In a bid to foster bonds among residents of the burgeoning Binjai Hall, 23 students set off to Pugaro in Pangasinan, Philippines under the hall’s Overseas Community Involvement Project (OCIP) – Project Hikoki, from 13 to 23 May 2019. The hall’s first such project due to its recent establishment, Project Hikoki hopes to serve an opportunity for residents to create friendships within Binjai Hall while giving back to the community.
The team gave English lessons to students in the small village, as well as swapped stories and cultural experiences with the children. Leading several after-school programmes over two weeks, they also stayed with families to learn more about the community they were serving.
Alongside their educational endeavours, Project Hikoki began the foundation for the school’s aquaponics system, which aims to improve the crop yield of the land. As the first team of four planned volunteer groups to build the structure, the students were taught the basics by an aquaponics expert in Singapore before they commenced construction in Pugaro.
Not only did they have to complete their share of the building, the team were also tasked to arrange the required logistics for current and future volunteer groups. While the participants reflected that several changes had to be made on the go because of differences in available materials, barriers to communication between the students and locals and the lay of the land, the groundwork was laid out as planned, with the system on track to be fully completed by the project’s partners.
It is Project Hikoki’s hope that the system will be aid the school in growing crops and farming fish, which can be sold to fund education for Pugaro’s youth, as well as encourage neighbouring villages to adopt the system as a solution to infertile soil and improve the quality and quantity of their crops.
“This 13-day OCIP trip, albeit fleeting, gave me an abundance of emotions and life lessons, all of which I am deeply thankful for. For a team comprising of students who have zero experience in aquaponics apart from a crash course by a professional, the aquaponics system seemed like a daunting and challenging task. Improvisation played a key role in this project, as we were forced to substitute mechanical parts that were unavailable locally and had to undergo numerous plan alterations to suit the actual site. Despite the challenges, I was pleased that the project went well and I sincerely hope that this system would benefit the community for many years to come.” Loh Aik Hui, Student Volunteer
About Project Hikoki
Binjai Hall of Residence’s OCIP, Project Hikoki provides opportunities for motivated residents to serve the community. In addition to making sustainable changes to the OCIP’s beneficiaries and building the character of its members, it aims to bring like-minded individuals together to experience the power of service-learning.