects. The groups worked long into the night and presented their proposals on the last day of the Congress. AFS Malaysia Chair Khalilah Talha promised that all proposals will be duly considered at board and national office levels and the noteworthy ones may be implemented for the celebrations in 2018.

Groups discussing their ideas for 60th anniversary celebrations under four categories of Visibility, Fundraising, Activities and Special Projects


Volunteer Congress 2017 Dream Team! The VC is traditionally an event for volunteers, of volunteers and by volunteers so it is not surprising that the people behind the scenes are also volunteers! The AFS Malaysia Volunteer Congress 2017 Committee that put together the entire event from start to finish were a team of 10 returnees ably guidedand supported by Annie Yap, Jasmin Melan and Liyana Johan from the National Office. The 10 returnees are members of both the YES Alumni and AFS Malaysia Returnee Alumni. The roll call of enthusiastic and creative returnees are as follows: Amirah Sukurdin(YES Program 2011) – Head of Committee who oversaw all sub-units Ranjanidevi Kannan (IP Italy 2014/15) – Deputy Head / VC Appreciation Dinner Ana NajiaSharin(YES Program 2013) –VC Appreciation Dinner Brandon Lau Kah Ho (YES Program 2015) - Secretary FarizHizaryAnuar(YES Program 2015) –Merchandise / Event emcee SharmanaanKarunakaran(YES Program 2009) – Merchandise Mika Low Quan Wei (YP Switzerland 2015/16) – Itinerary / Cultural Race Karen Tang (YES Program 2014) – Itinerary / Cultural Race Yong Huey Leng(YES Program 2014) – Logistics / Cultural Race Shafuan Abu Bakar (YES Program 2012) – Logistics / Cultural Race Kudos to the team who have set a high bar for others to follow!



Race As One AFS Amazing Cultural Race promotes greater understanding between generations


olunteers of various age groups came together to take part in a Cultural Race fashioned after The Amazing Race during the Volunteer Congress 2017. True to the theme of VC17, Rise As One, participants were divided into teams of four consisting of volunteers of different age groups. This is to allow team members to get to know each other despite the wide age gap, and learn from each other. The cultural race was infused with some elements of the AFS student learning journey such as creative thinking, communication skills, knowledge and awareness, and intercultural effectiveness. Participants had to work together to crack riddles and find answers to cryptic questions in travel cards, detours and checkpoints. The

Participants gearing up for the race! 8

race took participants around Kuala Lumpur city centre using the LRT and MRT with Prasarana Malaysia sponsoringMyRapid cards for the cultural race.

One of the challenges required teams to sing ‘NegaraKu’ in front of the giant flagpole at Merdeka Square

Cracking their heads to find the answer to the clues that involved riddles, GPS coordinates and even rhymes!

Teams were a mix of young and older volunteers to work on their teamwork and cultural knowledge 9



Sharing Through Ted Talks

mulating the successful and insightful TED Talks, the VC2017 Team lined up speakers to share their experiences and linking it to the Congress theme of “Rise as One”. Pahang chapter stalwart, Wong Choo Ching spoke about how satisfying and fulfilling she found volunteerism. “We must rise as one. Nobody can work alone, so we must always rely on others who can help. We all have failures, but we must rise above it. And never be

arrogant,” she reminded the audience. YES2013 returnee Swee Lyn said everyone has their own leadership style but must work as one because we have a higher purpose, which is to create a just and peaceful world. “We must create a safe space to rise as one. We must be able to share our message without being mocked for it.” She added that perception towards mistakes must change. “We must talk and reflect on those mistakes as part of a

learning journey to make us grow. Only then can we move forward together. Hence the importance of nurturing an environment where we can thrive and succeed and make mistakes.” Pahang Chapter volunteer and returnee from Italy, Sharizwan who works in production and the performing arts, shared how the number 4 is important in getting things done. “In any project, the top rung should ideally be four persons to ensure accuracy

Madam Wong Choo Ching from Pahang Chapter sharing her experiences and advice to the participants 10

of message and direction. Number two, two-way communication is essential to create an environment where everyone can talk, share ideas and express opinions. Number three, be willing to listen with the intention of understanding, not rebutting. Number four, have a goal so you know where you are headed.” Sharizwan also advised that selfishness and personal agendas must be thrown out to create trust and camaraderie among teams. AFS Malaysia Returnee Alumni president Sudha Ashvinder also shared her progress from being a timid, reserved person to one who is now in charge. “Stepping out of one’s comfort zone makes one grow and the AFS experience in Italy has helped me do just that,” she said. “We must all rise as one on this journey we are on together. We must be on the same page, otherwise we cannot finish the book,” she surmised. President Penang Chapter Datin Teo Hwee Ai is also a returnee from the Educator Exchange Programme 2007. She emphasised that working together is crucial. “Chapters are the first contact participants and other stakeholders have about AFS, hence we must live up to the name and reputation of AFS. Everyone must play their respective roles efficiently and always treat each other with respect and empathy,” she concluded.

