The day was set. The date was set. The only thing that was left was to decide on the time to set off. A month or so ago, my ex-colleague WL, having heard me talked about the Kampung for the longest time, decided to plan way in advance and “book” me so that we can drive up to the Kampung in Ulu Tiriam, Johor. She took leave and her 5 year old boy was looking forward to it.
The day came. It was on a Thursday morning that I was going to drive them up. Along the way, I managed to gather a few more people. The former Kampung manager, JH, an ex-student Cindy, who runs her own eco-company plus a friend of hers, Min.
The boy woke up very early in great anticipation. He was up at 7am and they arrived way before our time of driving up at 8.3oam.
The group piled into the car. I got my tank filled up and then left happily. The weather was really good considering that it was raining very heavily the past few days.
So we are finally going to see the one goat that was left. On 19th Jan 2012, I got an sms from JH. It says “Sorry to inform you. The male goat passed away just now because they ate the wrong grass. The female goat took some medicine and is getting better now. Will inform you if any updates.” Whoa…so soon???
What happened to the original plan of using the goats to eat grass? So how to produce more baby goats now? A couple of sms later, I told him I am fine if they want to “makan” the goat and make kambing soup or the bury the goat. C’est la vie.
That was on 19th Jan. On 15th Mar I found that the female goat, Joy has also died some time ago. This time round I was not informed. Or I did not receive any sms or news about it. So it was with a great shock I learnt it on the way driving up. The poor boy cried. He was looking forward to seeing the goat.
I felt so bad but it was too late for anything. We were already driving in and JH remarked to me that “Isn’t this part and parcel of life?” Life. Death. Learning to deal with Death. Even in animals.
We arrived at KT and the place seems quite like the last time I was there, except that the grass was taller and there was someone trying to cut off the grass. No more goats to graze the grass.
Instead what greeted us at the Kambing Hut was an empty space, some rabbits and a rooster and mother hen. Pieces of planks were lying around.
Meanwhile there was a path laid for the fish pond. But no pond yet.
There were 3 plots of square foot gardening and the plants were growing well…the concept works as it is about diversity and different plants need different NPK (Nitgroen, Phosphorus and Potassium).
While the boy was very upset and cried when he found the goats died, he was soon happily exploring the natural surroundings, enjoying playing with the sand, looking at the tree house and trying his very best to cross the floating boards on the little pond.
Yes, the School of Doing is indeed full of twists and turns. I wished the process to feed the goats, get the vets were done in a better manner. I wished the fish pond was built. What happened?
When I asked the two ladies present how they felt as it was the first time they visited the Kampung, Min said that it was quite different from what she saw on the concept map. She was keen to see the final product after all the houses and amenities are done up. WL replied that she saw more kampung along the way than at Kampung Temasek. She finds KT not quite kampung and yet not quite modern. Hmm interesting observation. Isn’t is true that sometimes we try to contrive up situations when all along the real McCoy is there? Perhaps there was never a need to build any Kampung at all! The M’sians may have done it a lot better than us. (ie Singaporeans)
Well, life is never as planned. Especially when KT sets out to be a community project built by volunteers.
The challenge is to get funding, get people to see the vision and have enough passionate people to keep it going. Somehow, I feel that passion alone is not enough to build this community. I have seen too many NGOs happy to be in the limelight and be photographed. Yet, the behind the scene day to day hard work is sadly ignored.
Recently I was helping to lead a school trip for River Valley High students on an overseas learning journey. The community group they were helping, The Green Ribbon Project, was started by a local guy. He was very passionate and enthusiastic. To do the job he is doing is not easy as many of the tasks depended on volunteers. There were many kind people who donated things to his organisation. Yet the challenge remained after 20 years…to find people to help to sort out the donated items. Some items could have expired and yet were donated to the home. Some could not be used. He showed us a roomful of donated items strewn and stacked haphazardly inside the room. These were work that will be assigned to the students. And yes, the good news is, after such a long period, they finally managed to get to build the Home of Love.
Well perhaps the best way forward when being involved with NGOs is to adopt a gracious spirit. Starting a volunteer movement, getting people involved, running the programmes involved a lot of time, energy and patience. There is no instant formula for success.
We may all do well to remind ourselves, myself included, that even Superman cannot create an ant or a tiny leaf. Let us learn to embrace diversity in processes and be humble and gracious when we look at the gaps and faults in NGOs. As long as we do our tiny bit to help, we become one step closer to being happy and one step further from a complaining spirit.
It is this can-do spirit that brings our forefathers to Singapore in search of a better land.
Perhaps Kampung Temasek could be the spark for this little boy. He has not yet started school and his curiosity level is high. At the end, he thanked everyone and told JH, our enthusiastic Kampung Manager (who was with the project when it first started), that “he was feeling like an explorer under JH’s guidance!”
Yes, the 21st Century education is about exploring new grounds.
Enjoy the clip: