By Koh Yunjing
Yunjing is a gap year intern at Skillseed and an ever-curious polymath with a degree in Arts Management from Laselle and a precious and unique perspective shaped by her travels and esoteric interests.
Having been in Skillseed for over 4 months now, one of my biggest realisations remains how the word “client” is almost never mentioned here. It may seem like something trivial, but I think it actually says a lot about the ethos of a social enterprise.
In the corporate world, a “client” is usually clearly defined as the one who pays you money to get the “job” done. But these words can seem devoid of emotion, connote some kind of inevitable power imbalance, and conjure up images of midnight emails and last-minute requests.
At Skillseed, we refer to the groups of people we work and interact with, just as they are – community partners, schools, educators, parents, students. I like to think of it as an ecosystem – while each party is aware of their respective role, every course that we run is very much an collective effort. And I am glad to have witnessed this amazing collaborative spirit for myself two weeks ago in Bali.
The environmental stewardship course that we run in partnership with Biosphere Foundation at the Bali Barat National Park remains one of our most popular courses to date. It’s easy to see why – course highlights include learning from some of the best educators in this field, snorkelling amongst beautiful corals, and of course, yummy Indonesian food. In our past editions, the biggest problem faced by participants was probably having to get used to living in a national park, and the tropical heat.
This time however, 6 students, our Skillseed facilitators, and our community partner were all hit by an unknown bout of virus, just 3 days into the course. The students were eventually hospitalised and discharged after a night’s stay, but this episode taught us several valuable lessons that we will carry with us beyond this course – not least of all, the importance of building strong, genuine relationships within that said ecosystem.
We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to the staff of Biosphere Foundation, in particular Sierra, Jake, Nono, and Ketut, for being as steady as a rock, and for being a community partner we can confidently depend on. In spite of the outbreak and their personal fatigue, they knew that the course must go on, and spared no effort in making sure it did.
We are also extremely grateful for having two absolutely supportive educators with us on this course – Kat laoshi and Xu laoshi from Houde Academy. Thank you for placing your trust in us, and for inspiring us with your boundless concern and love for your students.
Of course, we are glad to have met the 16 fun-loving and tenacious students who came on this course, and we also thank their parents for being so understanding in spite of the unforeseen hiccups.
There is a Chinese saying that may seem rather melodramatic － 患难见真情 (the English equivalent would probably be “A friend in need is a friend indeed”) － but it is nevertheless an apt one to describe this experience. If anything, it has reassured us that besides vaccines and first aid kits, perhaps the best precaution we can take is to tirelessly seek people whom we can be on the same page with – people who willingly and selflessly go above and beyond the call of duty, rather than take on a “but that’s not my job” mentality.