By Lloyd Green
Volunteering in a foreign country can provide an experience like no other. It can open a plethora of opportunities and harness a personal growth not attainable in most situations. So if you have the time to do something life changing and are looking for that extra zest in life, why NOT volunteer in Malaysia? You’ll be greeted with an adventure so unique you won’t help but feel absorbed by the social and cultural diversity of the country. Here are six reasons to convince you to come and volunteer in Malaysia.
A LAND OF MICROCULTURES
Step inside a fusion of ethnicities and cultures that on any particular day can revel in its guise as a global powerhouse, sleepy fishing village and jungle commune. The capital Kuala Lumpur is a burgeoning mega city with sprawling skyscrapers and million dollar projects. Flavours of India and China float inconspicuously throughout the city adding great contrast to famous Malay delights.
Venture north to Penang, and more specifically its capital George Town, for a romantic cocktail of art, architecture and colonial influences. You’ll enter one world and exit another taking with you snippets of Britain and China. Sabah and Sarawak, located on the island of Borneo, is home to some of the best diving and hiking destinations in the world including Mount Kinabalu and Sipadan Island, not to mention the various Indigenous tribes that populate the island. No matter where you go, Malaysia is sure to capture your heart with its abundance of unique attractions.
Climbing Mount Kinabalu is one of the most popular attraction in Malaysia (Photo source)
YOU REALLY CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Behind KL’s global economic reputation there are many humanitarian projects and social enterprises operating in Malaysia. Whether it is catering to the poor, constructing houses and community buildings in the jungle, assisting with the daily care and management of endangered animals at wildlife sanctuaries, teaching English to rural communities, helping to preserve Asia’s marine life or promoting a greener Malaysia, you’ll definitely feel satisfied. Given Malaysia’s multi-cultural population you’ll also have the chance to empower communities regardless of race, religion and gender and provide equal opportunities to all. Add Malaysia’s proximity to some of the most exotic locations in the world and there’s no wonder volunteering here is becoming increasingly popular. You can learn about community development, improve your knowledge and skills and increase your understanding of intercultural learning, all at the same time. Talk about icing on the cake!
CHANNELING YOUR INNER EXPLORER
Ever fancied an adventure? Well Malaysia is the place for you! The list of opportunities for exploration is endless. Take a road trip into the depths of the Malaysian jungle and immerse yourself in the lives of the Indigenous population, the Orang Asli. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing the faces of a dozen smiling Orang Asli children as you visit their community for the first time. Teach English, visit a banana plantation, play football with locals and learn how to pick local fruits. If Malaysia’s rainforest isn’t for you, you can explore the maze of highways that connects rugged and rural Malaysia with iconic destinations like Ipoh, Cameron Highlands, Perhentian Islands, Malacca, Penang, Johor Bahru and in East Malaysia Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. Discovering Malaysia’s natural wonders is a perfect way to add value to your volunteer experience.
Interacting with locals is one of the most rewarding things you can experience when volunteering in Malaysia
LIVING AND WORKING WITH LOCALS
The most authentic way to explore a country and to have a holistic learning experience is to live and work with locals. If you volunteer with a local NGO you’ll have the chance to immerse yourself in the everyday activities of Malaysians and enjoy cultural events that you would not normally witness. These experiences will vary depending on your location in Malaysia, with Malaysia’s ethnic groups divided across the country. You could attend an Indian wedding in Klang, be invited to a traditional Orang Asli ceremony in the middle of the jungle, participate in Chinese New Year celebrations in Penang, Ipoh and Chinatown or visit an Iban tribe in Sabah and Sarawak. These are just some of the advantages of mixing and mingling with locals in Malaysia.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF INTERNATIONAL DIVERSITY
Malaysia continues to be one of the region’s thriving cultural hot pots, so expect to make many friends along the way. You’ll meet people from Romania, Mexico, Italy, Spain, the USA, Timor Leste, Cambodia, England, Germany, Egypt, Sweden, Hong Kong, Iran and South Africa, just to name a few. There will also be plenty of people here doing the same thing — getting their first taste of volunteering in Asia — so you’ll be sharing your experiences with like-minded individuals. Who knows, one day you could be conversing in Arabic, singing songs in Tamil, exploring Malaysia’s beautiful islands with fellow travellers and, most importantly, serving communities throughout the country.
GET THOSE TASTE BUDS TINGLING
Are you a foodie? Do you feel inspired by culinary delights from all over the world? Look no further than Malaysia. They say food has a language of its own and in Malaysia it certainly does. Immerse yourself in a smorgasbord of international cuisines from China, Hong Kong, India, Thailand and of course Malaysia’s world-famous native dishes. Whether it’s a two ringgit roti canai or nasi lemak from the local mamak, a delicious char kway teow from a Chinese hawker or a traditional banquet
at the home of a Malay family; it’s sure to enhance your time here in Malaysia.
A typical mamak restaurant in Malaysia (Photo Source)