When you ask anyone to name a significant Bruneian figure that they knew, a majority would only recognize Brunei’s current King, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah. Many would not be able to cite another internationally famous Bruneian personality other than him.
However this serves us, Bruneians, no offence as we too recognize the lack of globally known figures who are born and raised in Brunei. Probably the biggest contributor to this fact is that the younger generation is pampered and afraid to break out of their comfort zones. Great and notable successes could only be achieved when a person has the courage to do something significant, even if it means failing at some point or exposing our self to unfamiliar environments in order to do meaningful things for the society. Not only that, Bruneians have a family oriented culture, such to an extent that it is hard for some of loving parents to send their children off abroad, such as in developing countries where community works are usually based at. Hence, community work abroad was not a culture or path chosen by most youths.
However, in recent years, as community work opportunities rises, there seem to be a rise in risk-taking and contribution-loving youths who shed their skins of fear and go out of their comfort zones. Their participation is also blessed by their parents as some parents have realized that, letting their children expand out of their comfort will make them grow into a more independent and better person.
Below are some of the very recent outbound community-work opportunities that has seen a rise in participation from Brunei youth:
The English Teaching Apprenticeship (ETA) Programme
This program is a joint collaboration between the local university, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, as well as the Hawaii-based East-West Center which is aimed at improving English proficiency in ASEAN region. It is also the eighth initiative of the Brunei-US English Language Enrichment Project for ASEAN. Under this program selected participants are trained in teaching English as a second language, and after training is completed, they will go to an ASEAN country to teach for 10 months.
In addition to an intensive English Language training courses at University of Brunei Darussalam, the training phase also includes studying modules on Teaching Methodology and Materials design, and Class room observation at the East-West Centre, managed by Hawaii Pacific University and University of Hawaii. Furthermore, to equip these participants with the required teaching skills, they are also given the opportunity to become an intern teaching assistant at several elementary schools in Honolulu. As we speak, these youth community workers are in Vientiane, Laos and Phnom Penh, Cambodia teaching English to Year 4 students at selected primary schools.
I believe that teaching is a double-edged sword. Because teachers do not only gain monetary benefits from their efforts but more importantly, they are doing a great deed as their life legacy, as knowledge is a legacy that could be passed down through the generations.
ASEAN Young professional volunteer corps (AYPVC)
This is an initiative of the Brunei’s Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sports whereby Bruneian youths are encouraged to participate in volunteering to various ASEAN countries. Up to this date the Ministry, has organized 5 volunteer work opportunities in Vietnam, Laos, Philippines and Indonesia. The 5th volunteer project was held in Laos where Bruneian youths conducted capacity building for 350 villagers in Vang Puei and Onnoy Village, in Salavanh of Lao. The work in Lao PDR focused especially on developing women’s entrepreneurial skills through interactive games, public speaking, group tasks and awareness regarding human trafficking.
The 4th project was done in Hue, in cooperation with Hearts of Hue, a local NGO in Hue, Vietnam. In this project, volunteers from 10 ASEAN countries conducted activities related to environment and education with the children in Kindergarten, Primary school and local community of Vinh Tri Village.
University of Brunei Darussalam Discovery year
Under the new system of education in the local university, during the third year of undergraduate studies, students can opt to do internship abroad or locally, study abroad program or community work program for the semester. Community works are generally done in South East Asian countries such as Thailand and Indonesia.
The photo above shows just one out of the many UBD (University of Brunei Darussalam) students who were sent to Indonesia to teach Primary 5 students at Desa Sukasaba, Province of Banten Indonesia, as part of their Discovery Year. In his account, he mentioned that during his experience, he had learned important life lessons from villagers such as familial values and social stability.
In comparison with other countries’ involvement in outbound community works, the amount of opportunities in Brunei may seem to be limited as of this moment. But no matter how small the degree, the rise in youths’ participation in outbound community works is something I am proud of. It promises a brighter outlook for a risk-taking future generation. With such attitudes nurtured, perhaps one day Brunei will create their own noble-prize winning individuals or significant humanitarian figures. One day, I wish for that to happen.
By Nur Atiqah RADUAN, ASEAN Correspondent from Brunei Darussalam