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Thursday, 15 May 2014 00:00

An Eye-Opening Excursion for Refugee Kids

Written by  BY TAI YUIK CHENG, KL & SELANGOR

On May 15, 2014, Tzu Chi volunteers escorted 150 refugee kids from UNHCR Tzu Chi Education Centres for an outdoor excursion to Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum. [Photograph by Lim Shy Tean]

“The silver coloured planes are fighter jets.”
“The white ones are for training exercises.”
“Now, can anyone tell me what colour are the planes for transportation?”

These were the questions posted by Sergeant Mohd Nizam Bin Sudin to the refugee kids as he guided them on an educational tour of the open air museum in Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), Kuala Lumpur.


It was a bright sunny day with the sun blazing down unrelentingly on their heads but, for the 150 refugee kids from UNHCR Tzu Chi Education Centres (Unity and Joint Effort refugee community schools), it was a day they have been waiting for with abated breath.

And so, on May 15, 2014, 16 Tzu Chi volunteers from the Education and English-speaking groups escorted these school children, ranging in age from 6 to 14 years, accompanied by 11 school teachers, went on an outdoor excursion, sponsored by UN but organized by Tzu Chi, to Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum in Sungai Besi, Kuala Lumpur.

Excitement in the air

Ever since the children were informed by their teachers a few days earlier, they have been counting the days to go on this outing on a school day instead of being cramped in classrooms studying. These underprivileged children seldom get to go anywhere as their parents are usually busy working, trying hard to earn a meager living in a foreign land.

And so, early in the morning at 7.30 am, these kids were all ready, divided into five groups, eagerly awaiting the five buses to arrive to take them on an unforgettable journey to a unique destination, a place they would normally never get the opportunity to visit.

Teacher in charge, Puan Rabiah recounted, “Some of the students told me they couldn’t sleep last night because they were so excited, anticipating the trip today. Thanks to Tzu Chi, Brother Raymond, Teacher Yap and all of you, they get an annual trip to a different and interesting destination each year.”

The Education Group, headed by Brother Raymond Tan Chee Wei and event coordinator, Sister Peggy Lee, had spent days meticulously planning this outing to RMAF with the teachers and volunteers as the annual event for the refugee students.

Indoor museum

Upon arrival at RMAF, the children were divided into three groups. The first group was taken to a video room to watch a video about the history of RMAF, showing the soldiers going through their exercises and the pilots taking their aircrafts through formations and performing acrobatics high up in the sky.

The second group visited the aircraft hangar (indoor museum) where about a dozen aircrafts of various make and models were exhibited. A brief introduction of the aircrafts were given by an officer on duty. The girls giggled at amusing names of aircrafts like “Eagle”, “Tiger”, “Bulldog” and “Chipmunk”. However, one particular aircraft, placed at the entrance to the hangar, caught the children’s attention. Instantly, they made a beeline for it, taking turns to climb happily into the pilot’s seat and pretended to fly the plane.

14-year-old Babulu exclaimed, “I never thought I’d ever get to be inside an aircraft cockpit like I can fly the plane for real!” While 7- year-old Feroz gushed, “I’ve never seen so many planes before. All the planes are beautiful!”

Outdoor museum

Lastly, the third group had a guided tour of the outdoor museum of aircrafts. Sergeant Nizam patiently walked the children through the different types of aircraft exhibits in the open, under the hot sun. He explained, “There are altogether 28 aircrafts in this museum and the different colours represent the different purposes the aircrafts are used for.” This nice Sergeant acted like a teacher, asking the children to repeat after him the colour and the purpose the aircrafts were meant for to ensure they remember the facts.

But the moment the children spotted a big transport aircraft, with capacity of 30 passengers, called “Caribou”, with its back doors wide open, they all clamoured into it, elatedly poking their cute faces out of the potholes with wide smiling faces.

Each group of students rotated places until every group had visited all three sites. Teacher Vidya commented, “Tomorrow the children will definitely ask me a lot of questions about what they saw and learned today. I find this trip educational as we get to learn about different types of aircrafts and see them at such close range.”

A morning well spent

After finishing the rounds, the volunteers distributed bottled water, packet soya drinks and apples to the children while they queued to board the buses back to their schools.

Volunteer Teacher Yap remarked, “I know these children well as I visit them weekly with Brother Raymond to monitor their progress in these refugee schools and teach them Jing-Si Aphorisms as well. I’m glad that, despite the heat and warmth, the children had an enjoyable time.”

Upon arrival back at their schools, the children waved fond farewell to the volunteers as they left. Though feeling warm and sweaty, the volunteers were gratified as it was a morning well spent in giving the children an eye-opening and memorable time.

 

The refugee children being taken round the outdoor museum to see the exhibits of different makes n models of aircraft exhibits. [Photograph by Lim Shy Tean]   Sergeant Nizam teaching the children about the different types of aircrafts and their purposes. [Photograph by Lim Shy Tean]

The refugee children being taken round the outdoor museum to see the exhibits of different makes n models of aircraft exhibits. [Photograph by Lim Shy Tean]
 
Sergeant Nizam teaching the children about the different types of aircrafts and their purposes. [Photograph by Lim Shy Tean]
 
The refugee boys sitting in the aircraft cockpit pretending to fly the plane. [Photograph by Lim Shy Tean]  

The refugee boys sitting in the aircraft cockpit pretending to fly the plane. [Photograph by Lim Shy Tean]