I spent a total of three years working in Malaysia with some of the worlds most vulnerable children. I was stationed in a youth centre in the heart of Malaysia’s most notorious ghetto and also conducted outreach to homeless youths and refugees. I have written about some of my experiences before but would now like to explain what a typical day would often entail.
9:30am – Begin walking to work. Politely decline the offers from pimps and sex workers lining the streets and watch out for rats running past your feet.
10am – Arrive at work, no kids in yet but need to hold a meeting with some potential volunteers discussing the issues facing the youths, explain about sex work and gang cultures influence on teenagers.
10:30am – Update reports and inform colleagues that I need to visit a refugee community school that is unable to feed the children.
11am – Leave office and make way to meet with the refugees at their Community School. Enter the basic, concrete structure with patio furniture for school supplies, sit down with the head of the school and note down her concerns. Note the number of kids and their ages.
1pm – Leave the school and begin to contact anyone who may be able to supply food to the school. Inform the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) of the schools existence.
1:30pm – Return to the office, document the meeting and grab a quick lunch.
2:30pm – Liaise with companies who have shown an interest in donating to the centre. Continue paperwork regarding an ongoing case of a young homeless single mother.
4pm – Hold an English class with the teenagers in the centre.
5:30pm – Greet the new volunteers and help them set up their class. Wait with the teens until the centre closes.
8pm – Get some dinner and go home.
9pm – Reply to emails and update reports.
10pm – Get some sleep.
12am – Get up, leave the flat and join my colleague for outreach. Spend the next three hours walking around the backstreets and side allies looking for any youths who may be in need of assistance. Make notes of hot spots for criminal activity.
3am – Go home and go back to sleep.
9am – Wake up and start again.
Although this may seem like a huge amount of work to do in one day it is a reality for many dedicated aid workers around the world. I oftenhad to work on weekends and twice forced myself to take a break due to my health. The saddest news perhaps is that I really do not know where the money goes. I had no budget for my time there except my salary which was less than half of what I would have received at a corporate job.
The average day was packed with different tasks and could be emotionally draining, depleting or uplifting depending on the outcome. It certainly was not time wasted but it did take its toll. Anyone aiming to do ground work needs to be in great shape and well prepared.