Community, Going Places, Sept 2009
This story was special for two reasons.
One, it afforded me another welcome opportunity to return to Penang, where I spent my formative adult years. As usual Penang didn't disappoint. Its streets are as colourful and lively as ever. It would seem, from the outset at least, that the charms of Georgetown are relatively insulated from the recent economic meltdown.
Most importantly, it brought me face to face with two extraordinary women: Janet Pillai and Chen Yoke Pin, who along with Kuah Li Feng are the main drivers behind Arts Ed.
Anyone who has lived in Penang would have heard about Anak-Anak Kota, the Arts Ed-initiated programme that aims to preserve local cultural assets through children. Getting secondhand information and actually being part of them are, I discovered, two very different things.
On Saturday morning, I joined the kids on a heritage walk. They streamed in and out of hallowed institutions around the Streets of Harmony, armed with nothing but pencil and paper, maps and a boatload of curiosity. We visited St George's Church, Acheen Mosque, Masjid India, and lots more, all beautifully-preserved, legacy-rich landmarks I'd driven past a zillion times and never even stopped to look, until now.
The weather did little to dampen our spirits. For starters, the facilitators' own enthusiasm for their subject was infectious. Gamely toting umbrellas, we trekked through puddles, huddled on roofed pavements when the rain got too heavy, and even stopped over at a warung where an be-saronged uncle sportingly demonstrated how to pull teh tarik and make roti canai.
Heh. If only my own history lessons were half this fun ...
In that too-short span, I began to develop an appreciation for what Arts Ed has been trying to do in the last ten years: to conserve our legacy through children (thanks for that great headline, Viv!)
Anak-Anak Kota - and by extension, Arts Ed, are a living testament of what real passion can do. Salute, Janet and team.
If you'd like more information about Arts-ED activities and program, Tel/Fax 04-263 3471 or visit www.arts-ed-penang.org
PS Swee Wah, thanks a million for providing the link.