Reading Room 2007: A Review
I had no inkling of how it would turn out when I drove up to Kuala Krai on December 6th. As the rain followed me from KL, I was so glad that I had company as I might have postponed the trip altogether.
The first day was an eye opener for me as over 45 kids turned up. I guess it was a good thing that I actually piggybacked on the local Rukun Tetangga’s holiday programme, that ensured a good participation rate. The week before I arrived, the kids, mostly aged 8 to 13, were given motivational talks, mandarin lessons and other activities. More school-like, they said.
By midday, I could see that they were not very interested in the English books that much, apart from the Archie comics. Many were not even reading but playing the congkak and UNO card game. Later, they even fought for the games that by the third day, I had stopped bringing them to the room in the hope they would eventually turn to the books. It was a very minimal success.
As I was fast running out of ideas what to do with them, Ayu arrived from Penang via Kota Bharu on Wednesday (Day 5). She had an adventure coming to Kuala Krai as water at a nearby river some 2-3 kilometers from we were had risen the day before. She took the bus from KB to Batu Jong, then hitched a ride to Sg. Durian and then hopped on a boat to get to us. I was sorry she had to go though all that but she was really cool about it, even the part where she had to sleep on the floor of my aunt’s house since the water had blocked roads to the motel she was supposed to stay in.
On Day 6, Ayu’s cousin Murni arrived in the morning by train from KL. Buses from KL had diverted from their usual route and were using Terengganu coastal roads to get to Kota Bharu that they bypass Kuala Krai entirely. Both of them became new distractions for the kids, going round talking to small groups about BMI, planets and science, which I have little knowledge of. I was glad also because I had new people to talk to besides my 15-year old cousin, who was more or less like the rest of the kids. Heh.
Friday, December 14 was the final day of RR07. We opened the room as usual in the morning and Cikgu Faridah, the coordinator of the whole programme, came at 11 to officially close it. Me, being the crybaby that I am, couldn’t stop the tears from coming out.
On the whole, I guess the timing was not too good, what with the monsoon flood and everything. Also, I could have made better preparations as to what activities to plan and selecting more Malay titles to bring. Still, I did manage to see first hand how flood rescue operations work and even spoke to an MP who were at the school one evening overseeing the distribution of rations for the victims. I also got to know almost strangers who willingly spend their time and money to help out my little project. I wished Eddy and the King were there, Miss Grouch too. They contributed books and magazines and one almost came but had to pull out at the last minute, due to work commitment.
One thing though, the organiser, until the end, was worried that it will have to somehow compensate me and the other volunteers in monetary terms. I had assured Cikgu Faridah before I went there that it was not the case but she was not entirely convinced, until the very end, when she spoke with my aunt. It’s a sad thing to know that people are wary of others wanting to do a bit of good without expecting to be rewarded in return.
Anyway, that’s the end of the Reading Room 2007 project. Let’s see if I can keep it going next year.
PS: I received messages from as far as the UK and Cape Town during the week, enquiring about the progress and giving words of support. Thank you, people.