As a student from Brunei, I wish to say to all teachers..

WLOTP17-main

Teachers guide, inspire, and motivate. They impart life lessons, watch us grow, and believe in us even when we can’t. They have touched our hearts, and now we put our HEARTs out for them! Though we shouldn’t only show appreciation for our teachers once a year, Teachers’ Day is still a day we celebrate joyously and with most sincerity. As a Brunei intern, I too, would like to share with you stories of gratitude and valuable lessons learnt from my teachers back home.

My involvement in Heartware Network’s ‘We Love Our Teachers’ Project 2017 took me down memory lane, back to my secondary school years in Brunei. Every class has that kid who is always easily frightened, shy, and has low self-esteem. That kid in the class was me. I couldn’t stomach doing presentations in front of a crowd, was too shy to ask questions, and kept to myself a lot. My peers used to make fun of me.

But my teacher at the time – Ms Lynn – taught the 15 year old me that in order to succeed, I had to break out of my comfort zone. This piece of advice turned my whole world around. Her words inspired and motivated me to improve myself. I have since blossomed into someone braver and more confident. I now keep an open mind and won’t turn away from a challenge.

WLOTP17-1

I was 15 when I embarked on my first trip to Guangzhou, China with my school mates.

What did I do next? I enrolled myself in various co-curricular activities like rugby, martial arts, and even chess. I tried to participate in many activities because I wanted to push myself and grow. I might not be the smartest in class, but I was selected for various competitions and overseas programmes. For instance, Ms Lynn hand-picked me to join a cultural immersion programme to Guangzhou in China. We showcased our Bruneian culture by performing traditional dances and demonstrating the Malay martial art of Silat. The trip to Guangzhou was truly an eye-opener, and I met students from countries all over the region like Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

WLOTP17-2 Group photo with Ms Lynn (bottom right) and the students and teachers from Thailand, China and Brunei

Fast forward 2 years later, I found myself doing well enough to enter a Sixth Form Centre where I met Ms Lim and Ms Rusnani. Ms Lim was my Business teacher and Ms Rusnani taught me Economics. I think it is so important that teachers see potential in their students and open up platforms for growth, because these two teachers nudged me to enrol in the HSBC Young Entrepreneurship Challenge. I would have to to compete with candidates with Master Degrees and a wealth of experience. I was only 17.

You can imagine I regressed to square one. I was terrified beyond my wits! There was no way I could take on such an uphill assignment with zero experience in entrepreneurship and no knowledge of the financial industry. But what crippled me most was my own mind. I kept overthinking about how these candidates were more professional and mature than me. Who was going to take me seriously at 17? WLOTP17-3

I was the youngest entrepreneur at the HSBC Young Entrepreneurship Challenge.

Again, Ms Lim and Ms Rusnani helped me build my confidence, enough for me to finally put my name down on the registration list. Like mothers watching their toddler take the first steps, they walked by me every step of the way. In the end, I ranked as one of the top 5 Young Entrepreneurs! It was so hard to believe, knowing that I believed so little in myself. My teachers gave me hope. WLOTP17-4

I overcame my fear of public speaking and gave a talk at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD).

Ms Lim used to say do not be a “Jing Di Zhi Wa” (井底之蛙) – a trapped frog in the bottom of a well. She advised me to stay curious, adventurous, and be willing to explore beyond what I felt was my limit. That is the best way I can learn. And that is exactly what I did. These principles brought me to an internship overseas, and it led me to Heartware Network. I guess you can say the rest is history.

So to all the teachers out there, here’s our big THANK YOU!

It may not amount to much, but together with a small team of staff, 3 interns and 5 volunteers, we packed 3000 apples in special gift wraps with customized notes of appreciation within 1.5 days. We delivered these goodies to 19 schools peppered all over Singapore, and even got to experience the celebrations! You can check out our photo album here, but here are some snippets of the project:  WLOTP17-5

We packed apples from when the sun rose till it set.

WLOTP17-6

What’s gymming when you can carry boxes of apples all day?

WLOTP17-7

To witness such smiles from our sincere efforts was a bliss!

WLOTP17-8 A candid group picture to end the Project on a high note! We did it!

When I was in school, I felt that I did not show enough gratitude towards my teachers. Looking back, I want to reach out to them again. They were the unsung heroes that shaped me into the person that I am today. And I have so much to thank them for.

This article is written by Malai Ezzan.