Deja-Vu

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Ultimately, our Nepal OCIP was cancelled and hence comes an end to a year of planning. I felt an overwhelming sense of deja-vu. Just like what happened to nbs foc, we had to put a premature end to our hard work due to truly unforeseen circumstances.

Discounting the selfishness of not even considering the fate of the already disadvantaged Nepalese, there are of course more relevant issues that are in our control and hence more worthy of concern. Previously, I worried about how the next batch of freshmen were going to conduct next year’s camp if they have not even went through it completely themselves. It was our good fortune that they bonded well despite everything.

In OCIP’s case, obviously going for a trip will be a huge help in future planning, especially when planning for a project that has not been done before like to Nepal with the huge amounts of schools left distant and isolated in the countrysides. Many actually do not understand the true purpose and the exact scope of OCIP/OEP/OCSP.

For the record, only about 20% or so of the financial contributions goes towards directly helping the community there, in the form of buildings like schools or toilets and the likes. That’s why we are not encouraged to say that its for charity, as among the 80% of these other costs we incur ourselves are borne by subsidies too. In a sense, we (the volunteers) are benefiting more.

In fact, the notion of OCIP (Overseas Community Involvement Project) is already slightly skewed because Community Involvement by its definition has an element of sustainability in it. That is why we are not allowed to say that we are actually doing community service. The closest we can proclaim is to be doing “community service” as it can be a one-off project.

So is overseas service a total farce? It depends on people’s perception of it, and what previous generations have done to build on its perceptions. A careless leader who rides on the charity bandwagon can misguide the public in order to gain more funds while canvassing, among other misrepresentations of overseas service. The actual truth is that overseas service is actually to serve as youth development, to implant the seeds of change in every volunteer that goes out to see the world for what it is outside of our sunny little island.

There may be sceptics but even for my generation, there are many who are sheltered but do not know it. Even for the guys who have been through army may think that they have been through certain hardships and have “seen things”. The hard truth is what you see in documentaries are just simply superficial. When you actually sit down with a local tribe, spend 2 weeks living with them and try to even fathom how a life such as theirs can be lived, something inside of you might hopefully be stirred.

Its the reason why I wanted to lead the next bunch on a totally unprecedented project in Nepal. Its not enough to handle the safety and administrative aspects, it is also expected of us to facilitate the reflection and learning within our charges and of course, it sure sounds corny and lame as hell because we are talking about undergraduates here. Surely they would have grown up and be able to make their own observations by then? Again, it is hard to discount the roles of a facilitator here when everybody will naturally keep to their comfort zones in terms of sharing and reflection.

My personal take on what takeaway one is supposed to get from overseas service is that, all of us here (the volunteers) are at least set on some path of considerable success in life where we would eventually have the ability to influence the world in our small little ways, be it in politics, in our field of research, or by the raw wealth we might obtain. The biggest difference that will set us apart is having been through this 2 and a half weeks of exposure to overseas service, to open our hearts and minds so that when the individual is stripped down to the barebones, our values, principles and beliefs shape us and the ultimate decision or influence we have on the world is of a better one.

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IMG-20150516-WA0008I also asked my peers, why are we here helping foreigners when there are still under privileged people back in Singapore? Our work is not even done back home. Well now I have the answer – many people think of OCIP with the overseas trip as the focal point, and it is not hard to blame because of the name in itself. However, what most people do not know is that there are actually 3 components, which is the local community service project before and after the overseas trip. We had ours recently with an under-privileged community of adorable children and it was a really meaningful day of sharing with them the importance of being grateful. The point is to expose the volunteers to both local and overseas community service to be able to realize what is the difference between the 2 communities and also so as to enable them to better appreciate what we have with us, now.

Maybe, If I could, and if situations permit, I will be back.

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