Sharizwan focusing on the importance of communicating in a team

As one of the youngest chapter leaders, Sudha opened up to her audience on how the AFS experience has changed her personality in a positive way

Datin Teo Hwee Ai, sharing the best practices of Penang Chapter with delegates



VC2017: Best Chapter Awards

WORDS FROM THE WINNERS The recent Volunteer Congress 2017 saw Penang, Kedah and Johor emerging as the top three chapters of the year, with Team Penang triumphant as the Best Chapter. Budaya Beat spoke to all three chapters on their winning formula:

Champion: Penang

Interview with Datin Noorliza Leow (Vice President) TEAMWORK, with everyone being clear on their individual roles and responsibilities, is important. Everyone needs to work together towards the same goal that supports the mission & vision of AFS. This award belongs to the Penang Chapter AFS Family – the committee members, volunteers, Host families, Host schools, CPOs and the exchange participants. Of course, a strong team needs a strong leader in the form of our President, Datin Teo Hwee Ai, 12

who dares to ‘speak up’ for the good of the Chapter and AFS. We are proud and honored to win “Best Chapter” for the second time since our inception in 2009. It is a recognition and reward for Chapter volunteers as all our hard work has paid off. With the reward money, we look forward to a Chapter retreat to refresh and rejuvenate. We will continue to have a Chapter structure of diversified

age, group, gender, racial mix and abilities. This is essential as experienced committee members can organize official events and leverage on networks and connections for support, energetic returnees can run youth activities and be LPs for exchange students and this lays the foundation for succession planning. Penang Chapter holds regular structured meetings, more than five times a year and decision making is with general consensus.

1st Runner Up: Kedah

Interview with Rohaya Md Yusoff (Chapter President) I don’t think we have a winning formula. We just try to follow the KPI set by NO as best we can. I would like to thank our volunteer, Hazar, especially for his tireless effort and commitment in keeping the chapter going. He’s my side kick, I would say. He’s also the official Kedah Chapter chauffeur, driving the students and CPs around. He’s always in the background, never wants to be in the limelight, happy that way apparently. He refers to himself as a ‘AFS husband’. Of course, he is also my dear husband, without whom I find it difficult to move around to get AFS work going. So, I am especially thankful to him. I’m humbled by the win because I feel National Office appreciated our work regardless of how

2nd Runner Up: Johor Interview with Irene Leong (Chapter President) & Tan Bee Lian (Vice President)

small we are and how inconspicuous we are compared to other chapters. We should have less complaints. There are times when I feel let down by volunteers’ inability to help when help is needed the most, I just keep going, no complaints. The most important thing is to get the work done, no matter who does it. Enjoy volunteering.

Bee Lian: Frankly, I don’t think we have any special recipe. As we are very new in managing this chapter, we just do as per the NO’s guide & instruction. Making sure all reports are submitted accurately and on time by the respective personnel in charge. Organize all activities as required to qualify for the monthly subsidies, conduct all the required sessions for all the intakes as instructed. Irene: I would like to thank and appreciate NO staff who have given us fantastic support especially Annie, Zainal and all Chapter Presidents who provided me advice and guidance. They are my 911 rescue team, they have been very patient with me. In my AFS journey I have always been a normal volunteer, never handled a Chapter. It is a challenge for me and my team to figure out how to manage a Chapter. However, all our volunteers are very positive and can really make things happen. A big THANK to all of them. 13


New Network Strategy Unveiled “Beyond being relevant, how can we make AFS ‘Best in Class’ in what we do to stay ahead of the curve in a radically transformed world.” -Don MohanlalAFS International Board of Trustee


or more than 100 years AFS has been a bold idea with a courageous mission. However, AFS stopped growing after 60 years of growth, and is now facing challenges in a competitive world. To address this, AFS asked its network this question: “What would it take for AFS to broaden our reach, deepen our impact?” Some 1,700 AFSers responded and based on these inputs, a new AFS Network Strategy was developed and launched at the Partner Network Meeting in Accra recently. The Strategy offers 21st century solutions to 21st century problems which aims to deliver three mission driven impact goals: • Develop Active Global Citizens: develop responsible citizens of all ages through

intercultural learning to take action in their communities and the world. •Globalize Schools and Institutions: support and equip educators, schools, institutions and other organizations in delivering effective intercultural learning programs that build global competence. • Expand Access to Intercultural Education: ensure that more people from diverse and underserved communities participate in and benefit from AFS programs and initiatives by providing scholarships and expanding community outreach. “The AFS Network Strategy strives to achieve our mission and guide all actions, projects and initiatives of AFS worldwide by focusing on the three impact goals,” said AFS International President Daniel Obst at the network strategy session. “As a leading international education organization, AFS is committed to developing active global citizens, globalizes schools and institutions, and expands access to intercultural education in order to build a more just and peaceful world,” he added.

AFS International President Daniel Obst unveiling the new network strategy at the Partner Network Meeting 2017


AFSMAS to Be Sentio Member

we hope to attract more participants to Malaysia as well as send Malaysians abroad for such a lifechanging experience,” said Khalilah.

