Almost Home in the Making
Almost home took just about a year and over 100 people to create. The whole project took the effort of students members of staff and the public, which made it a truly collaborative project to produce. On this page you
you will be able to learn about how and why the project started. You'll also learn about the process and various stages involved. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun!
The book started as a simple conversation between two people. One person wanted his students to be part of a project which had a meaningful outcome, while the other wanted stories with a local feel that his daughter could read. Together and with a lot of help, Almost Home was initiated.
In the beginning...
Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Kazakhstan are just some of the places where the students who were part of the project came from. They came to Malaysia to take an English course before they entered university to take a foundation or degree course. Little did they know that they would soon be part of a project that would change their views about them-selves as well as the world around them.
One day they were all called in for a briefing. In the week leading up to it they spent time reading about refugees and stateless people. Surprisingly, many of the students had no concept of a refugee and seemed to believe that they were people in very far off lands. Malaysia, however, has over 100,000 refugees living there. In the briefing the students were told that they would visit a school that educates refugee and stateless children. They would learn about the school, teach the children reading, then interview them to learn about their stories.
At the school...
On the day of the visit the students seemed excited, but, understandably, a little nervous at the prospect of teaching children. The teachers were confident that they would do well, as they had helped them prepare and saw all the work each group had done to get ready. Many of the teachers were truly inspired by the effort each group made in getting ready for the class.
During the class the teachers walked around to check how the students were doing. One teacher remarked that he felt a little nervous for his students as he wasn't sure if it was too big a task for them. His nerves were swept aside, though, as soon as he looked in on the first class and saw his, up to that point, passive students engaged in their learning and holding the attention of a class of young students. The lessons continued until it was time to say good buy and move on to the next task: interviews.
30 children from the refugee school submitted their stories to us. We were so overwhelmed with the amazing stories that came our way, so it was incredibly hard to decide just 15. So, as soon as the reading lesson finished the students had to go and interview the story tellers. After the introductions and welcomes, the excitement settled and a weird yet peaceful silence came. Phones came out and put on record and then one of the students said "Can you tell me your story?" It was like a starting pistol at a race, because right after everyone started to speak.
The students listened intently to the stories and asked follow up questions to find out more information all the while recording every second; they would need this recording later. With the interviews finished we took a group photo and said good bye to some amazing people that we would all never forget. It was now time to move on to the next stage.
After the visit...
Once back from the busy day at the school the real work began for the students. They took a lot of photos and recorded the interviews that they conducted, so a wiki was set up which would allow all the students to collaborate and share the important information that they had. The students spent many hours listening carefully to the interviews and transcribing them word for word. Needless to day, the students listening skills got a little better. As well as uploading information to the wiki, the students also researched where each child came from and found out more about their country and why refugees come from there. This research was vital to the whole project, as the wiki pages that the students created for each story would be shared with the writers and then the illustrators. So, without this initial research, the rest of the project could not get going.
The film festival
The students collected a lot of pictures and footage from their visit, so they were tasked with creating a documentary about their experiences. With only a week each group created an amazing documentary where they showcased their pictures and also reflected on their personal experiences during the project.
So, that's the story, the short version anyway. Click on the link below to find out more!