As many of you know, this year I am working as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Malaysia. My placement is on the island of Borneo, in a rural town called Sri Aman. The secondary school I work at, SMK St. Luke, sits atop a hill and from the classrooms, you can see the surrounding rivers, jungle, palm plantations, and rice paddies. While Sri Aman is in a stunning location, it is very remote and is a four-hour drive to the nearest city, Kuching.
All my students are amazing, but I have become particularly close to the 120 or so students who live at my school’s hostel. These students’ families either live in villages too far to drive them to or from school each day and/or they don’t have the financial means to feed and send their kids to school. The hostel students are almost always around so I get to spend a lot of time with them. The students are all genders and range in age from 12 to 18. They are smart, hilarious, and eager to engage. We eat dinner together at the dining hall and they teach me how to say funny things in Iban, their native language. Their absolute favorite is when I bring my guitar and we sit around and sing songs while we take turns playing the instrument.
The hostel students cannot leave the school grounds unless it is one of the 2 weekends per month that they can to go home. So, it is no surprise that these kids are super bored when they aren’t studying or in class, and they need something productive to do in their free time. They are always asking me to come to the hostel to teach them to play the guitar, and I do, but there is only one guitar and limited teaching resources. I want to raise money to purchase 10-20 guitars to create a free and sustainable guitar loaning program for the students. If I can raise enough money to buy even a few guitars, students will be able to borrow a guitar for free and they will be able to practice the skills that I teach them, and after I leave, they will be able to continue practicing and they can also teach themselves to play.
I am also applying for grant funding through the US Embassy of Malaysia to create guitar guidebooks for and with the students. The guitar guidebooks will have information about how to care for and maintain a guitar, as well as chord diagrams, and the chords and lyrics to songs that the students enjoy singing and playing. The guitar guidebooks will be available to check out along with the guitars. After purchasing the guitars, I will begin holding guitar classes with the hostel students. The classes will teach them about the guitar loaning program and we will talk about how to care for a guitar. Then, they will get to learn the basics of playing the guitar! They must attend at least 1 class to be able to check out a guitar on their own, which will ensure the longevity of the program. Eventually, I will identify a few students who will be responsible for passing down the knowledge of guitar care and making sure the guitar loaning program continues even after my departure.
The school supports this idea because it means that the hostel students will be practicing their English more by learning guitar from me and by playing their favorite music, much of which happens to also be in English. The school wants to see the hostel students’ test scores go up; the students want to learn to play guitar; and I want to be able to leave SMK St. Luke knowing I have helped provide an opportunity for creativity and continued learning. It is a win for everyone!
I have worked with a music shop in Kuching to give me a 20% discount if I can purchase 5 or more guitars. This makes each guitar cost US$40. Please consider contributing a little bit, for every dollar counts and the more guitars I can purchase, the more students get to learn to play the guitar! 70% of the money raised (hopefully US$700) will go to purchase guitars, and the remaining 30% (hopefully US$300) will go towards strings, cases, tuners, picks, and capos that the students can use with the guitars.
Think of it like this: You probably spend $10 to $40 every week on stuff like beer, happy hour, brunch, or dinner. Would you be willing to give up one week of spending that money on you in order to donate to these kiddos who really, really want to learn to play the guitar? Please consider it!
In case you missed the link up top, here it is: https://www.gofundme.com/guitars-for-students-in-malaysia
Some of my hostel students and I take a break from singing
"All of Me" by John Legend. I love these kids with my whole heart!
This blog, "Uprooted", is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of its author and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State, or any of its partner organizations.