Sentio offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities in sectors ranging from After insightful discussions with education, public health, Sentio Inc, Malaysia may soon environment, transportation, join the AFS Sentio network engineering, marketing, to provide wider intercultural fashion and more. “We have learning opportunities for adults. programs in well over 25 countries with a variety of Bert Vercamer, Sentio’s durations—volunteer a week, general manager, met with a month, or a whole year,” AFS Malaysia’s Khalilah Talha said Vercamer. and Atty Sulaiman in a P2P “We offer international breakfast session to clarify internship placements, further about the merits of the bringing together our Sentio program. Sentio is a global networks, expertise, not-for-profit global education and years in the field, with network that was created in high quality internship 2014 as a subsidiary of AFS providers. Programs in Intercultural Programs to various locations globally are develop a global network of designed to increase skills member organizations to further in your professional field promote the AFS mission and while growing intercultural provide intercultural learning competencies. Through opportunities for adults. continuous training and coaching, our programs Designed to support learners will guide learners through participating in an international a unique experience that experience, Sentio’s Global Competence Certificate builds their global competence; the knowledge, skills, and understanding needed to create a more just and peaceful world. The content, now available in 7 languages, is designed to meet key educational goals that help learners develop intercultural competence and deal with cultural adjustment. “Volunteering internationally is not just about “giving back” but is an exceptional opportunity for personal growth. As such,

will make them stand out to employers,” Vercamer added. Combining on-the-job experiential learning, cultural immersion, and structured reflection, interns will gain the intercultural communication skills and awareness to help them succeed at work and in an increasingly globalized world. “With the challenges we are facing in our high school programs, the Sentio option would be a great addition to AFS Malaysia’s intercultural learning offerings as it can help our organisation to grow and develop further,” said National Director Atty. “We are currently not a member of Sentio, but have been in negotiations on coming onboard in 2018. As a start, we will be signing a Licencing Agreement on the Global Competency Certificate as the first step to becoming a Sentio member,” added Atty.

Bert Vercamer explaining the intricacies of Sentio to AFS Malaysia at a P2P session



Declaration of Accra For Affirmative Action


he AFS Declaration of Accra was presented at the October 2017 AFS Network Meeting in Ghana and signed by more than 120 AFS leaders at this historic event. At the Volunteer Congress 2017 in Kuala Lumpur recently, more signatories added their signature as active global citizens committed to advancing the AFS mission which is to foster greater intercultural understanding to create a more just and peaceful world. The goal of the Declaration is to help Chapter leaders take turns to read the Accra Declaration the world learn to live together. AFS will make a greater impact on the world by activating the AFS community of global citizens. AFSers in more than 100 countries already help drive our mission to advance intercultural understanding at work, at school and in their daily lives. The new Network Strategy offers more concrete ways that AFS Network Organizations, AFS volunteers, alumni, host families, and participants can contribute to these efforts through our programs, school activities, public forums and community outreach. The AFS Declaration of Accra recognizes the great need to step up AFS’s commitment to promote intercultural understanding through our study abroad

AFS Malaysia’s first Gallatti award winner and Perlis Chapter Adviser, Siti Khadijah Hassan, signing the declaration

Line-up of AFS leaders from all over the world who were the first to sign the peace declaration in Accra


programs, volunteerism, public forums, partnerships and learning journeys. By signing the Declaration, you are voicing public support to our “learning-to-live-together” agenda. By signing the AFS Declaration of Accra, the AFS community will participate in an important milestone for our 103-year-old organization. Our new AFS Network Strategy encourages all of us to be more purposeful in our actions, and so the Declaration is a public pledge to achieve our three mission-driven impact goals: 1) Develop active global citizens 2) Globalize schools and institutions 3) Expand access to intercultural education. Once thousands of signatures from AFSers around the world are collected, AFS will take the Declaration public so we can work together and empower others to support our impact goals. The Declaration will encourage others to pledge their resources to further the “learn-to-live-together” movement and address the pressing challenges facing our communities and our world today. Sign the Declaration at https://afs.org/declaration-of-accra/#afs-nav-about-the-declaration , share it across your social media, and e-mail it to AFSers around the world.

PNM delegates signing the declaration in an affirmative action for the “learn to live together” movement



PNM2017 celebrates AFS Ghana’s 50th Anniversary


he Partner Network Meeting in Accra this year marked the first AFS global event held on African soil and delegates from 60 national AFS organisations took part in AFS Ghana’s 50th anniversary celebrations as part of the PNM program. The Welcome reception set the stage with traditional dancers welcoming VIP guests and a choir later entertaining the delegates. An eminent politician and corporate leader Papa Kwesi Nduom was the guest of honour as he is also an

AFS returnee to Minnesota. He applauded AFS Ghana on reaching its 50th year of operations. “Your steadfast commitment to cross-cultural understanding is an example for the world,” he commended. Team AFS Africa also held a night of fun and fashion where partner chairs and partner directors from the five African countries of Ghana, South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia and Kenya sashayed down the runway in their traditional best.

Team AFS Africa showed off their traditional best in a fashion parade


At a Gala Dinner on the last day of PNM2017, delegates saw local volunteers and supporters being honoured with awards for their commitment to AFS Ghana. American ambassador H.E. Robert P.Jackson complimented Team AFS Ghana on its 50th year anniversary and the important work they continue to do toward a more just and peaceful world. “It is our privilege to partner with you, and we thank you for your tireless efforts to prepare the next generation of global citizens — a generation filled with confidence, optimism, and the belief that, together, we can accomplish anything,� he added.

