SIM-IYEO International Volunteering Program

SSEAYP International Malaysia – Flying to Sapporo

Malaysia is no stranger to warm weather. Blessed with a tropical climate that provides Malaysia with high temperature and high humidity throughout the year, Malaysians need not to worry about the preparation for winter which could be grueling to some people. The average temperature of -7 does not deter the spirits of 28 volunteers from Malaysia who flew 8 hours to the cold, snowy Sapporo, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan to learn and lend a helping hand.

The SIM-IYEO International Volunteering Programme 2017 was held for a week from February 5th to February 11th 2017. The programme was a collaboration between SSEAYP International Malaysia (SIM) and International Youth Exchange Organization of Japan (IYEO). It was supported by Ministry of Youth and Sports Malaysia and Hokkaido International Foundation.

The objective of the programme serves as a platform for SIM to enhance and strengthen its international network that has been evolving for 43 years through SSEAYP ever since Nippon Maru started its first sailing in 1974. Besides, it provides an opportunity to participants to experience hands-on international volunteering activities.

Among the highlights of the programme were snow shoveling at Shiitake Mura (Mushroom Village) – the facility for disabled people, cultural exchange activities at Hokusei Gakuen Girls High School and voluntary activities at the Homes for the Elderlies. During all the voluntary activities that were carried out, we (Malaysian volunteers) were very energetic in sharing with our friends in the East the unique cultural performances from Malaysia such as Rasa Sayang, Can Mali Can and Malaysian traditional attire fashion show. Miss Izzah shared how during her visit to the elderly home, one of the elderlies held her hand tightly. With cheerful smile on her face, sparkly eyes beaming with excitement and a deep sense of gratitude, she said, as translated, “This visit feels like a dream come true. I’m so happy and blessed that the young people from Malaysia still honour the elderlies.” Moments like these are what convinced us that the work that we do make a difference in people’s lives.

We also paid a courtesy visit to Hokkaido Prefecture Office from which we believe has given them a better insight of how important halal food could help in attracting more Muslim tourists to Japan. The formal ambience during the discussion turned to a moment hilarity when Mr. Haniff suggested allowing more Japanese to marry Malaysians. It was abrupt yet had some sense for better understanding of any culture of the world.

Other than that, we were given the chance to join a walking tour at the Odori Park with local college students so that we could be acquainted with the weather and the surroundings in Sapporo. Welcoming dinner and farewell party were later held by local IYEO members. In the spirit of learning one’s culture, we were eager to host a Malaysia Café session whereby we invited the local youths to prepare authentic Malaysian food such as cucur bawang with two different sauces – sambal tumis, and peanut sauce, sago gula Melaka, corn pudding, keropok daun kadok, as well as beverages such as the unique pandan serai and bandung. We served all these to the Japanese audiences who were very delighted to taste such delicacies.

The Head of the Programme, Md Johan Sah said, “I hope this programme can change the mindset of certain people in our society who view volunteerism as something which is boring. This is not at all true as we received tremendous positive feedbacks both from volunteers in Malaysia as well as our Japanese correspondent from IYEO. We are also working towards future international volunteering collaboration with IYEO. So, just wait for it!”

When asked why he was so keen to initiate such programme, he said “I believe in giving back to society. I believe each and every one of us has the responsibility towards social contribution and I want to promote that value in our society. I wish everyone can realize that no matter what your social status is, no matter what position you hold, no matter what religion you believe in, and no matter what race or age you are, we can all make a difference, together, to make this world a better place.”

# SSEAYP International Malaysia (SIM) is a recognized alumni body under the SSEAYP International (SI) network based in Japan, which manages membership and activities done by all former participating youth of The Ship for Southeast Asian and Japan Youth Programme (SSEAYP). Since the inception of the programme, the alumni association body has been working together with the relevant governmental body, including the Ministry of Youth and Sports Malaysia in the execution of all relevant programmes and activities pertaining to SSEAYP and related youth development projects.