Each week we bring you the story and perspective of an outstanding volunteer. This week, meet Dennis “Jar” Ting Teck Wah, a Water Brigades volunteer from Imperial College London, who recently participated in a Brigade to Ghana.
Why did you decide to join a Brigade? What inspired you?
My motivation for signing up with the Water Brigades is pretty cliché: I’m just another person who has just recently shed a few pounds and is interested in figuring out just how far I can push myself towards the limit. Having spent the entirety of my youth and teenage years as an obese child who was never really good at anything physical, I just wanted to know how much I have changed (if at all). Global Water Brigades was the perfect opportunity for me to test myself while also experiencing a cultural change abroad.
Not the noblest of causes I’m afraid but upon reflection of our time in Srafa Aboano (the community) I am happy to conclude that initial motivations are not always that important. Sometimes the only motivation that matters are the ‘in the moment’ ones. For me that was: not letting others down (both brigaders and community members). The only thing that ran through my mind while helping with the work was: “Do it quick and right. Do it quick to match the pace and right so no one else has to waste time redoing the task from scratch.”
What was it like working in rural communities?
We spent a total of 4 days in the community helping the Water Brigade build their project. Like any construction project, it was hard and tiring work but it was truly motivating just to be around (and sometimes work alongside) the people there who were always in high spirits despite having to cope with their water issues.
Although the community looked just like any other undeveloped rural town at first glance, it was actually quite an amazing experience just to be there. It was interesting to see how the people there did common things in a culturally different way: from the crops they harvested and how they did it to the kinds of animals they reared and how they handled them. Being there and seeing the people make the best with what little they have really makes you appreciate all the conveniences that we often(sadly) take for granted.
After returning home, do you feel you have changed as a person because of your experience?
Overall I believe that this experience has made me much more considerate. Before my experience here I have never actually been much of a thoughtful person when it comes to resource use. Ever since I have returned I find myself being more conscious about little things like not leaving the water running when it doesn’t need to be or not leaving the lights on just to make a room look brighter.
I can’t say that I’ll start traveling more but I can say that I’ll approach and react to traveling with more of an open mind. I used to think traveling was overrated. Now I believe traveling is truly beneficial: when you see people doing things in a different culture and learn about what they value, it all just helps you think and understand things in a broader, more flexible way. On that point I would say it is good for young people to volunteer and travel so that they can have these experiences early and benefit from it. Of course that’s not to say having these experiences later in life is not useful, in short its: the earlier the better but better late than never still holds.
What memory or experience stands out the most from your Brigade trip?
No particular part of the experience really stood out to me but the journey itself as a whole is a very significant chapter in my life. It is significant because of all the people I have met and the things I have learnt while on it. I’m pretty sure some of these things will stay with me till I’m dead.
How have you grown from your experience?
At this point I think how I’ve changed is already well visited. They say that a person is the most truthful when exhausted and I’m just glad to know that I can still smile, laugh and be cheerful even though I’m absolutely out of stamina and my feet plagued with ringworm (totally 100% my own fault. Who the hell wears Wellingtons in blazing weather?).
I would like to finish this by saying that working with my fellow brigaders and the GWB crew for those 10 days has been a great honour and I will always cherish these memories. If anyone is reading this to look for inspiration/motivation before deciding on embarking on a brigade, all I have to say is that it’s one of the best things you’ll ever do but it’s really hard to put into words (evident from my continuous waffling). You kind of have to be there experiencing it to understand. So I say take that risk, I reckon you won’t be disappointed.