Hey, I’m a journalist!

We grow older each day finding reasons and all the “WHYs” to whatever that we work, or are working for. At times we question ourselves, is this what my future looks like, is this what am I supposed to be, is this where I am now and the long-ass list keeps filling the A4 papers on the table.

Right. Seems common and relatable.

Two years ago, somewhere in 2017, I started questioning myself about how the future would look like for me. Having graduated from a university with an Honours Degree simply doesn’t mean it’s all over. In fact it’s just the beginning. I was still somewhat a health writer that time.

I realised there was something missing, yet I couldn’t figure out. It’s part of growing up. So I decided to scroll a website in an effort to find the missing point. I landed myself a job that I didn’t expect in the very first place. So what was that? JOURNALIST…. as in, HUMANITARIAN JOURNALIST that serves to help write news report and articles about beneficiaries not only nationwide but also outside the country.

To be freaking honest, I was reluctant because that seemed to be off my capability but I managed to gathered my experience (Well at least for one year and four months).

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Humanitarian journalist? What did I do? The title sounds atypical, doesn’t it? Let me tell you a story. A month after my service at the organisation, I was sent to one of the popular yet touristy locations worthy of a visit for one to enjoy. That was in Mabul Island, Sabah, Malaysia. The locals here believe the island is as though a hidden pearl that is yet to be explored, deep into the area. In its simplest form, it’s a perfect destination for beach and sea lovers out there. Just like the others, I was excited…. and heck who wouldn’t get excited to be sent to such place?!

Nonetheless, behind the magnificent view, there lies a community of refugees, and stateless people even, residing in the island. Who are they? They are, I would call, those of the unfortunate ones who do not get access to so many sources (clean water, food, and proper education). Exactly my thoughts when I came were something like this…. “My goodness, how is this not even the attention of public? Why does this remain a secret as if no one needs to know?”

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Yes, Mabul Island sounds pretty cool to sunbathe during the daylight, but very rarely people know that there’s a history behind everything that contributes to the existence of these refugees and stateless people. I still remember myself as a photographer and journalist during my visit last year. The kids were happy. They were delighted to see outsiders visiting them as though we were their angels sent from above. And still fresh on my mind, I approached a young kid at the end of my duty, asking him whether or not he likes the place and the answer is a plain yes with a smile on his face. The boy named Arman kept looking at my camera when I was busy running here and there capturing photos. I was drawn by his action so I approached the kid. But upon hearing the answer, I whispered to myself, “If this kid knows how to be thankful for such a little thing then what about me?” I kept wondering, is this what a humanitarian journalist all about. From that moment, I slowly embrace the job and the entire responsibility to understand the nature of my job too. And of course I wrote a piece about Mabul Island as a report back at the office.

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Arman and me (sorry for the low quality, lost the original photo)

Anyway, the journey didn’t stop there. Being me, I am always hungry for answers so I kept looking and working through the days to explore the nature of my job. Did I mention beneficiaries in the beginning? Yes. Beneficiaries, for almost all humanitarian organisations, refer to those people we help in fulfilling their needs. They could be anyone from the local or those outside the country. In my case, I met a cluster of beneficiaries in my country, Despite the growing nation and prosperity we all yearn for, we sometimes forget to look down below. I meant to say the needy people.

So what’s the deal meeting the beneficiaries? Big deal. You, at the very least, can get a glimpse of how difficult their life is. You understand how they struggle each day to make ends meet just to feed mouths at home. You know how much effort they put to get a single note of 1 dollar to buy food for a day. It’s all about probing into their journey, with me being a reporter.

You = me 

I used to interview one mother for my article in conjunction with Mother’s day. Listening to her stories, I began to understand how hardworking a SINGLE mother can be to support her children, with herself not in good condition. I would be lying if I said I didn’t cry. Oh well I cried inside, in silence.

And of course I had the chance to reach an isolated community somewhere in the northern-eastern part of Peninsular Malaysia for a food distribution programme. 12 hours of journey by a van, added with another journey by a boat to a small island called Pulau Chendol(?) in Kelantan. Not to mention that I also had the opportunity to meet the aborigine, the most isolated group in Malaysia. These were the people I met, apart from the big names I always see on the television or Youtube. Now, you might be asking is this the job that all journalists have to face? I’d say… yes, especially adventurous assigments outside the office, far away from the city. Journalists are required to go out, walk in the community, make reports and deliver news to keep the public informed. That’s the answer I’ve been searching for. It’s the experience that counts, you know.

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What did I get out of all the works there? You know how we always stress on getting out of the comfort zone. I can dedude it is somewhere along the line of it. Not everyone of us dares to challenge themselves by going to somewhere that might as well put their life at risk. In my case, going to Mabul Island and a few communities in Sabah that can be considered risky. Have I mentioned that I was almost left behind….? Well the cliche one may be, it opens my eyes as wide as possible to understand that our difficulties are different. Some people started easy, while some learned the hardest way.

Disclaimer: The author used to serve Islamic Relief Malaysia as a journalist. The information written in the post is of his opinions and it does not represent the whole organisation.

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