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How I Shine For Sarawak - Jarod Yong

What do you think about this pair of shoes? It has seen better days, has it not? Peeling, worn out, and tired, it reflects poorly on its owner.

Truth be told, we should not judge a pair of shoes by what they look like—judge them by where they have been and what they have done in their short lives.

If these shoes could talk, they would tell tales of their youth, traveling only a few weeks after their purchase by express boat from Sibu to a rural school in Song to deliver an important talk so that children from underprivileged backgrounds can excel in the most important exam in their lives, SPM.

For many children in Sarawak, improving the livelihoods of their families hinges upon a few letters printed on a flimsy slip of paper. If one can reach a student, that student and their family will surely benefit.

Additionally, these shoes would also wax lyrical about dodging potholes on a battered, bumpy, and treacherous road known as the “Pain Borneo Highway” in order to equip English teachers in Engkilili with insights to help their students score.

Glimpses of these shoes may even be caught in a TEDx talk on YouTube, not to mention standing on stage in Miri, Sibu, and Kuching sharing tears and laughter with hundreds of Sarawakian English teachers, confident that they will continue giving their best to Sarawak’s children.

If one can reach a teacher, generations of students and their families will surely benefit.

What do you think about teachers? Would you stare down at them through your nostrils as many have done to these shoes? Would you ask them where they have been and what they have done in their short lives?

Who knows? You might be inspired to shine for Sarawak too.

**This essay won 1st place in the 2020 Malaysia Day story competition organized by Shine Pharmacy**


Jarod Yong is the founder and editor of TJ Writes. With a master’s degree from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree from Victoria University of Wellington, he plans to use all of his skills, resources, and network to nurture a culture of English at SMK Tabuan Jaya. He is looking for allies amongst the students, teachers, and staff, as well as in the public and private sector.

Want to make a difference? Contact him at


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