An Enriching Experience For SJIIM IBDP students in the Philippines

St. Joseph’s Institution International School Malaysia (Tropicana PJ Campus) also known as SJIIM, is unlike other internatonal schools because of its Lasallian education ethos and roots. It recently showcased its point of difference again when 17 of its new IBDP students participated in the 3rd SJIIM Lasallian Leadership Training Camp in Manila, Philippines from 4 to 14 August 2018.

A time honored Lasallian tradition that is also observed in its Brother school SJII Singapore, the programme prepares the school’s IBDP students as Senior Lasallian Student Leaders to serve the school’s community and the needy public on their return from the camp. An exciting development this year was the involvement of both scholars and non-scholars in a group of 17 incoming Year 12 students in the camp this time. Whilst on the trip, students had sessions in which they learned about the history of the Lasallian movement and the values that it stands for, as well as the story of its founder Saint John-Baptiste de la Salle. In addition to this, they also had opportunities to actively serve the less fortunate in the Philippines through the planning and implementation of mini service projects. This then prepares them to initiate and carry out similar service projects for those in need closer to home back in Malaysia.

Most of the IBDP students who attended the camp had never met each other before, nor had they been to the Philippines which made the camp very special. Whilst on the camp, the students visited three different Lasallian schools: La Salle Green Hills School and De La Salle Santiago Zobel School in Metro Manila as well as Jaime Hilario Integrated School-La Salle, near Bagac on the western coast of the Philippines. Each of these schools brought different experiences for the students and through the interactions with a variety of Lasallians, this allowed the students to develop a deeper and more complex understanding of the three core values associated with the Lasallian movement which is faith, community and service.

At Jaime Hilario Integrated School-La Salle, they interacted with other Filipino students through a variety of means. These included class immersions on the first day there in which they were assigned a class teacher to shadow for the day. Through this experience, they supported other students in their learning and found out what it was like to be a teacher in the school. The students also had the chance to plan and deliver some sessions of their own which involved singing a song and carrying out games with the Filipino students culminating in them learning each other’s languages. Many of the families the students met also gave up their own humble sleeping quarters for them, which gave the students a strong understanding of the Lasallian values in action.

At De La Salle Santiago Zobel School, the IBDP students had further service experience where they learned how to plan effectively for a service project and to ensure its successful execution. Taking part in the school’s established “Goodbye Gotam” (or “goodbye hunger”) project, they planned games for the local children whose families had moved to Metro Manila in order to be close to their loved ones who are incarcerated at the local penitentiary and for many of these children, it was not unusual to have only one meal a day. By participating in the weekly feeding of these children, the students were able to experience firsthand what a difference a simple meal can make to others. They also visited a home for former street children called “Haven for Children” and played games with these children besides sharing a meal with them. Through these service activties, many of the students were struck by the ways that they could communicate and bring happiness to these boys, despite the language barrier between them.

The IBDP students also had the rare opportunity for a tour of De La Salle University in Manila. There, they had the luck of having a session on core Lasallian values with Br. Michael Broughton FSC, the outgoing Vice President for Lasallian Mission at the university. Through the session, students were also encouraged to consider the needs of all who are less fortunate and keeping uppermost in their minds the suffering of those less fortunate than themselves. The tour of the university included not only the college’s academic and administrative buildings but also a visit to the college’s Chapel of the Most Blessed Sacrament. The experiences gained from the trip certainly served to reinforce the students resolve and understanding to making a difference in the world. This was reflected in the feedback of one of the students, Marcus Liew who said, “I will remember to have faith in the fact that I have the ability to make a difference. I will remember that as a member of this community, I need those around me and those around me need me. I will remember that my life should not be about me, but about making use of myself to serve those around me. Maybe privilege is not found in having more, but instead in appreciating the little that we have.”

Dr. Nicola Brown who is the High School Principal of SJIIM, was also delighted with the students positive experience and takeaway from the camp, “The benefits of attending the Lasallian Leadership Training Camp for our IBDP students are invaluable and completely tangible. The students are changed by their experiences. They are imbued with our values and a deep appreciation of how to share these with the community. The younger students see their exemplary modelling of Faith, Service and Community and are inspired to follow suit. It is a privilege to attend the camp and we look forward to our future collaboration with the Philippines team.”

Upon the IBDP students’ return to Kuala Lumpur, it was found that the scholars have become more aware of what is means to be a Lasallian and understood better the obstacles and challenges that come from the cause of serving the last, the lost, and the least. They have also bonded together well and are now ready to help grow the Lasallian mission back in SJIIM and Malaysia.

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