During my summer break of studying abroad in the UK, I had the longing desire of doing some volunteer work back home in Malaysia. After several web searches on my laptop, I stumbled upon what was to become my most enjoyable and valuable experience in volunteering. The organization’s name SUKA Society or Suara Kanak-Kanak Society, instantly caught my attention. After reading about the organization and its passionate involvement in combatting human trafficking, I decided to email them for more information on how I could get involved. Since then, I never looked back.
My volunteering stint at government protection shelter included conducting activities and exercises, along with other volunteers, for female trafficked survivors who have been trafficked into this country. To be honest, I was initially quite sceptical of the difference I would be able to make in the trafficked survivor’s lives as I was only going to volunteer for a brief period of a month. However, it all changed when I stepped into the protection shelter for my first-hand experience in touching their lives.
When I made my way inside the protection shelter for the first time, I was surprised to see how enthusiastic the women were! My entry into the protection shelter seemed to cause a huge smile on their faces, a stark contrast to their depressed expressions just moments before. After more and more weekly visits to the protection shelter as well as carrying out various different kinds of activities, such as breathing exercises and musical chairs, I gradually gained a sense of fulfilment. The expression of sheer joy on the trafficked survivor’s faces during the activities that were conducted really touched my heart. Seeing them happy – albeit momentarily – made me realize that staying in a protection shelter and being away from their families, made them appreciate the activities, games and company SUKA Society was able to provide. I felt that even a small act or kind gesture, such as making the trafficked survivors smile or playing games with them, makes a huge difference in their lives.
Joy and happiness aside, I remember an incident in which an Indonesian female trafficked survivor asked me “Bila saya boleh balik?” (When can I go back home?) and at that time I felt a sense of helplessness as I was unable to provide an answer. Conned by her perpetrator, I knew she had to endure a lot of problems and obstacles before being put into this protection shelter, which to her most probably felt like a miserable prison with no escape. However, I assured her that she would soon return to her beloved country and that in the meantime, she would be well taken care of while her case was in the process of being resolved in court. My answer seemed to have the done the job as she seemed a lot calmer after. This incident made me realize that some of us are very fortunate to have our loved ones by our sides unlike these unfortunate trafficked survivors who yearn for the chance to be reunited with their family.
Overall, after my time volunteering, I gained a deeper understanding of SUKA Society’s approach. I realized that the place was not just a fun protection shelter but a shelter that nurtured, educated, and prepared them for the start of a fresh new life. And SUKA Society’s was the means through which these objectives were achieved. It is the organization’s hope that the trafficked survivors see the protection shelter as not a prison but a place in which they are protected from their perpetrators before being returned home safely. In fact, I vividly remember the expression of joy one of the survivors faces when she was told that she would be going back home in a few days. I felt elated for her because I knew that after her time in the protection shelter and with SUKA Society, she was ready physically, mentally, and spiritually to begin a new life back home.
My experience here has hugely benefitted me as a student as I now realize that although we make mistakes, whether it is our fault or not, we should always remain positive and look ahead towards a brighter future. After one fulfilling month, I was able to take a multitude of lessons and values that came with the volunteering experience. Although I was with the trafficked survivors for only a month, they made a significant impact in my life that I will remember forever. In addition, I have also made some great friends along the way whom I would also like to thank as we shared an enjoyable journey together.