Being a teacher for six weeks on the other side of the world
By Vreni Bron
Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
In September and October this year, I was part of Global Citizen, which is a part of AIESEC, an international student organisation which gives students from all over the world the opportunity to develop themselves and contribute something to our planet.
For me, as a girl form The Netherlands, that opportunity was volunteering at Kuching Autistic Association (KAA) in Kuching, Malaysia.
KAA is a non-governmental organisation; it gives a chance to individuals with autism, most of them kids, to develop themselves and learn.
They state their mission as follows: to train autistic persons from infant stage to adult stage to be able to be useful, independently and to have an economically productive life; to empower parents to train their children with autism.
It is a truly wonderful center where the most passionate people work very hard every day to realise this mission.
I had the honor of being a part of this hardworking team for five weeks. They welcomed me with open arms and proudly introduced me to their astonishing facility located on the outskirts of Kuching.
The centre has a very big room designed for sensory integration, or SI. The goal of SI is to give the children the ability to use information from all seven senses (touch, smell, hearing, sight, taste, gravity and body position awareness) to manage daily activities and communicate with others. The kids can develop their gross motor skills through running, cycling, parkour, swings, and ball games.
There are numerous classrooms where teachers teach children one-on-one. The teaching is matched to every child’s individual needs, for one it may be learning fine-motor-skills, for another it consists of reading and solving jigsaw puzzles.
They also have an art and crafts room where older individuals get the opportunity to explore their creative skills. They make necklaces, bracelets, bookmarks, sand bottles, drawings and paintings, all very beautiful.
Recently, on October 2, there was even an art exhibition at tHe Spring Shopping Mall. More than 40 paintings were on display and more than half of them got sold. It was a great success!
There is even a separate building for older persons with autism, where they can learn basic living skills like personal hygiene, washing dishes and clothes, maybe even cooking.
In that building there is also a hostel, where autistic individuals can live in the future when they don’t have older caretakers like their parents to take care of them anymore, but that is still in its developing stages.
All technical aspects aside, it was simply amazing to see the teachers with the children. They work with so much passion, and that work is so important. The progress some of the kids make is astonishing. Some of them are, thanks to the work of KAA, able to go to a normal primary and secondary school, and have a normal life, after having been stamped ‘abnormal’ for years.
For me it has been a great honor to be a part of this amazing team, seeing all the lovely kids with all the challenges that come with them. I have learned a lot and I hope I contributed a little to the lives of all the people I came in contact with, as they definitely did for me.