My big leap towards adulthood

The concept of “work from home” was introduced throughout the nation as a safety precaution by the government.

Nov 27, 2021

By Alexander Anthony Lourdes 

My transition from a carefree young guy to a responsible young adult took place last year. The beginning of 2020 was a big leap towards adulthood as I went for my first job interview. The interview went well. I was appointed as the Administrative and Finance Officer for a project focusing on the development of the refugee community in Kedah by the New Thessalonian Apostolate (NTA) and their international collaborator.

I started off on a three-month probation. The office was set up in the NTA School for Refugee Children in Alor Setar, close to the targeted community.

Initially it was challenging for me to adapt to the working lifestyle. However, as time passed, I began to adapt to the environment and to the work assigned to me which was related to the refugees and migrant workers.

I was really interested in the plight of the refugees and was moved when I met them in person – the community, seeing their way of living and the problems they faced while surviving in this country. It saddened me to see how they’re treated, and to see how ignorant we are when they need a hand.

It was a very smooth implementation of the project until the coronavirus pandemic hit the world. The concept of “work from home” was introduced throughout the nation as a safety precaution by the government.

Thinking that I had finally experienced working life, I began to relax. As the pandemic struck the whole nation and changed the lives of all people, so too did it change mine. One week before the MCO in Malaysia, my senior officer went back to Indonesia for personal reasons. With only a few months experience, I was left to handle the necessary while she was away.

I was adapting to the “work from home” concept and was comfortable, in a way. But my feelings of relief were shortlived when, after only a few weeks, I was informed that I would have to be out and about to give aid to the refugee community around Alor Setar. Moved by compassion and a sense of responsibility, NTA and their collaborative partner came with aid to be distributed among the refugee community in Alor Setar. The only way this aid could be distributed was for me to go out and distribute it myself.

To be honest, I wasn't comfortable, due to the rise of COVID-19 cases throughout Malaysia, but I asked myself … If I said no to this, who else would be willing to do it? So, I let go of all worries, to step out and get the work done. While I was distributing aid, it was a struggle to navigate along closed-down roads and to encounter police checkpoints but at the end of the day, the joy I got when I looked at the people as they received the aid, the smiles, the tears, and the heartfelt gratitude shown by them, made me tell myself, “it's worth it”. From that point on, I spent most of my time out of my house, going around for the refugees. It became my passion.

My compassion towards the refugees overcame my fear and I continued to do the work I was assigned to. Seeing the condition the people were in, the joy, the tears, and the gratitude they showed when they received the aid, I was glad that I had stepped up.

One special moment for me was when I encountered a refugee father of three kids who was reduced to tears when he received aid for the first time since he came to Malaysia. He was moved because his children had not eaten properly for almost two weeks, and now with this aid he could provide them with a proper meal. Witnessing a father’s tears was a rare thing for me and it has been one of my most heart-warming and special moments of the pandemic. I have now successfully given out aid for the more than 500 families all over Alor Setar, Kedah, and I am continuing my work in serving the refugee community.

I am grateful for this opportunity which has enabled me to transit into a responsible young adult, filled with compassion for the less fortunate.

-- Alexander Anthony Lourdes is a 21-year-old from Alor Setar, Kedah who is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He has always been interested in outreach work, an interest he was able to cultivate and nurture after joining the New Thessalonian Apostolate (NTA) and interning with the NTA School For Refugee Children. Mission work has since taken him all over the Northern region while exposing him to work, with and alongside, several international charities.

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