Learn Happy, Learn Better
October 23-28, 2019. Ipoh, Malaysia – If there was one thing that I took away from my five days in Malaysia, it would be the following phrase: “You learn better when you are happy”. This set the tone for the module, where, together with 29 other MBA students, we volunteered at the annual non-profit Leadership and Moral Empowerment camp led by CEIBS’ Associate Dean and Professor of Economics Dr. Bala Ramasamy. Now that I am back in Shanghai, I can reflect that the best learning came while living and working with the local children at the camp. As I get back into the swing of regular MBA life, I feel rejuvenated and ready to take on whatever lies ahead – only now with a big smile on my face.
One of six available overseas modules, the Malaysia module focuses on leadership for social responsibility. After hearing such positive feedback from my MBA seniors and alumni, I applied for the module and was looking forward to learning about moral leadership and the mind-set required to run similar social ventures.
As we landed in Kuala Lumpur, I could see everyone excited and geared up for the challenge ahead. We quickly swapped the capital for Ipoh, the countryside town where the camp was situated. Here, we were welcomed with warm smiles, a delicious spread of Malaysian food and an introduction from Prof. Ramasamy on the origins of the FLAME camp.
The first two days were about getting us – the volunteers – ready to run the three-day camp for local children. Our task with the children would be simple – play with them, eat with them, and make sure they grasped the fundamentals of life’s big moral development cornerstones such as success, self-esteem, humility and trustworthiness. We even visited a school in the city to understand how schools are run here and the typical learning environments they are exposed to.
On the third day, as we cleaned the camp and prepared for the arrival of the children, I noticed the energy level of the volunteers increasing. It was extremely humbling to work alongside CEIBS alumni, Prof. Ramasamy’s family members and other long-term volunteers, all of whom are determined to make each year’s camp better than the last for the betterment of the children. Finally, it was time for the children to arrive. They filed in with smiling faces and bags full of clothes and essentials. We made them lunch, broke the ice with some games and before we knew it, we were running the camp.
Our intent was to help them explore and understand basic concepts to live a happy life, to impart humility and team building skills through experiential activities, and to inspire them to have a big and positive goal in life. It’s funny how the basics, such as thinking of others, speaking the truth and being thankful for what we have, are some things that we all know of, but seldom practice consciously.
Before we knew it, the three days were over and it was time to say goodbye. I could feel a sense of belonging amongst the volunteers, the happy and tired faces said it all. The children surely had a great time, too, and some of them were a little emotional when leaving the camp, and some even left beautiful notes for their team volunteers.
As I was leaving the camp, I made sure to bid goodbye to the helpful staff who cooked amazing meals for us throughout our stay and arranged everything else behind the scenes. I also thanked the senior volunteers and Prof. Ramasamy’s family members, who had guided us through every stage of the camp. It is indeed inspiring to see so many people leave their hectic jobs and lives behind and come together to execute the camp. The way they support each other and the respect they have for one another are the driving forces of the camp and they set a very positive example for us to be associated with them, or any other similar cause, in our future lives.
This experience has given me a refresher on why I should always take time for things which matter more in life, such as family and giving back to the society. Learning about the lives and backgrounds of these children, I left with a new found appreciation for the simple things in life – things like the luxury of a complete family, the support of friends and peers, and mentors to guide you on the right path – things which I usually don’t value as much, but have a different perspective on now. I also learnt about the hard work and preparation that goes behind achieving actual and concrete results in a philanthropically project like this and the hardships of sustaining and growing it over multiple years. I look forward to having my own similar social entity in the future, and this experience has surely given me the right direction to work towards and some hands on experience to make the right impact with whatever I do next.