Volunteers were recognised with awards from AFS Ghana at the Gala Dinner

Fresh coconut water served straight from the fibrous husk was a hit with delegates

Line-up of delegates from Malaysia, Slovenia, Argentina, Indonesia and Japan 19


Bangi Chapter:

New But Not Born Yesterday By: Zainuddin Hamzah


angi Chapter is a revived chapter located in Daerah Hulu Langat which consists of small towns like Kajang, Semenyih, Serdang Bangi and neighbouring with Putrajaya, Cyberjaya, Sepang. Our involvement with AFS began back in 2012, thanks to Kelantan Chapter president Puan Anisah and Previous Bangi Chapter

President, Madam Badarny for introducing us to this community. We started volunteering by hosting students, then after a few years, were approached by National Office to restart the Bangi Chapter. We took two years to make this decision but after meeting with Puan Rohaya (Kedah Chapter) and Madam Susie (Damansara Chapter), and with their continued support and guidance, we finally agreed.

Together with hosted participants to cheer on our national contingent 20

We have learnt a lot from their experiences. So far, our activities are only targeted on the students. We had outings for them to learn and be part of history during Independence Day celebrations at Merdeka Square and opening night of the SEA Games. We also organised a Weekend Adventure Gateway where we brought students to experience cave exploring

and river sports. As the newest chapter on the block, our biggest challenge is finding volunteers for chapter activities and Volunteers as host families because folks around here still do not know of the existence of such programs or that they can also participate in one way or another.

Our chapter is very new. We are approaching our 1st anniversary and happily, people in the community are starting to recognise us, I speak a lot about AFS informally when meeting with local communities, during kenduri time, at community events, weddings and such. I try to make the community aware of AFS and programs that we have.

We get teachers to be involved in introducing volunteering opportunities among students and parents and we can foresee in the next two to three years, people in this community will recognise and trust us and start to volunteer. When students are placed with host families and local schools, that present intercultural opportunities.

Keeping them occupied through sports and adventure activities


We are a multicultural country, so the students who choose to come here will be exposed to a multicultural experience through daily interaction with friends in school and local communities. The school usually will have a traditional dance club where students can participate and learn local dances and culture. They also get to experience local festivals like Hari Raya, Deepavali and Chinese New Year when they are placed for a few days in

families who celebrate those festivals. I believe if these students eat different foods every day for the rest of their program, they will still not cover everything as we not only have Malay, Chinese and Indian food but also different dishes and cooking techniques from the various states in Malaysia and it is all available here in Klang Valley where our chapter is in. Another advantage of being a chapter in Klang Valley is that we are near

A newbie chapter but full of enthusiasm and drive! 22

to everything... cities, countryside, hills and beaches. There’s always something new to discover. Students just have to come with an open mind and take the opportunity to mix with school friends and get involved in community activities. As a new chapter, we are considering a year to year perspective. Next year we are planning to visit a few new schools in our Chapter to introduce our programs to

Learning about culture through dance and friends at school and the local community

students and teachers and build a good rapport with the School principal and Counsellor, plan activities that not only revolve around students but also involve communities, and at least one activity with host families in this area. We see that as very important at this stage to make our chapter visible and relevant.





From Germany To Penang With Love By: Alena Pyka


always knew that I wanted to go abroad for one year after finishing high school in my home town of Munich, Germany. So I started thinking about a few possibilities. One option was doing “work and travel” in Australia. But I was not completely convinced because of the insecurity you might have: no job, not earning money but losing a lot of money instead! At the same time, I was always curious about Southeast Asia so when my my mother suggested doing voluntary service, I was hooked on the idea. I found out about AFS and applied for it with my preference countries: Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand. I really wanted to go to an Asian country, but I actually didn’t know a lot about Malaysia. But I fell in love with the fact that I could get to know THREE different cultures in one place. And in the end, I got chosen for Malaysia and I think it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I am currently working at the St. Nicholas Home in Penang and this is also where I stay. It is a home for blind people and consists of a wellness centre, Information Technology courses, a pastry facility, a senior citizens home, a school called DBMH (deaf blind multi handicapped) and a kindergarten where I am placed. Now, we are teaching five children, two of whom are blind. One boy is visually impaired, one girl is also visually impaired and has cerebral palsy while another girl is deaf-blind, therefore also a mute. I was not looking to work with children, but I am now so grateful for this challenge. It was a tough task for me at first, but after a while I got to know them better and understood how to handle them properly. Now I enjoy working with them.


The most challenging thing is patience! Children learn about 80% through vision, which means all of them are slow to learn and you must repeat everything a hundred times until they can remember it. When I first arrived, they didn’t even know how to count to three and couldn’t sing the alphabet song. Also, the girl with

CP couldn’t lift herself up, or walk on her own. Fast forward to eight months later and they can already count to twenty and sing along to the ABC song. The girl with CP can lift herself up and can even walk a few meters! This is why I wanted to volunteer – to see a change! And it makes me so happy to see how we can help them to have a more independent life and that they are learning day by day. It may not seem like a big improvement, but as the

proverb goes: a journey of a million miles begins with a single step. What I like most about Malaysia is the cultural variety. The three most common religions in Malaysia are Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. Hence by being here, we get an insight into every culture. Penang is known for its large Chinese population, so I had a real insight of Malay culture when I stayed with a Malay host family for Hari Raya Aidilfitri. This was the real

kampung experience and they showered me with so much hospitality which I am most grateful for. I can only speak for myself and about Penang, but I would recommend AFS participants to choose Malaysia as an option for their gap year. Penang is the all-round package: the three different lifestyles, awesome nature, proximity to a city centre but also the countryside, friendly people and of course the good food!

