Student Council Overseas Immersion, Malaysia
From the 19th to 24th June 2014, a group of fifteen student councillors from Year 2 to Year 4, together with three accompanying teachers from Dunman High School participated in the Student Council Overseas Expedition to Taman Negara, Malaysia. The main objective of the trip is to allow Student Councillors to grow as leaders through a school exchange and various outdoor activities. On top of giving them the opportunity to understand and appreciate foreign leadership practices, the experience also aims to enable them to be more able to handle tough challenges and prevail over them, surpassing and conquering the difficulties and challenges that student leaders face.
Daily Highlights & Learning Points
Day 01: The group visited the SMK Merapoh Secondary School and had a great time there. They each had a buddy who introduced the school to them, and students got to know each other better. The Malaysian students were very friendly and outgoing. Through the full day school exchange, DHS students got to know more about the education system, leadership practices and cultures, as well as how school life is like in Malaysia.
Day 02: Student councillors spent the day at two caves, which required them to do a short trek before reaching the actual sites. They carried out a cave conservation effort at the first one. The task was first to clean up the area and its surroundings by picking up litter. Next, they had to put up barricades and signboards around various cave formations to protect them and educate the public on the brittle limestone formations there. The second cave they visited was called the ‘Thousand Stories Cave’. They saw many well-preserved paintings on the cave walls which were said to be almost a thousand years old.
Day 03: The highlight of the day was a visit to Jelawang waterfall, which is the tallest in Southeast Asia. But before that, the group was introduced to the rubber plantations, and each of them were given a chance to try rubber tapping. Thereafter, the councillors trekked for a few minutes up a steep hill to the waterfall which was a rather tedious and tiring process. When the councillors reached the waterfall, they went into the water and had a whale of time splashing water at each other.
Day 04: The group had an expedition in a river cave named Gua Hari Malaysia. They trekked for 45 minutes through the forest to reach the entrance. The cave is 1 kilometre long with many rock formations. Participants had to avoid many obstacles such as boulders in the way while travelling through the cave. At times, they had to crawl due to the tight space and low ceiling conditions. The journey through the river cave was physically and mentally challenging. It was indeed an eye opening experience which taught everyone perseverance.
Stalactites, stalagmite and flow stones were beautiful rock formations we saw in the two caves we visited today. I have never seen these formations before and when we first saw them, I felt like I have entered one of the pictures in my Geography textbook. When the guide told us that we were the first Singaporeans to step into this cave for conservation purpose, I felt very honoured and lucky to have signed up for this programme. It was indeed an eye-opening experience for me as I have always seen pictures of such unique rock formations but have not gotten any chance to get up close to them.
Our main purpose for the visit to the cave was to carry out the conservation programme. We first split into groups to clean up parts of the cave by picking up the litter left behind by other visitors. Thereafter, we set up barricades and put up “Do Not Touch” signs around the rock formations to prevent future visitors from touching the formations in order to protect them. I find this activity very meaningful as we were able to protect nature and preserve the precious formations around us that is important to the wildlife.
From this activity, I have also learnt more about the rock formations in the cave and how brittle they are. I have learnt that the nature is very precious and it can easily be destroyed by us humans, if we are not aware of their britility and importance. One of the main objectives of this trip is to grow as leaders and learn to overcome obstacles faced and work together as a team. I find that through this conservation programme alone, we have indeed learnt things that can shape us into better leaders. Many a time, we had to work in groups and we had to cooperate with each other to get things done in the shortest amount of time due to time constraint. Hence, I have learnt to communicate more efficiently with my group members when we split the work within the group for more efficiency. At certain points in time, it was so dark we could not see one another. We could only see the light from other’s helmet and could not verify if our group member was present. In order to pick up the litter in the cave, we had to crawl through small cracks to pick up the litter others have left behind. We constantly had to check with one another and ensure that everyone stays in their group so that no one gets left behind. As a leader, we have to take care of the group and ensure the safety of everybody. A leader is not only one who communicate well with his or her group but takes care of them along the way. A leader is not only the one walking ahead of the group but walking beside them.
In the cave, we also had difficulties trying to stabilize the barricades. However, with resilience as well as teamwork, we were able to communicate with one another and pass on the message to bring in more heavy rocks to hold the barricades to the ground. Some rocks were really heavy but we worked together as a team and brought heavier rocks to stabilize the barricades. Although this is only a small activity, I have learnt how important is teamwork and perseverance which are values that a leader should have.
14Y3G Daniel Tan
On our last day, we went on an expedition to visit a cave. We had to trek for around 45 minutes before we could reach the entrance of the cave. Although the trek was tiring, it was interesting as along the way, our guides showed us the smallest species of Rafflesia, which would only be in bloom for roughly 1 week. The trek was also quite challenging as we had to cross many small streams and climb over slippery rock, and some of us slipped while walking! However, the other councillors made the journey fun. They made jokes that made us laugh and forget about the heat and the insects biting us in the forest. We helped look out for one another when the rocks were slippery. Those in the front warned the councillors at the back of unstable rocks and gaps that they should avoid.
Finally we reached the entrance of the cave. the cave entrance was rather small and dark. It was partially filled with water. At first, I felt scared as it was dark and cold in the cave. I did not know what to expect. To make things worst, the instructors told us that there were snakes, spiders and other creatures in the cave. This made me even more frightened. To go through the cave, we had to bend down, crawl, slide, climb up and down cascades and even submerge our whole body into the freezing water!
To me, the hardest part of the cave was climbing up the cascade,we had to pull ourselves up using a rope while using the cave walls as a support. As the cave walls were wet and slippery, it was hard for me to climb up as i kept on slipping down. I thought I would never make it up the cascade and thought of giving up. I thought maybe I could wait for the group outside the cave. However, the other councillors encouraged me and even helped support me by pushing me up. They even gave me advice on what I should do to make it up. With the help of the other councillors, I managed to pull myself up. Although there were also other challenging parts, such as climbing over huge rocks, everyone managed to make it through the cave. We all persevered and even though it was not easy, we overcame all obstacles together.
Climbing the cascade has taught me about teamwork. I would never have made it up the cascade by myself. With even just a little help and a word of encouragement, I managed to overcome that challenge. I also realised that just a little word of encourage and support will help somebody achieve something they never thought they could achieve. However, these words of encouragement and help people gave me could only help me to a certain extent, there was still a distance I needed to pull myself up the cascade. From this experienced, I have learnt that friends, families and teachers can only help me to a certain extent. At the end, it is still my journey and challenge that I have to overcome myself. I realised that I have to believe in myself if I really wanted to overcome the challenges.
Overall, it was an interesting, eye-opening and really fun experience as this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enter such a cave and experience the whole process of going through it!
14Y2A Sng Qi Wen