Planting the seeds of knowledge
Article from the Sun daily by Jessica Chua (posted on 22nd Oct 2015)
GROWING up in Kuching, Amanda Sura and her five younger sisters have always been encouraged by their grandmother to share their knowledge by donating books to the children in the village. Her humble upbringing and the wise words of her grandmother inspired the birth of The Reading Bus Club.
It happened during a study break when Amanda, together with her sister Natasha, volunteered to help their church pastor and his wife. One good thing led to another and soon, the Curtin University alumni co-founded The Reading Bus Club in hopes that “every child is given the opportunity to enjoy school and life through reading”.
At The Reading Bus Club, volunteers consisting of students and corporate bodies teach children to read, pronounce, spell, and use words correctly. The entire programme, which is conducted in English, also includes activities such as acting, colouring and singing to create a more enjoyable learning environment.
“Sometimes I get teary when I’m about to leave with my team and the children ask to come back with more books. I guess learning something in a different way always excites them,” shared the 27-year-old marketing executive.
Thanks to Amanda and other inspiring individuals, The Reading Bus Club is still going strong today since it was established seven years ago, with trips occurring almost every weekend. In Sarawak, the team goes into villages and churches to teach, whereas in West Malaysia, they focus on schools and orang asli villages.
What obstacles did the team face during the early days of The Reading Bus Club?
Physically, we faced challenges like carrying heavy cabinets up steep, uneven staircases to the teaching halls, and driving up dark, hilly roads with sharp corners to villages. Other challenges include people misusing our name for their personal interests and people being sceptical about us making a difference.
What inspires you to keep moving forward despite the obstacles?
Each time I hear a young reader use a word correctly or spell with ease, I get warm and fuzzy inside. Making a little difference like that keeps me going. As long as there is a chance, I will do my best to plant the seed of interest in these little hearts as well as encourage others to want to educate. There is enough darkness in this world as it is; I find it nice to be a glimmer of hope for those who want to reach out.
How has the experience been working with the volunteers in The Reading Bus Club?
The volunteers on board are amazing! I salute and appreciate them because they are always there to support the programme. I am always so touched when I see teenagers and young adults teach the little ones with sincerity and compassion. It reminds me that we’re human and the way we approach people are different. It is kind of magical, especially when you see 17-year-olds teaching 12-year-olds. They’re not that much further ahead in life, but the way they teach is like a friend teaching a friend.
Personally, how did school and education help you become the person you are today?
I think it had a big impact in my life not just academically but also in building my character. I sharpened my life skills in school learning how to be compassionate, and the importance of respect, diligence, discipline, and acceptance. I wasn’t an A-star student but I liked going to school because of my thirst for self-improvement. I think it also allowed me to be creative and imaginative.
What is your advice to people today when it comes to teaching and education?
Teaching is not commanding power. Be equal. Don’t think that you’re more superior when you teach because you can also learn from the other person. At the same time, teach sincerely, not just for the sake of teaching. It will really open up your heart and your eyes.
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