Left: Visiting and giving donations to the sick, elderly and less privileged Left below: With colleagues and children at the St Nicholas Home Below: Helping a child with low vision on how to use a cane



Discovering Oneself Through the AFS Experience by: Noorazzalea Gazali


ola, mi nombre es Noorazzalea Gazali. Tengo 19 aĂąos de edad y estuve once meses compartiendo y aprendiendo de cultura en Argentina. Now let me translate, hello my name is Noorazzalea Gazali. I am 19 years old and I went to Argentina to learn and share their culture for 11 months in the Year Program of AFS. My first introduction was in Spanish which was the language that they speak there. I was placed in a small town called Rio Tercero in a

With my host family 28

province named Cordoba. My biggest challenge was to explain my religion to people who only know of it from the media that they watch. Most of them were generally aware of ISIS and many strangers even called out slurs when they saw me in my hijab. I was also frequently asked about the culture of Islam in Malaysia as Turkish dramas are a huge craze there. Many of them thought that the culture practiced in the TV dramas

were the same as what we practice here. I was even asked if the young Muslim girls here would be married off to old rich men like in the dramas. To explain how Muslims and ISIS are different and expound on the Muslim culture in Malaysia, I was given the opportunity to talk in schools and participate in social gatherings of my friends and families. After I explained to them, I managed to help them

also considered Student’s Day or Dia Del Estudiante. On the weekend of this day, students would usually spend the weekend with friends at cabins or houses by a body of water. As Argentina is a very large country, to go to the beach was a difficult task; hence, they settled for lakes around nearby towns. Other than to enjoy the weekend with friends and breathe in the clean air, they also attend concerts held near the lake area. I had the opportunity to attend one such concert during my trip with my friends. It was a memorable time for me as I had never gone on a trip with my friends here in Malaysia, so to be able to experience it during my exchange year was incredible.

Hanging out with friends understand that not everything on television is the truth and that just because we share the same religion does not mean we share the same culture. My favorite moment of my exchange was when I went for a trip with my friends to a nearby neighborhood called Embalse to celebrate the First Day of Spring. The First Day of Spring is

The AFS Program and experience has impacted my future in a sense that it gave me the means to discover myself. While I was outside of my comfort zone, I began learning and improving myself as a person. I realized how much I loved to travel, meet new people, and talking in front of crowds. I became more open-minded and I was taught that the term family does not only apply to those that share the same bloodline as you but also the people who have been with you through thick and thin. The friendships and relationships that I built throughout my exchange are some of the things that I cherish most. Upon my return from the program, I can speak a new language and also have a heightened curiosity to learn more about people and other cultures; a thirst that could be quenched here in Malaysia as we have a large diversity of people and cultures, and which I hope will help build bridges through greater understanding of one another.



My Selfish Account of a Selfless Experience: YES Conference 7.0 By: Jesidhn Pillai YES ‘15 There is an inbuilt glitch in this complex system we call ‘life’. Our rise (or fall?), to adulthood has somehow managed to convince us that our pathway to happiness – to give our human experience its own meaning – is, ironically, singular and rigid. What it means to be happy has never been more objectively defined than now, with the ways we are taught to achieve this elusive idea of happiness, even more so. We have become enslaved by the very mission that was created to liberate us. Stuck in this whirlwind, we are losing touch with those around us.

So, it was certainly refreshing to me, to spend a weekend ceasing all my self-serving pursuits to realign myself with the joy of putting others before me. The YES conference 7.0 was created with the goal of crowdsourcing ideas that aim to better the world we live in. The weekend of fun and energy saw its attendees explore a range of themes, all of which were underscored by the notion of creating a sustainable impact in our lives. I think that my YES Conference experience is more than just the narration of a sequence of events. It is the unique combination of the people, the intellectual

Our mangrove saplings featuring us 30

energy, the passion…. Have I said energy? I’ll say it again. The event was a masterfully created sum of two parts: a journey towards awareness and a call to action. It became clear to me as I engaged in the sessions that these were not meant for a half-hearted participant. The participants had the golden opportunity to directly interact with gritty, no-nonsense trailblazers of Malaysian charities, all of whom had soldiered through rough roads. We received the sharing session like a true AFSer would: we celebrated the level of determination our guest speakers showed towards their causes with the firebrand-like intensity of people with a genuine passion for service. As we shot the co-founders of TeenEDGE and ‘Hunger Hurts’ with insightful questions, we couldn’t help but be reminded of the complexity of our own ambitions and our resiliency through hurdles we foresee on our own paths. Till today, I believe every AFSer wear these actionable desires like a badge of honour, and the YES Conference 7.0 polished this badge, making us proud of hoisting this hallmark of the AFS volunteer high.

