The Good, the Bad, and the Furry

My name is Michelle Wong. I am a 19-year-old undergraduate student at the University of Hong Kong, double-majoring in Journalism and Business, and minoring in German.

I am a typical Hongkonger raised under the city’s hectic educational system, except that I like to chill out a bit more and I never really fix my career rigidly on a designated path like most people do. I am still constantly exploring my passion and opportunities around the world.

In June, I decided to go on an overseas volunteer programme through the international student-run organisation AIESEC. I could not decide where to go until I saw the programme Animals’ Heroes in Kuching jointly organised by AIESEC in UNIMAS and the Sarawak Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA).

 

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I knew nothing about the place but the idea of spending my summer on animal welfare was simply mesmerising. I started to picture myself living in a wooden house at the corner of a huge rainforest, with apes swinging among trees and giant Rafflesias everywhere.

On July 9th, I finally arrived at the place that I had long been imagining. Of course, it turned out to be so much more modern, with tHe Spring Mall housing all my favourite brands and roads suffering from the most enormous and irritating global problem of traffic jams. Meanwhile, the city retained its harmony with nature, warm hearts of the people and laid-back lifestyle of a fairy-tale small town.

Later, I met my new friends from Vietnam, China and Japan who worked with me in the same programme. We moved into the accommodation provided by the SSPCA. It was a cosy apartment above a pet shop where we believed had been home to three cats before we came.

 

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Although the cats were shy and reluctant at first, soon they were already jumping onto my lap for a nap, stealing food from the tables, typing on my laptop and sometimes slamming my laptop with a bang. As annoying as they were, they made a huge part of my memory.

One week after, we started working at the office that takes a 3-minute walk from our place. An over-passionate dog welcomed us on our first day with relentless chasing and tons of saliva.

We spent three days a week at the office preparing for school visit, charity race and international animals welfare conference. We modified emails, designed posters and conference materials to attract potential delegates from all over the world. We also had the chance to sit down with the chairman and the president of the SSPCA in meetings to discuss conference details and promotional strategies.

On the other two days, we worked at the shelter where we fed the cats, washed the dogs, cleaned the food containers and organised the animal records.

It might sound like a paradise for every animal lover but we also got to face the reality, seeing how unwanted pets got dumped by irresponsible owners, suffer from sickness and being poisoned by cynical neighbours.

Protecting animals is never easy, but still there are millions of people and organisations around the world protecting what they think is worthy everyday.

 

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On weekends, we did a bit of travelling to places like the Cultural Village, Bako National Park and Pulau Satang where I hiked, went snorkelling and saw green turtles for the first time in my life. All these are things that I could never imagine myself experiencing in my home city in Hong Kong.

Six weeks being in Kuching, I was awe struck by the mystery of wildlife, inspired by the modesty of people, and challenged by the magnificence of nature. On August 23rd, I left the city with new aspirations, life-long friendship and half of my bucket list ticked off.


 

About AIESEC

AIESEC is an international non-governmental not-for-profit organisation that provides young people with leadership development and cross-cultural global internship and volunteer exchange experiences across the globe, with a focus on empowering young people so they can make a positive impact on society.

Present in over 120 countries and territories and with over 86,000 members, AIESEC impacts the world through leadership development experiences.

Focused on providing a platform for youth leadership development, AIESEC offers young people the opportunity to participate in international internships, experience leadership and participate in a global learning environment.

AIESEC in University Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) started collaborating with SSPCA in July 2015. After doing research on Sarawak’s community, AIESEC in UNIMAS realised that the people were paying more attention to animal welfare.

It prompted AIESEC in UNIMAS to approach local NGOs to initiate Animal Heroes, and this unique project was the first project in Kuching, Malaysia.

AIESEC in UNIMAS has already launched two batches for this Animal Heroes project and are still in the midst of discussing with the SSPCA to make it an annual project to open more opportunities for international students to take part.

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