“Your job requires you to reach out to, and work with Indonesian migrants in Sandakan,”
I was told on my first day at work. Initially, I was a little resistant. My perception of the migrants was somewhat negative due to my lack of exposure and interaction with them, and insufficient information and knowledge about them. That was two years ago.
The person who played an important part in changing my perceptions is Good Shepherd Sister Maria Dipal. From her, little by little, I learnt about the work of Pusat Kebajikan Good Shepherd (PKGS) and Seri Murni Crisis Centre in Sandakan. Her sharing and guidance motivated and inspired me. Gradually, I began to understand the life of migrants more and more, and through my work, I found myself falling in love with the Good Shepherd Mission.
My involvement in the Children’s Learning Programme (CLP) for the Indonesian migrant children, aged 7 to 12, had drawn me closer to the Indonesian migrant community. My regular encounters with them also opened my eyes to see how fortunate and blessed I am, especially in being able to access a proper education from early childhood.
I can still remember the first time I taught my class of children. As I wrote on the whiteboard, they were filled with amazement at how the simple marker pen worked, and were more amazed when I erased the words with a “magic duster”. I was surprised by their simplicity, or was it ignorance? As I worked and grew closer to them, I wished they were given the opportunity, like me, to attend a mainstream school.
As the months and years passed by, I discovered more and more about their poverty-stricken lives, the dilapidated condition of their houses, the unhealthy and unhygienic surroundings where they lived beside chicken and pig farms, and much more. I saw their financial struggles, problems with documentation, lack of access to transportation, and other challenges. At times, I felt totally helpless, and pessimistic for them. Given my own limitations, it seemed like all I could do was to just listen to them.
It has become very clear to me that education is so important for everyone. From my experience with the migrant community, the lack of an education is one of the greatest disadvantages to their lives, and this has a huge impact on their thinking, outlook, personality and behaviour. The parents’ lack of awareness of the importance of an education, poor parenting skills, poor problem-solving skills, unhealthy lifestyle, sometimes lack of moral values, and many more, are enormous challenges in working with them.
Cultural differences contribute to the challenges too. I observe that the parents discipline their children very harshly. To them, this is regular and natural. As I reflect on the ups and downs of journeying with the Indonesian migrants, I almost cannot believe how much I have grown and been transformed from who I was before my work with the migrants. My experiences with the unfortunate and marginalised children and women had in many ways enriched my life and strengthened my faith as a Christian. For the many challenges and difficulties that I had undergone, each had been an opportunity for me to better understand God’s living words and call through loving service.
The Good Shepherd Mission is very challenging, yet empowering and enriching as it provides opportunities for each person to experience God’s love in special and different ways. My experiences have reached and touched the deepest part of my heart. I had never thought that I would be willing to sacrifice time and energy to serve this group of people at the margin. But I did. I now acknowledge them as my friends.
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve God and grow through the Good Shepherd Mission. It is God’s precious gift to me.
Comprehensive overview from the GSAPP team - how Good Shepherd Partnership for Mission is developing in this region