As if the bang was not booming enough within four walls, we settled for an early rise on the second day for a hike through Taman Alam Kuala Selangor. A tale of braving heat and toiling trails indeed. The friendly staff of the reservation gave us a thorough brief on the missions of the park, and the flora and fauna present. After slipping our legs into pairs of ill-fitting boots, we made our way into the wild. A little over 5km into the jungle, we arrived at a mudflat where we were given the chance to plant our own mangrove saplings. Let me assure you, making one’s way through mud is

no easy task, unless you’re a crab or an Alvan (our YES Alumni Vice-President). And of course, being an AFSer, I named my sapling Ivan. There was also Bob. Bob’s a girl, as his parent- my good friend Ranjani- decided. See why we’re friends?! After some lunch and a long (overdue) nap, we gathered in the main hall to discuss how YES Alumni Malaysia can help the mangrove conservation programme. Then, came the ultimate brainstorm: having to create social projects of our own. We heard all notions ambitious to ultra-ninjaambitious, with groups planning to open charity thrift stores, education fairs

for underperforming youth, a youth carnival and a truck for refugees to gain access to books. Perhaps that’s the beauty of the YES and AFS spirit. That we acknowledge the immensity of our ambitions, yet we’re unafraid to tackle them one hurdle at a time. We do not take on a sugarcoated view of our hurdles. My guess is that it’s because we are confident of our ability to rise and meet the demands knowing that we are all in this fight together. We embody the balance of the human optimist and realist – a balance I believe the YES Conference perfectly represents.

Our whole entourage took a photo in front of the mangrove conservation area 31


Intercultural Teacher: The Importance of Knowing Yourself To Bridge Differences Have you ever wondered about the cultural diversity in schools and how to integrate in it effectively? Such questions arise when we work on developing intercultural competences (also known as global competences) in teachers and the educational community as a whole. In many countries it is not common to consider that these competences are essential for teachers, since the educational system has other needs that require immediate intervention. Nevertheless, experience shows us that when educational institutions implement programs to develop intercultural competences of teachers, they find a positive impact on students and the school in general. By “intercultural competence” we mean “the effective and appropriate behaviour and


communication in intercultural situations, the appropriate change of the reference framework and the adaptation of the behaviour according to the context” (see more in The SAGE handbook of intercultural competence from 2006, by Darla Deardoff, Executive Director of the Association of International Education Administrators and Research Scholar at Duke University). In short, intercultural competences build bridges between differences and cultures that coexist in our institutions. Have you ever interacted with a culture you were familiar with, but you didn’t like the outcome of the interaction? In order to develop cultural competences, Janet Bennett, executive director of the Intercultural Communication Institute, (in Cultivating intercultural

competence. A process perspective. published as Chapter 6 of The SAGE handbook of intercultural competence) suggested that cultural knowledge and cultural competence are not the same. That is, whatever we know about a culture may not be enough to efficiently interact with that very same culture. Even within our own culture there might be a gap between what we know and whether we can interact appropriately. SELF KNOWLEDGE: THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS AN INTERCULTURAL WORLD Bennett compares our cultural positioning with a GPS. A GPS indicates where we are, where we are heading to and how to get there. In order to know how to relate with other cultures it is crucial to know where we start. We need to be aware of our own cultural positioning (where we are): our non-verbal communication styles, our values, how our history influences us, how we react to conflicts, what we consider right or wrong, what we consider important or not, etc. Knowing ourselves also means understanding our prejudices and preconceptions, being able to detect them and avoid being biased to-

wards the other, who is culturally different. We cannot expect this process to happen instantaneously. We have tools to measure and evaluate intercultural competence, and we can always use our own reflexive capabilities. In our teacher’s workshops AFS works with cultural identity and teachers’ identity, offering tools to get to know ourselves better, detect our prejudices and suspend judgement. It is not a short or simple path, but it certainly is very gratifying. If we want to develop an intercultural classroom with a group of students that can coexist and interact well with each other, the teacher has a key role. If we want an institution with peace and cooperation, we should start with ourselves: changing our world is in our hands. This article was written by Julia Taleisnik, Volunteer Development Director for AFS Argentina & Uruguay and an International Qualified Trainer for the AFS Intercultural Link Learning Program. It originally appeared in the AFS Argentina & Uruguay’s Newsletter for Educators (in Spanish).



Northern Taiwan Delights 34

What is in store for visitors of northern Taiwan? The rocky landscape of Yehliu Geopark must surely be the main attraction as it is arguably one of the most famous new wonders of the world. The coastal line is dramatic, showing the influences caused by crashing waves, rock weathering, earth and crustal movements and stunning rock formations.

Another must-see attraction is Jiufen, a mountain area in the Ruifang District of New Taipei City near Keelung. Jiufen was an isolated village until 1893, when gold was discovered in the area. Many present features of Jiufen reflect the era under Japanese colonization, with many Japanese inns surviving to this day. Jiufen Old Street harkens back to nostalgic times with retro-Chinese style cafés, tea houses, and souvenir stores lining the narrow pavements. The Shangrila Leisure Farm is located on a hill and its main attraction is the orchard with its variety of trees, rustic bridges, lookout points and rest huts. The farm also offers DIY activities like fruit picking (a seasonal activity though), craft-making, T-shirt painting, dumpling making and the releasing of sky lanterns into the night…reminiscent of the

Above and below: A number of rock formations have been given imaginative names based on their shapes. The best known is the “Queen’s Head”, an iconic image in Taiwan and an unofficial emblem for the town of Wanli. Other formations include the “Fairy Shoe”, the “Beehive”, the “Ginger Rocks”, and the “Sea Candles”.



