Check out our candid featured image! Looking back at photos of the trip certainly brings back many gold memories. Let’s listen to what some of our Orioners have to say about their experiences in Operation Orion 2014!
“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.” As aptly quoted by Danny Kaye, visiting the village of Manle in Yunnan, China with Operation Orion 2014 was a journey of self-discovery that I had thoroughly enjoyed last December. It opened my eyes to the plight of those in poorer countries, from their different lifestyles to their different living conditions. Having been living in a city for my entire life, the living situation in the village provided me new insights and gave me a greater appreciation of the convenience that we enjoy in Singapore. For instance, in their homes, the villagers had to bathe in icy cold water in winters and electricity could only be available at night. It made me realise that we have always taken our convenience and wealth for granted.The December trip also taught me that rendering help to others is a fulfilling process. The construction of solar powered lampposts around the village not only brightened the once pitch black unsafe roads in the village but also the faces of the villagers. While we spent countless days and had to dirty ourselves with cement, soil and perhaps dried faeces when we were constructing the toilet for the villagers, seeing the end result of our work and the appreciative faces of the villagers made our efforts all worthwhile. The jovial and friendly nature of the villagers was also an aspect that truly touched my heart. Not only were they hospitable in letting us stay in their houses despite us being strangers, they also made sure that we were living comfortably and took care of our food. (The village chief asked me on the two occasions I met him if we were comfortable with the living conditions and whether the food was to our liking.) It made me realise that I should really learn from the villagers, to treat others kindly and warmly as how I would like to be treated.
Indeed, Operation Orion 2014 was a truly enriching experience that would surely leave a lasting impression in my mind.”
-Si Ling, Programs, Operation Orion 2014
“To me, Operation Orion is a multi-faceted institution where I get to learn about many things and it also provides me the opportunity to exercise what I have learnt. I still do remember the excitement after I got accepted into the team, and started to bond with the members through camp and fundraising efforts such as the booth sales where we courageously open to strangers to inform them of our project and get them to donate. As I was from the Operations team, we discussed and shared our research on formwork, brick laying, plastering, plants, and most importantly, safety. There were so much to learn from and experience even before we head for the trip.
Throughout the trip, I got to learn about the cultures and practices of the Dai subgroup; some of which are exotic such as the blackening of their teeth which represent beauty and the sacrifices they present to ward off evil. Indeed I was also surprised when they ate spicy food everyday due to the cold climate at that point of time. We got to experience the halcyon village life, and escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Waking up to rooster crows and not thinking about grades was a reality there. The villagers also kindly set up for us comfortable and cosy ‘futon’ for us to sleep on. We interacted with the villagers through tea sessions and they told us about what they do for a living. One information that I found commendable is that when they have to build a house in the village, each family has to send one representative to help. The art of collaborating binds the community together!
The construction of the toilets and installation of the lamppost was indeed an exhausting task but there was a great sense of accomplishment at the end of each day. I was exposed to cement mixing, brick laying and also learnt about the different types of aggregates used in the cement mixing process, and this benefitted me in preparing for the modules that I will be taking as a civil engineering student. I was impressed at the elderly women who could carry heavy workloads around.
Technicalities aside, the soft aspect of Operation Orion taught me that the gift of giving is a universal language. Being a non-native speaker of their language, I found it difficult to express what I really felt to the villagers or the students of the primary school that we visited but with the help of enthusiastic team members, I managed to overcome these challenges. One of the moments which I clearly enjoyed was when we visited Tao Nan school and the group of us have to take charge of a primary 4 class. The students were instructed to draw out and put their ambitions on paper and I taught them to draw. At the end of the session, the students asked if we were coming back the next day as they were anticipating so, but due to constraints, we could not and had to leave heavy heartedly. It was only a short period of time but it was worth living the moment.
As someone whose interest is cooking, I have also gained many life hacks and recipes. One of such is the method of peeling garlic, where the garlic is smacked and the skin will instantly burst open. As the group took turns to cook everyday, this was the first time that I get to cook for many. And to add on, the villagers were very hospitable, and knowing that I can only eat halal food, they went all out to fry for us fish and separate meals. I was very grateful.
In all, I enjoyed the operation and I felt blessed to be actually receiving more than I could give. This was truly a project where there were not many restrictions and were allowed to do what we wanted to do and it is student initiated.”
-Munsyi, Operations, Operation Orion 2014
“#adecembertoremember. Operation Orion 14’ was definitely a life changing experience that I will always hold very dearly in my heart. It was a period of growth and learning about myself as an individual. There is nothing more gratifying than to be able to make someone else smile and that’s how I feel all us OO 14’ members did when we were in Manle. We brought smiles to the villagers’ faces through many ways beyond our project objectives. We soaked ourselves in the local culture of singing and dancing during village dinner gatherings. We worked very hard alongside the villagers to ensure completion of the toilet we were building. As much as we contributed to the community, I feel that we gained so much from the villagers as well. Their hospitality and efforts to ensure that we were all comfortable despite their limited resources were very heart-warming.This was definitely a life-changing experience where good memories and strong friendships were forged and it would not have been the same if not for the strong team chemistry OO 14’ had. I would also like to make special thanks to all who were there for me when I fell terribly ill. And thank you everyone for the wonderful memories.”
-Nurul, Funds, Operation Orion 2014
To most of us, this trip has most certainly made our December one to remember forever.