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Sunday January 26, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday January 26, 2014 MYT 8:40:45 AM
by christina chin
Staying connected: (Clockwise from left) Dr Wan Saffana, Muhammad Zaki, Kisok, Woon, Dr Komala and Chow meeting up almost a decade after they met in February 2004.
They met as teenagers at an NS camp and now, almost a decade later, the six former NS trainees have remained good friends.
A group of fast friends are proof that National Service (NS) unites.
Six 27-year-olds who were among the first batch of trainees at Kem Bina Semangat, Kuala Kubu Baru (KKB), have stayed connected via Facebook and Whatsapp almost a decade after they met in February 2004.
The multiracial group wants to see the programme that brought them together continue, calling it an effective tool to unite teenagers.
Corporate business recovery officer Woon Huei Yann says NS was her first experience mixing with other races and peers from other states.
“We were all given the same army haircut and being out in the sun together gave us the same skin tone – it made me see that we were united as Malaysians no matter what our backgrounds were. The friendship forged at NS was invaluable and it was such as eye-opening experience,” Woon says.
“NS really opened my eyes,” Dr Wan Saffana Wan Mohtar shares. “We would sit together and talk about everything under the sun including religion. Today, that experience has helped me deal with patients, which is a challenge if you don’t understand the different cultures and beliefs.”
Business analyst Kisok Kumar describes NS as the best time of his life, adding: “I improved my social skills and learned to work with others.”
Auditor Pauline Chow, who applied to join NS, says all her friends who got selected enjoyed the stint.
“One of my best memories was following my Hindu friends on their weekly temple visits. I learnt that education is much more than what we learn from books,” she adds.
NS made manager Muhammad Zaki Yusof more responsible and changed his “negative perception” of the different cultures. He wants to see NS continue but says trainee discipline must be a priority.
For dental surgeon Dr T. Komala, NS was a “life-changing opportunity” that instilled invaluable life lessons in her.
“NS builds character. It gives teenagers a solid foundation before they enter the real world,” she tells, adding that despite coming from diverse backgrounds, the trainees were close like family.
“I learned not to judge people too quickly because everyone has a story to tell,” she says.
Describing it as a positive experience with many good memories, the group recommends that teenagers join NS.
Kisok, however, says NS should only be for those who want to be there.
“If NS is only open to those who are really interested (instead of random selection), many problems can be avoided. Perhaps those who volunteer for NS can be given incentives,” he suggests.
He says the Government should also review whether it’s worth spending so much money on the programme.
“If the number of camps are reduced, the remaining ones can be upgraded to ensure better facilities for trainees,” he adds.
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