Sky lanterns are released into the night at Shangri La Leisure Farm

scene in the animated Disney movie “Tangled” where lanterns light up the night sky on Rapunzel’s birthday every year.

Shop for local crafts at downtown Taipei City


Also on the must-see list is the Leefoo Village Theme Park located in Hsinchu County. Here, the thrill seeker would find an adrenalin high with the more than 30 roller coaster rides available. “African Safari” is the one and only wild animal zoo in Taiwan. There are also musical fountain shows, parades and performances throughout the day to entertain visitors.

Looking for mouth-watering memories of Taiwan? You can find them at Vigor Kobo which has evolved from a neighborhood bakery into a mustsee attraction for visitors to Taiwan. For many decades, the pineapple cake has been one of the most commonly found pastries in Taiwan, but the market began to boom when the Taipei City Government organized an annual Pineapple Cake Festival to promote the cake as a souvenir for visiting tourists. The festival made Taiwanese-style pineapple cakes the most popular souvenir not only for domestic tourists, but also for visitors from Asian countries. The Leofoo Village Theme Park offer many thrilling rides

Japanese-era inns line the streets of Jiufen 37


Putra Mosque: The Pink Flamingo of Putrajaya Lake 38

Facing the scenic Putrajaya Lake, the Putra Mosque is arguably Putrajaya’s most distinctive landmark and one of the most modern mosques in the world. It is named after the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj.


showcase of how mosque designs have evolved in Malaysia, Putra Mosque’s Islamic-architecture artistically blends traditional designs, local craftsmanship and the use of indigenous materials. The mosque is modeled after Persian Islamic architecture of the Safavid period with elements derived from other Muslim cultures. Incorporating Malaysian, Persian and Arab-Islamic architectural designs, the main entrance to the mosque is fashioned in the likeness of public building gates in Muslim Persia. Construction of this mosque was officially completed on 1 September 1999 at a cost of around RM250 million.

Constructed out of rose-tinted granite, which gives it an alluring pinkish hue, the mosque is modelled after the Persian Islamic architecture of the Safavid period

Masjid Putra with its trademark pink domes is one of Putrajaya’s popular landmarks 39

TRAVEL - DOMESTIC Its 116-metre minaret is influenced by the design of the Sheikh Omar mosque in Baghdad, while the basement wall of the mosque resembles that of the King Hassan mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. The mosque is constructed in rosetinted granite which gives its desert-pink hue that offsets the cengal woodwork on doors, windows and panels.

Blood donation center for public or visitors to donate

The Prayer Hall is simple and elegant and supported by 12 columns that prop up the 36-metre diameter main dome. The mimbar (pulpit) and

One of the facilites in Putra Mosque, a lecture room for workshops or motivational talks 40

Taekwondo Club Masputra : Putra Mosque also have a martial art club for kids and youngsters mehrab (niche that denotes the direction of Mecca) are adorned with khat or Islamic calligraphy. A unique feature has been added to the sound system design - front throw speakers are used to create the effect of all sounds originating from the direction of the imam. The mosque complex which can accommodate up to 10,000 worshippers can be used to hold conferences, seminars and symposiums. Worshippers can also congregate at the sahna paved courtyard in front of the prayer hall. The courtyard is landscaped with features and can hold an additional 5,000 people. Paying Zakat Fitr during Eid al-Fitr 41


The minaret is divided into 5 sections. Each of those sections represents one of the 5 Pillars of Islam, which are: 1) Shahadah: declaring there is no god except God and that Muhammad is God’s Messenger 2) Salah: ritual prayer five times a day 3) Sawm: fasting and self-control during the blessed month of Ramadan 4) Zakat: giving 2.5% of one’s savings to the poor and needy 5) Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime if he/she is able to do.


Up left: Masjid Putra highlights more than just the huge 160 meter minaret Above right: The design of the mosque are primarily from Morocco and Baghdad, the carvings are from Egypt, and the stain glass from Germany

Non-Muslims are permitted to visit outside of prayer times but its primary role of course is not as a tourist attraction but as a working place of worship for Putrajaya’s Muslim community. There is no admission charge. Visitors are requested to dress respectfully. Female visitors will be directed to proceed to the robe counter and put on a pink robe with a hood. Free leaflets in English and other languages are available to help non-Muslims understand aspects of Islam such as dress, polygamy, prayer in congregation, Islam’s view on Jesus Christ and other topics. Friendly staff are on hand to answer any questions you might have. Even if you do not know anything about Islam you will surely be impressed by the Putra Mosque.



Panglima Chill FM on air SMK Dato Panglima Perang Kiri in collaboration with AFS Perak Chapter and AFS Malaysia recently launched Panglima Chill FM. The purpose of this in-house radio station, run by members of the AFS Intercultural Club, is to build self-confidence and esteem of its participants, improve communication skills in English, learn how to run and organise radio programmes, and develop talent. Panglima Chill FM was launched by YB Dato’ Thangesvary Suppiah, the Speaker of Perak’s Legislative Assembly who commended the effort of students and teachers in this novel initiative.

