Tuesday, February 14, 2017


So yesterday I had the pleasure of attending an English workshop run by Kalsom-MASCA at a camp site in Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor. Kalsom is a non-profit that tries to help underprivileged secondary school students by organising camps that focus on getting the students to learn about English, History and Math as well as equip them with leadership and organisation skills that they may find useful in their lives post-school. It's been going on for years now, and this year was my second time joining them to help the students out.

The session that I got to attend last night was a role-playing session, where each group was asked to adapt a chapter of the novel that they were supposed to be reading (Dear Mr Kilmer by Anne Scraff) into a short play and perform it on stage. Afterwards, the group was asked to present their discussions about the chapter on stage. Each group had seven minutes to do all that, and I had to evaluate how well each group did and by the end of the 10 chapter presentations, choose the top 3 from the bunch.

Watching all the students work together to put together a workable script adaptation to portray the main ideas of each chapter was great. Some groups really showed that they understood the core of the text and what it was trying to say, and delivered it succinctly and efficiently with the limited amount of time they had. It made me wish that I had a similar opportunity to explore literature in the way that they had back when I was a teenager (ugh, I still have yet to come to terms with no longer being a teenager myself). It would have definitely helped start my love towards the arts a lot earlier than I had, and I would probably set about a different path.

But of course hindsight is 2020 and I have to live with my choices and make the best of the opportunities that come my way in the future, not dread the choices I made in the past and begrudge these other people for the opportunities that they have. That's a very negative way to live, in my estimation, and it doesn't help me achieve anything. Best be thankful for what I have and work towards building a more ideal future for myself with the resources at my disposal.

At the end of the session, the hosts asked me to give a bit of a wrap-up of the evening, and as I was utterly unprepared, I talked about the first thing that came to my head: the importance of literature. I couldn't bring myself to tell these students that literature is important because of this, this and this, so I asked them to use the remainder of the evening thinking about why literature is important. I shared with them why I value literature myself, which was that literature was what started me on my journey towards understanding and practicing empathy. Sure, I have a long way to go on the journey, but if it weren't for literature, I don't think I would have even started the journey and still be under the impression that I understood what empathy meant.

I don't know if they actually went back to think about it. If I were in their position, I would just want to go back to my bed and sleep before tomorrow's activities. Looking back at it, maybe just asking them to think about something wasn't the best way to get them to think about it. Maybe I could have said something more thought out, more thought-provoking to start he thinking process. But as I sit here, typing and staring at my mug of coffee, I can't come up with what that thought would be. There's something for me to chew on for a bit, at least.

Here's to literature and empathy.

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