By Melissa Sim
TEACHERS in Singapore are reaching out to help students in countries such as Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia. Since 2000, about 20 have taken a year off work to do voluntary work in these countries.
Anderson Junior College teacher Siau Fong Fui, 35, for example, challenged herself when she went to Jogjakarta, Indonesia, in mid-2005 to teach Chinese, mainly to non-Chinese students.
She said it was a new experience teaching the language at the most basic level and using English as a means of explanation - something which she had not done here.
'I had to compare it to English grammar and show them what was different. I realised that we sometimes take for granted how a language works,' said MsSiau, who was based at the Muhammadiyah University of Jogjakarta.
She was part of the Outreach Programme - a collaboration between the Ministry of Education and the Singapore International Foundation (SIF).
She said the programme allowed her to take six months of paid leave and six months of no-pay leave, during which SIF gave her a monthly allowance.
'I took it as my year off work,' she said.
Former teacher Soh Wai Leng , 34, also has fond memories of her time in Vietnam when she taught English and basic computer skills to children in an orphanage.
Even though her stint was in 2002, she still goes back to the orphanage to visit the children regularly.
'I even visited one of the older kids who got married last year,' said Ms Soh.
The good work continues even after the teachers return home.
In Ms Siau's case, she started a series of conversational Mandarin classes for non-Chinese students in Anderson Junior College.
'Since I had the experience, I thought it would be a good idea,' she said.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.