A Humbling Experience Helping Rohingya Refugees with Project Xing Fu 8

[Feature Image: A Photo of the Team before setting off!]

Overseas community service projects (OCSPs) are student-led projects that aim to empower the overseas communities they serve. Students gain invaluable lessons that help them grow as individuals while forming close bonds with fellow team members.

Third-year SMU School of Social Sciences undergraduate and co-leader of OCSP Project Xing Fu 8, Muhammad Zhafri Bin Azman, shares his experiences being part of the team. 


By Muhammad Zhafri Bin Azman, Undergraduate, SMU School of Social Sciences

I was very honoured to be given the opportunity to co-lead Project Xing Fu (PXF) 8, together with my peer, third-year SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business undergraduate Nurul Aisyah Binte Azmi.

In 2019,  PXF partnered Reyna Movement and Cahaya Surya Bakti (CSB) in helping the Rohingya refugees. Our OCSP, which took place from 27 July to 10 August, and was largely successful with three key highlights during our trip.

Firstly, while in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, we worked with CSB, a non-governmental organisation that partners with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to operate schools for children of Rohingya refugees.

At CSB, we conducted lessons on topics like personal hygiene, financial literacy and mathematics.  We also played games that were specially crafted to educate them about morals and teamwork.

It was a memorable time spent with the children there as we came to see them as our little brothers and sisters. Our last day there was filled with hugs and teary goodbyes.

Personally, it was heart-wrenching for me to listen to the students’ stories of their struggles back in their home country, and the difficulties they face in receiving education. It really put things into perspective and I realised the privilege of education and how we often take it for granted here.


Conducting a financial literacy lesson

One of our members, Stella, conducting a class on financial literacy for the children there


The second highlight was when we helped Reyna Movement set up their new centre in the area. We painted murals on several walls and installed furniture.

Our team members thoroughly enjoyed painting and some of us felt that it was quite therapeutic. It was heartwarming to see my peers so invested, and there were several times when I had to urge them to move on to the next activity.

It was great to see my teammates work so closely together to help add colour (literally) and life to the centre.


Murals painted

One of several completed murals that the team painted on the walls of the Reyna centre


The third and last highlight was in Kuala Lumpur where we donated groceries and necessities to around 200 Rohingya families living in the area.

I was really proud of how the team managed to carry out everything smoothly despite having never done anything of that scale previously. Seeing the smiles of the families that came during the grocery drive made us really happy and feel that all of our efforts were worthwhile. Personally, it also instilled a desire in me to want to continue serving where possible.


Final checks on the grocery bags

One of our members, John, making final checks to the grocery bags before the grocery drive


Additionally, PXF has always made it a point to cook our own dinners. This year was no different as our members spent time together whipping up culinary delights. I was always pleasantly surprised because our dinners actually tasted really good!

Through cooking and all our experiences, the team bonded very closely with some even mentioning that they had ‘withdrawal symptoms’ after the OCSP ended.


Preparing rice for dinner

One of our members, Akmal, preparing rice for the team’s dinner that day


For those who are thinking of joining an OCSP, my advice would be to take a leap of faith and join one that interests you. Doing so has allowed me to help those in need while providing life-long memories and make good friendships.

The next edition, PXF 9, will happen in the summer of 2020, led by a new batch of talented and amazing people. Recruitment starts in January, so please do come join and write your own chapter in the PXF story!


Keen to take the next step with SMU? Learn more about our undergraduate programme today.