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Preserving the Past

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Formal Speech
Good morning Dr.Koh, teachers and fellow Josephians. My name is Jacky and today I will be representing the students who went on the Volunteer Trip to Mongolia last year to share my experiences and hopefully persuade you to go for the trip that will be conducted once again this year.

Imagine a city of one million people. Then imagine 60 percent of them living in settlements without water, sanitation or basic infrastructure, often in traditional Mongolian felt tents, known as gers. Then imagine these people relying on wood- or coal-burning stoves for cooking and heating, with fuel costs eating up 40 percent of their income. Worst of all, imagine you breathing the thick, toxic smog from thousands of stoves 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Unfortunately, this is not imagination, this is the real situation for over a half million people living in the ger districts of the capital, Ulaanbaatar. Not a pretty picture.

With this in mind, we signed up for this Volunteer trip to Mongolia last year during the June holidays hoping to get a better insight on the lives of the locals there and possibly lessen their burdens. Fortunately, the organization that we worked together with, Hearts For Homes is tackling the housing problems by allowing us to help in the construction of low-costs apartments and mitigating the impact of the air pollution problem by distributing better stoves that uses more efficient fuel.

Surprisingly, the local homeowners greeted us with a hearty welcome. It was somehow comforting to see the smile on their faces when we were working together with them to build their new homes. Even though we speak of a different language with them, we could still communicate with them through the use of body gestures. This in a way bonded us together and helped us learned more about their traditional culture over the days of work. The whole experience evoked sympathy among us and to put it in a nutshell, it was truly a heart to heart experience.

The trip has almost certainly changed something within me. Observing the stark poverty of the locals living in the district of Ulaanbaatar I realized how privileged we are in Singapore. We should not take things that we have such as the roof over our heads and the modern amenities for granted. Therefore, I want you to take a step back and ask yourself. Should people especially children live a life of poverty like this? Thank you SJI and may you have a pleasant day ahead.

Jacky Steven Rusli

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