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It’s hard to forget how effective a cause is when there are living breathing examples of success sitting in the office with you. Here at SOLS we’re lucky enough to have several such examples working alongside us. Hamdan is an former student and graduate, one of the first to have been brought through the SOLS development program. At the time when he began learning, SOLS advertised English and computer classes, although there were not enough computers available for the students to practice on, and they had to share.
Hamdan (on the left) providing grants to a successful NGO (2015)
Hamdan was inspired by an encounter with a young boy. “This was about fifteen years ago, before I joined SOLS. I was working with my friend at a small company that cut grass, and did road care. I was waiting for my friend around 7am in my village. Then I saw a father walking with his son. The son was young, roughly five years old I think. At this time in the morning all the kids in their white uniforms went to the school, which was five minutes away on foot. The kid asked his father, ‘father can I go to the school with my friends? I’m so jealous seeing them get to study and be happy’ and what the father said was ‘you don’t need to go to the school, just come with me to the jungle, we cut the rotan, we sell it, we can make money’ and the boy just nodded his head and cried. I was thinking. Now he’s maybe six years old. The father hasn’t sent him to school; the father doesn’t know how to write or how to read. What will happen to his child?”
Hamdan had finished high school at the age of 17. Having begun working, he realized that his long term prospects were effectively non-existent. Stuck in an endless cycle of menial jobs, without any qualifications to aid him in escaping the loop, he couldn’t expect to earn a monthly wage of more than RM500 ($125USD). Hamdan wanted “to get married, I want kids, all that, and I want to buy some personal things, a house or a car. On five hundred ringgit, you think that’s enough?” This was enough to survive off, he knew, but not enough to enjoy his life with. His upward potential was going to be eternally hobbled by his lack of an education. Which is why he joined the SOLS classroom when the opportunity was offered to him in 2007. Every day he was taught for free about motivation and English. Every meal he had to walk half an hour each way to get free food from a buddhist monastery.
Hamdan with the first Students in a Youth Development Centre(YDC) Borneo (2012)
After spending a year and a half learning about motivation and English with Indians, and Asli students; Hamdan was gradually initiated into the SOLS family, and after participating in an exchange in Timor Leste for two years, found himself touring Malaysia looking for new students to be brought into the schools and community centres that Hamdan was simultaneously attempting to establish. These community centres were often established in flimsy physical buildings, although the resolve behind them was solid. Living off a meagre budget off RM200 ($50USD), Hamdan spent time touring the various villages and towns around Malaysia, trying to drum up students for schools which often had yet to be established. Hamdan was frightened however. “That was the first challenge. I took that challenge.”
Hamdan’s community school class in Timor Leste (2009)
After touring a while, Hamdan acquired some students in Sabah, and was able to establish a community centre of sorts beneath a roof. There were no walls, and the lessons went on in this overhang until a religious centre mercifully decided to open its doors to the students, and allowed them to be educated inside at last. Thus ended the students’ time spent sleeping with the mosquitoes. The mosquitoes were sad and sorry to see the students leave. The students experienced knee-buckling waves of relief. This school was to become the SOLS YDC Borneo Green Academy. Newly-titled Teacher Hamdan spent time in these villages, getting to grips with the day-to-day operations side of the program, before being promoted to a manager of eight community centers, operating from an office.
Here Teacher Hamdan can be found to this day, though now he coordinates other NGOs efforts, and teaches them to maximize their efficacy. He’s obtained the wife, car, and house that he dreamed of. Happily, he returns to his village where his old friends, who once saw him as “Hamdan, the smoker, the drunkard”, now “give [Hamdan] more respect”. The way he has been able to build himself into a high value member of society is remarkable, but he doesn’t think he’s alone. With the help of SOLS he stresses to students that “whatever I went through, you will go through”.
Hamdan with students in Paya Mengkuang (2013)
SOLS has built itself alongside Teacher Hamdan as well. We’ve now acquired wide ranging computer labs, where we teach not only programming, but technology refurbishment as well. With each passing year waves of new students come to join our programs, learning everything from solar panel installation to mathematics. The core program of English and motivation has never changed however, nor has the price tag. If you’re interested in seeing how far your journey with us can take you, contact us.
Written by Marcomms Intern, Jack Seaberry