Friday, January 08, 2010
Markus and Projek Kalsom
(I was asked to write this for a book that the family of Markus is trying to piece together for his first memorial service)
Projek Kalsom is a motivational camp held yearly for Form 4 students in Malaysia who have excelled in their studies but come from less fortunate backgrounds. It is run by Malaysian students enrolled in universities in the UK and Ireland. I had the honor working with my dear friend Markus in the committee back in 2007. Even years passed quicker than it seems, I can still remember the time when I first encountered this wonderful person.
“Where should I start?” I asked Fahmi, who was the director of Kalsom 12th in Kelantan. It was on 17 February 2007. I was then newly entrusted to organize the coming Kalsom 13th.
“Get this guy to help you. He went to my Kalsom as facilitator, but ended up be a suggestion-jukebox. If you get him into your team, half of the job is done.” Fahmi said to me.
“What’s his name?” I asked, wondering who this guy could be.
“Markus, with a K, not C”. Blatantly honest, this was I first heard of the name Markus spelled with a K.
I contacted him via email straight away, and since Fahmi the director of the previous Kalsom had spoken so highly of him, I offered him the directorship of the project, and my assistance. To my surprise, he refused. He reasoned that since Fahmi has agreed for me to be incharged, it should remain that way. Furthermore he added that Kalsom will benefit from new ideas and styles from a newbie director like myself, rather than having the same old way every year. I was taken a back, for a while. I would never expect this coming from a 23 year old student studying Politics, Philosophy and Economy who refused a position which will boast his CV significantly. Such was his sincerity in serving Kalsom.
I could never forget my first meeting with him. In my mind, given his towering reputation and convincing writing, Markus Ng should be someone who speaks very well, you know, the type which immediately recognizable as an articulate, confident young leader. Funnily enough, I was wrong. He looked ordinary, a bit on the soft spoken side. He is thin, with a nerdy hairstyle and he always starts every sentence with a classic Markus’s “Errrrrr”. However, if you let him speaks, you will soon mesmerized by his train of thoughts which full of brilliant ideas yet, still realistic. Only when he’s gone, I came to realize that one needs not to be ardent or brilliant to be great, but with many sincere and pure imperfections, one will be able to inspire others, be fondly remembered even when he is not living with us. By that, I call a great person.
Markus, on that day, came up to me with 2 pages of A4, entitled: “Game Plan Kalsom 13”. He listed out every single thing that needed to be done and the date of completion, and some troubles to look out for. That document then became our blueprint, and it has to be entirely credited to Markus. I recalled commenting that he should be quite good in studies then, given the level of organizational skills he possessed, to which he smiled and said: “I hope my drive for studies is 10% of what I had for these things”.
It took us almost 2 months in Malaysia to piece everything together prior to the 5 days camp in Perlis. In more than one occasion, I can’t help but to be completely overwhelmed with the way he thinks. I am not too sure how to describe it, but his ability to think outside the box, on a very frequent basis indeed, probably is the nearest. He is able to think right into the details. One good example I can recall is when we were planning the Career’s Day, in which we had to have booths with every single career pathways one can think of, to give the participants as much information as possible about any of their career choice. So, we listed out every single career pathway we could ever think of, and Markus then brilliantly suggested a “Not Sure” booth. How on earth he thought of having a “Not Sure” career pathway booth, is beyond me.
I have always believed that we human are gifted with differences that we have. Clashes of ideas bound to happen when people work together in a team. But I guarantee you that will never happen when you work with Markus. This secretary of the 13th Projek Kalsom is an exceptional team player. It was not just the sheer brilliance of his thoughts, but mostly the way he put it forward, so humbly and yet convincingly. In the end, you were not surrendering because of losing your points but surrendering to have faith in the rationale Markus tries to suggest. That is what I have not come across before and I doubt that I would see in anytime soon in the future.
The passion that Markus and the rest of us in Projek Kalsom share is that we believe that students who have benefited from the experience of studying abroad should share them with younger Malaysians in lesser developed areas. We want them to have a real sense of encouragement and inspiration to do better in life. We want everyone to stand with an equal chance to succeed in life, no matter the conditions vary. We note well that these children do not to have any real close-up exemplary figures to inspire them, looking at their surroundings and upbringing, but they all have potentials. As Markus puts it, “I have got parents, brothers even cousins who managed to reach tertiary education overseas. They don’t. We just have to play that role to be the exemplary figures. Show them that we are ordinary human just like them”. This is actually the main motivation and drive behind Markus’s burning passion for Kalsom, as good as I could remember. During the 5 days camp, I still remember how Markus refused to stay in the committee team and insisted in getting involved with the ‘adik-adik.’ He wants to be one of the group facilitators instead. Such was his will to stick his foot in and serve the Projek Kalsom’s cause.
Amongst us in Kalsom, Markus was known as a high spirited friend and will give the highest commitment to his word. When we were tired of working and preparing, he will sing us a song with his guitar, tells us stories and tried to help in the best way he could. When we were crackbrained and stuck, he offers his humble two-cents to be considered. When we were having fun playing games, he will join and makes it merrier. I can still remember very vividly the Mafia game we all had in the bus on the way home from Perlis. Everyone was totally carried away by his honest look, without realizing it was him who been the culprit in the game. Well, this can only indicate that Markus is always be trusted whatever he claims or confesses. He will just be there whenever we need him. But we can never be sure whether we were there whenever he needs us.
As for these known reasons, earlier on before Kalsom 15th last year sets its path, Kalsom’s Board of Trustee announced to have ‘Markus Award’, an esteemed recognition given to the best facilitator who touched the young hearts with aspiration and determination, in remembrance of someone, who has done so in his lifetime. Perhaps, none could ever replace Markus, or even being closer to him, but it is in our humble opinion, this could be one of the ways to let Markus stays forever in Kalsom and will never be forgotten. No matter how many years will pass, his teachings and legacy will stay, remained firmly, in Kalsom always and everlastingly.
Kalsom will be forever in great debt to you, Markus Ng Chung Yau.