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Editor’s Note: This article is contributed by Fena, a Year 4 NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine student, Tanoto Scholar and third-time Project Sukacita participant.
During my first Project Sukacita trip in 2016, I was the sole (and clueless!) Year 2 medical student who despite fumbling through my child developmental assessments, unexpectedly made new friends with SMU and Indonesian students.
In my third and likely final trip to Kerinci, I realised that while some things remain the same – I am still the tree-planting, magnum-eating, yakult-buying, pisang-goreng-kaju-fangirling, minimart sweeping and bumpy-road-riding girl; some other things have changed significantly.
Now, the original 17 people have increased to 42 volunteers. The cars are now buses and travel time has decreased to 30 minutes instead of two hours. Most of all after three years, I am the most senior person in the group.
While I miss the heartfelt conversations we had during the long car rides, I couldn’t be prouder of the effort everyone has put in to revamp and improve this project.
This trip, I’ve gotten a little bit better at Bahasa, learnt how to convince children that otoscopes were not painful (managed to pick up a lot a lot of earwax, examined perforated eardrums and even extracted dead insects) and let me see their teeth, and generally am very grateful for the opportunity to practice what I’ve learnt back home.
More than that, I’ve hunted down the old convenience store I last visited three years ago (navigating skills did not fail me after all!), spontaneously borrowed a basketball to play, planted durian trees, caught a fish or two or six, convinced all my batchmates to buy the things I buy (like toothpaste and yakult and cheese wafers and facial wash), and sang to songs at the top of my lungs in the bus.
It’s been lovely seeing all the old faces again, and meeting new ones, though I do wish we’d had more time.
And in the midst of it all, I find that I am happy.
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Project Sukacita is a Tanoto Scholar-led community service project and is supported by the Tanoto Foundation. It was started six years ago as an initiative to spread happiness to the children of Pangkalan Kerinci, Riau, Indonesia. The project has provided an opportunity for scholars to give back and pay-it-forward, something which is constantly encouraged by Tanoto Foundation’s Chairman and Founder Mr Sukanto Tanoto and his wife Tinah Bingei Tanoto.
The Foundation provides scholarships and supports medical research in Singapore for diseases prevalent in Asia. For the latest updates, follow Tanoto Foundation on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube today!