With the safe arrival of all of the international interns, The Urban Mapper Project is kicking off in full speed! While in between scheduled activities and sessions, the interns took the opportunity to explore the wonders that beautiful Kuala Lumpur had to offer. Together with other international interns from different projects, they went sight seeing from places like the iconic Petronas Twin Towers to historical Stadium Merdeka. Right now they're currently enjoying themselves in Cameron Highlands.
On Saturday, the team made their way to PPR Kota Damansara together with Yasmin of #BetterCities to brief the international interns on the reality of the PPR and have them experience the place itself firsthand. Jeffrey from Friends of Kota Damansara, who has been working very closely with us during the planning phase of the project, briefed the international interns on the happenings of the PPR and helped provide more context towards the project itself.
After the session that was conducted in the PPR's community hall, we had the pleasure of distributing kuih raya to disabled residents of the PPR in conjunction with the Hari Raya celebration while touring around the area. Some of the international interns were shocked at the condition that some of the residents were living in. During the brain storming session that took place after, Samanata stated that she did not expect the similarities between the low cost housing areas in Malaysia and Nepal and also realised the wide gap between the poor and rich. Amy, however, was not too surprised as the condition of rooms rented by university graduates in China who are unable to find proper paying jobs are almost similar.
Once all the kuih raya had been handed out, we decided to talk a short walk and visit the surrounding shops and determine what kinds of food are most accessible to the residents at the PPR. We found out that there is a weekly night market on Saturdays but no morning wet market. Residents are commonly known to buy groceries including meat and vegetable at the nearby sundry shops, which sell goods at slightly lower prices. However, there was an abundance of unhealthy food being sold at the shops compared to fresh meat and vegetables.
Jeffrey has always told us about the forest reserve that he and his team have been planning to utilise more often such as by having a community garden and family activities that would benefit the residents of the PPR. As the meeting was running a little later than planned, we did not expect that we would be able to see the forest reserve on that day itself, but we sure were glad that we did!
Gana, Jeffrey's right-hand boy and a resident of the PPR itself, took us on a short but exciting trek halfway through the forest reserve. Due to time constraints and also not being dressed for the occasion, we weren't able to trek all the way to the creek. However, being surrounded by nature made us feel more refreshed and definitely pumped us up for the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned for more exciting updates!
After endless sessions of planning, presenting, refining and more planning, The Urban Mapper Project is finally on the go! Last week, we had an Introduction to Cultural Mapping session at Sunway University with Yasmin from #BetterCities, where we covered a lot of ground on what cultural mapping is all about, the motivations behind using it as well as the steps preferably taken for a smoother mapping process. Yasmin also included some good case practices from groups in Malaysia who have done cultural mapping as part of their community engagement activities. The cultural mapping method was still a very new concept for us, especially the international interns but all of them were very attentive and participative during the whole session.
To be honest, the international interns were very quiet when they arrived to the room. I guess, it takes time for them to warm up between each other but after a very fun ice-breaking session, I would say it loosened up the tension in the air of the session being formal and lecture-like.
After the introductory session of cultural mapping, we got to experience a hands-on mapping process where we had to create a "Memory Map" of our own by first, drawing pieces of memory from our childhood on a huge mahjong paper which was provided. Next, we had to draw pictures of who we see ourselves as now or objects that has an association with us, now. After explaining our pictures to our partner, we began matching the similarities of both spectrums.
The activity was fun and it also involved quite a lot of introspection and reflection. It was interesting to see the similarities despite our very different backgrounds that most of us were keen in travelling some part of the world and that we were quite the adventurer when we were younger! I realized that although we are from various countries and our upbringing had stark contrasts, we are essentially growing up together and are exposed to similar things. We are more alike than we think we are!
The team got together after the cultural mapping workshop to go through the plan as to put a theme over our whole project and we came up with "Creating awareness of a healthy diet and lifestyle through colour and art". We decided to instead of tapping into all the existing issues that the PPR has, we would focus on understanding where the nutrition sources for the PPR kids come from and the accessibility of healthy food alternatives.
Overall, the sessions served as an intensive introduction to cultural mapping and despite it being a totally new thing to the interns, they seemed to take all the information in quite well and were very responsive in terms of voicing out their opinions and chipping in what they thought. Looking forward to the engagements we'll be having the next week!
Last Sunday, we had the privilege to join the weekly English lessons conducted at the PPR community hall for the children. It was nice to get to know and engage with the kids prior to our project. Their English lesson lasted for two hours and after that, we decided to collaborate with AIESEC in Sunway’s ongoing project, AIESEC Believes in Culture, Diversity and Ethnicity (ABCDE) and have a mini Global Village with the kids.
With exchange participants from Tunisia, Egypt, Hong Kong and Pakistan sharing about their beloved country and its culture, the children got insights on culture, food and people of different countries. Some of which were not familiar to them at all. Through observation, the children took an interest in the more interactive sessions like the Bhangra dancing and the Q&A sessions, which some of them won themselves foreign currency by answering the questions correctly.
Overall, the kids were very excited and surprisingly participative as well. During our planning stage, we were well aware that they spoke and understood a little amount of English. So we tried our very best to translate everything to Bahasa Malaysia on the spot to ease their learning process. Although our translations did not come out as fluent as we wished it would be, that didn't stop them from participating in conversations and Q&A sessions, which made us very comfortable and happy.
Towards the end of the session before we all bid our goodbyes, it was so humbling to be asked by the kids whether we were coming back anytime soon. We are definitely looking forward to the start of our project next week and meeting the kids again!