KUALA KUBU BARU: For national service trainee Ong Sou Teng, the presence of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at the camp here yesterday was very meaningful.
In the past, we (the people) were the ones who went to see him at open house celebrations but today, he made a trip down here specially for us, she said.
Sou Teng, who was overwhelmed by emotions at seeing the Prime Minister, said she was proud to be one of the 85,000 trainees selected for the programme.
This is the only camp the Prime Minister visited to launch the programme; I feel so privileged, she said.
She said the trainees had practised hard for the launching ceremony but at the same time, they were enjoying themselves and that the camp had become their second home.
I used to be lazy at home but now, Im more active and disciplined, she said.
She agreed that the programme had met the governments objective in promoting racial and national integration, saying: We have friends from almost all states and we are learning new things from them.
Aimi Syazana Anwarul-Halim, known as Kak Long (big sister) in her tent, said the programme had given her a chance to learn new dialects, thanks to her mates from Sabah and Sarawak.
At the launching ceremony, trainees demonstrated what they had learnt the last week, including marching and obstacle-course training.
Several trainees remarked that they felt like celebrities as they had come under the spotlight of media coverage.
Yesterday's launch of the national service programme was conducted simultaneously at camps throughout the country. It was also the first open day for parents to visit their children after one week at camp.
In Lumut, trainee Tang Yoke Kheng spoke of how she thought she would not survive the initial days of training at the Kampung Baru camp.
The Bercham girl developed skin problems after being exposed to the sun during daily exercises and found it hard to sleep at night.
I am the type who likes to go shopping every day. At home my mum would always take care of me and all I do is eat and sleep.
Now I feel I have learnt many things during my one week here and I have also made lots of friends, she said.
It was a joyful reunion for the former SM Seri Intan student when her parents visited her yesterday.
Her father, sales representatives Tang Ah Cheet, 48, said he and his wife have had sleepless nights with their youngest daughter away.
Now that I know she is happy here, we feel much better. She used to phone us daily but she has since learnt to manage, he said.
Hundreds of parents used the opportunity to visit their children at the three camps in Perak.
Hassan Haris, 50, a lecturer at Maktab Perguruan Kangar in Perlis, thought the training would teach youngsters to be independent, confident and open-minded.
As a lecturer, I have seen many students at local universities who do not have a strong sense of patriotism, he said.
This camp will be a great start for students and is exactly what Malay youths should learn about, (which is) to be brave and strong in character.
Parents such as land broker A. Prabagarani, 50, whose children were not at camp, also came to have a first-hand look at the facilities.
I brought my children here so that they can see for themselves what it is like. My daughter Vilashini, who turns 18 next year, hopes to volunteer for the next camp because she has always been the adventurous type.
Nowadays children seem to lack basic discipline and NS would be good for them. I only feel that NS should be held immediately after SPM so that it does not cut into Form Six studies, said Prabagarani, whose 18-year-old son was not selected.
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