In the wee hours of 1 Dec 2019, 12 of us set off on our journey to Yunnan, China. Our team consisted of students ranging from first to fourth years. It was the first time some of us were going to China. After some initial hiccups at the check in counter, we were buzzing to go.
Upon landing at Kunming airport, we were warmly greeted by our driver, Cai Shifu, who would continue to chauffeur us around for the rest of our time there. We were brought to our accommodation for a quick freshen-up before we headed out to meet Diana and Martin, the Malaysian couple who runs Happy Ark, for the first time. After a brief introduction and discussion over dinner, we returned to our accommodations to prepare for the next day’s events.
Cai Shifu was prompt in picking us up at 9am the next morning. We arrived at Happy Ark for the first time and met the friendly teachers who were preparing to give the facilities a spring clean as well as a makeover for the library. Our team helped in the spring cleaning and the re-organisation of the library until the children started to stream in after school hours. We assisted the Happy Ark staff in providing the primary school children academic supervision.
The next morning were our home visits. On arriving at Happy Ark, we got to packing the care packages for each family, filled with daily necessities such as rice and oil, which we were going to bring to the needy families’ homes when we visited them for health screening. In the afternoon, we finished up with our work in the library and gave tuition to the children till evening.
The next two days were spent in a busy flurry, as we had to screen hundreds of school children from Wen Wu and Min De Primary Schools. These children from private schools do not have access to yearly health screening like their peers in government schools do. We ran clinics from morning till afternoon, and returned to Happy Ark after packing up for the day to give tuition to the children.
After days of continuous hard work, the team was rewarded with a day off. We took the chance to explore a scenic lake park which was a leisurely stroll from our accommodation. We enjoyed lots of yummy and cheap street snacks along the way and had fun doing some water activities as a team. It was a good recharge.
After a long day of fun, we had to head back to prepare for the next day’s grand finale event, the Christmas program which coincides with their Saturday program. We had prepared a skit, some singalong songs and an art and craft session for the children which they, judging from their laughter and happy faces, thoroughly enjoyed. After lunchtime, we also held various special interest classes including music, dance and calligraphy for the children. It was truly the highlight of the week’s events and a delightful culmination to our time at Happy Ark.
Seeing the children enjoy the activities we had prepared for them brought much joy and warmth to our hearts. While it was the peak of our time there, it was also almost time for goodbyes. With much reluctance in our hearts, we bid farewell to the children whom we had formed a bond with, hoping they would remember us the next time we meet. We ended off the day with a final closing dinner with all the Happy Ark staff, Diana and Martin where we shared our sentiments over the course of the entire trip.
While it is regretful that we were not able to carry out the trip this year due to COVID-19, all the meaningful takeaways and genuine interactions with the community there will definitely stay with us for a long time to come.
Happy Ark is also embarking on a new project this September working with the youths of Kunming as initiated by the local government. This project will focus more on secondary and high school students as compared to the initial focus on solely primary school children.
Some of our goals for the future trips would be to provide more medical intervention, expand our outreach to the surrounding rural villages and possibly involve ourselves in their new youth project. There is much to look forward to in the trips to come and hopefully we will be able to do more for the community each time.