Warm sunshine greeted us as we gathered outside the Kota Damansara Community Forest Park. We waited with anticipation, as 30 children from the Ti-Ratana Children’s Home would be arriving soon. On this day, a group of volunteers from diverse backgrounds, including those from a few different Special Interest Groups and non-MNS members, had gathered together for a common goal: to educate and inspire the young children to understand and care for the environment. This nature camp was co-organised by Green Living and the Marine Group of the Malaysian Nature Society, Selangor Branch.
At 9.30 am, our expected party arrived. Wide-eyed and excited, the children and 5 helpers, including 4 volunteers from Ireland, disembarked from the bus. After a short introduction, we plunged headlong into our first activity of the day – a nature walk. The children and volunteers were divided into two groups for the walk – one led by John, another by Pasu.
Our first stop was a polluted lake. Disgusted by the smell oozing out of the lake and rubbish thrown everywhere, the children saw firsthand the consequence of not caring for our environment. Many even pledged to only throw rubbish into trashcans in the future.
Led by Aunty Pasu of the Nature Guides, we crossed a wooden bridge and entered the forest. Knowledgeable and experienced, she pointed out the different types of flora and explained their uses as we trekked along the forest floor. Some of the younger children had never been in a forest before and were afraid. They clung to the volunteers’ hands and moaned or cried. But they brightened up with continuous encouragement from the volunteers. As time went by, they began to appreciate the fungi growing on decaying wood and the butterflies fluttering by. Despite the endless annoyance from mosquitoes and their sweat-drenched bodies, the children emerged from the forest after an hour as conquerors, cheering and raising their walking sticks high above their heads.
Keong and Ashleigh got us going with the next activity, which was knot-tying and fire-starting. They showed us how to tie a bow knot and a bowline knot.
After that, we moved to the piles of dry sticks and tinder set on a cement counter. Keong, with a strike of his hands, set the tinder on fire. Everyone clapped and cheered. Then, the children were given a chance to try out as well. Eagerly, they waited in line and as they succeeded in starting the fire, you could see their eyes light up as well.
The children crowd around Ashleigh as he demonstrates fire-starting techniques.
Growling tummies indicated that it was time for lunch. After a meal of rice and lemon chicken, we proceeded on with games. We played a variation of the popular rock-paper-scissors game: sharks-dolphins-humans. Although the young children did not really follow the rules, they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Chasing each other like little whirlwinds all over the place, they filled the air with laughter.
All too soon it was time to leave. After bidding the children farewell, we too went on our way, happy with the knowledge that a seed for the love of nature had been planted in each of the children’s hearts. Hopefully, it will continue to grow in the years to come.