Short visit from AFS Bolivia

Recently, AFS National Office received a surprise visitor from a faraway Partner in South America. Guido Jines is the ICL Responsible & a qualified ICL Trainer of AFS Bolivia. He was on a month-long Asian tour which spanned close to 10 countries, among them India, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines where he made it a point to pay a courtesy visit to each AFS office. Malaysia was his second last stop before he headed back to La Paz. In the 30-minute meeting with Annie Yap, AFS MAS Asst. National Director, they discussed all aspects of program matters, geography of both countries, chapter & volunteer development. There was a possibility of bilateral program exchanges in short programs and 18+ programs. Bolivia is one of the more eminent 18+ Programs Partners in the network. La Paz, Guido shared, is the highest administrative capital in the world, resting on the Andes’ Altiplano plateau at more than 3,500 m above sea level. He enthused that host students are very captivated with this fact and the beauty of the city. The meeting ended with an exchange of gifts and a hope to start exchanges in the near future.


Fostering Intercultural Learning The last ICL Level W Workshop for 2017 was held at the National Office in Kelana Jaya with 20 participants, including staff and new volunteers. The purpose of this workshop was to equip all stakeholders of AFS MAS with basic ICL knowledge to aid them in their daily work and interactions with students and volunteers. The ICL training supports and promotes the UN Sustainable Development Goal #4, which is to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and to promote lifelong learning.

Volunteer Exchange 2017 AFS MAS Volunteer Exchange Program welcomed three participants for 2017. They were Martina Albrecht, a volunteer from Germany and Andi Saputra and Meiry Dintia Arini from Indonesia. Martina was hosted in Ampang Chapter for one week while Andi and Meiry were hosted in Klang Chapter. Apart from school and host family visits, the participants also sampled Malaysian culture and food during their exchange. All participants also joined the annual Volunteer Congress which brings together volunteers from all around the country for a weekend of fun, camaraderie, team building and learning.


REACH OUT Your name? Yeo You Rui Your Exchange country and year? Germany, ‘07-’08


Where are you working/residing now? Job title and share a bit about your work. I’m working as the Sr. HR Systems Data Analyst at Dolby Laboratories, Inc. in San Francisco, CA, USA. You may know the company from the surround sound speakers at home or in cinemas. I studied Organizational Studies at the University of Michigan because of what I learned during my AFS year and the interest I gained in psychology and the intersection of individuals and systems (e.g. cultural systems). My degree then led to a job at Deloitte Consulting, which led to implementing HR Systems, and that’s how I ended up working at Dolby today.

Total Solar Eclipse in Oregon, USA

Most memorable experience during the exchange year? To pick one experience out of countless would be random and impossible! But recently I was thinking about a funny incident that happened during my AFS year: It was winter, and I was really suffering from just eating apples/pears for weeks (given the many varieties of tropical fruits I was used to), so I asked my host mum for some bananas from the supermarket. My host dad - a funny guy - did an over-exaggerated shock at our irresponsible decision to buy a fruit from so far away in the depths of winter. I didn’t know anything about seasonality at that time (coming from evergreen Malaysia), and certainly have never considered the distance food traveled when making purchasing decisions, only caring about cost. This inspired me to think more carefully about the environmental impact of my everyday decisions, and nowadays whenever I think of how much I value eating locally and seasonally, I think of my host dad!

Reunion of AFS friends after 10 years!

We hosted a Japanese high school student for a weekend - looking forward to being able to host an AFS for a full year one day!

Energizer during AFS camp in Germany!

My host family really welcomed me into their family and their lives when I was there...

Post-Arrival Orientation volunteer for the San Francisco Bay Area AFSers

Friendships made during AFS Camp

How has the AFS experience helped you in: your personal life - your career? I’ve gained a lot of self-confidence from my AFS year. I used to be shy with strangers, and now I easily lead training workshops and am very comfortable with public speaking. It has also fundamentally changed how I view the world by teaching me to question my assumptions, examining and better understanding my values. It broadened my horizons and led to many opportunities that I sought out and continue to seek out during university and at work. I’m also super passionate about learning languages now, and since I’m lucky enough to grow up in the multi-lingual/multi-cultural Malaysian society, I had a head start towards my goal of being proficient in 8 languages! Your advice to future participants? Throw yourself headfirst into the experience! Learn as much as you can, try everything (unless it’s illegal or against any of the 3

golden rules), be really present and cherish every moment - the year will go by too quickly and you will never be able to rewind, so really step out of your comfort zone and take full advantage of the year. The two things I’ve regretted from my exchange year: 1) When I prevented myself from doing what I wanted due to fear or self-doubt, 2) When I spent too much time worrying about the future to live in the present.

Motto in life? Or favourite quote? “People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them. We, their hearts, become fearful just thinking of loved ones who go away forever, or of moments that could have been good but weren’t, or of treasures that might have been found but were forever hidden in the sands. Because, when these things happen, we suffer terribly” Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist 47