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My Unforgettable 20-year Journey with VITAL YEARS by Anna Mak

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My journey with Vital Years began upon my retirement from the corporate world towards the end of 1996. That same year on the 1st of April Vital Years was birthed right in the heart of boomtown Damansara Jaya. Indeed, the years have slipped by all too quickly. I can hardly believe it myself to know that the babe has now turned twenty!

Damansara Jaya Centre was where my journey began. The work environment was totally different from what I was used to in the office. It was a relief to me that I could walk in my bare feet on carpeted floor.

There I was amidst young children, teaching them, telling them stories and having fun with them through singing and action-oriented activities. I realized that the experience to work with young children could be satisfying. Sadly, I had to deal with the pain in my lower back which resulted from sitting on the little wooden chairs. I felt it would be best for me to leave so my back can be spared of the pain.

So I voiced out my decision to leave which I did not eventually. That was because I was touched by the love and concern shown to me. Cushions were sewn to fit the little wooden chairs and they were sewn by none other than the late mother of Mrs. Lam. It was a relief to have cushioned chairs to sit on.

Then some months later, I had “a little chat ”over a cuppa with the author and founder Mrs. Lam Kam Foong and Junie Leow the manager. It was in that chat that Mrs. Lam shared her vision:
“to make every child a literate child and to instil in each child the love for reading”.
That profound statement boggled my mind. Though I could not quite figure out how that vision can be realized, I felt I wanted to play a part in the work to make this vision a reality.

So I treaded on.

In the days that followed, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction seeing how children could read with ease although they were non-readers at the start. Though the cushions helped to some extent my back still ached from sitting on the chairs for too long while teaching. But the pain was soon forgotten when it was time to swing into actions with the children, re-enacting fairy tales, singing songs and rhymes which I don’t remember doing while I was a child. Those activities made me feel young all over again! I humbly say that I still enjoy carrying out these activities with the children. It’s really fun, fun, fun!

As the days went by, the vision of Mrs. Lam made more and more sense to me as I watched children read day by day. Work was not just work, but precious time invested in the lives of young children. The reward was truly satisfying.
Recalling the “little chat” with Mrs. Lam and Junie Leow, a sense of gratitude rise up from within me acknowledging that if it was not for that day I would not have continued with this journey. I would not be able to envisage the Vision which boggled my mind in the early days. I congratulate you, dear Mrs. Lam for the immense success of your programme and for your passion to raise the standard of English Literacy in Malaysia and the neighbouring coutries.

Work turned from micro to macro with the inception of Vital Years as a Franchised business in 1999. There were opportunities galore for me to meet people from all walks of life as they embarked on the business. The experience I had and challenges faced while working with franchisees in different parts of the country are what I would count as blessings to me.
Over the years many have become friends, some of whom are dear to me. Their words of appreciation and encouragement, their warm hugs will always remain in my heart.

However, my journey was not a bed of roses. There were hiccups along the way – disappointments, disillusionment, shattered hopes and tears of sorrow.
YES! Those were the days when I felt like the world was crashing down on me.

Often, I was reminded of the proverb “Every cloud has a silver lining” and what I needed to do was to look for that silver lining. This proverb has always been a source of encouragement to me. The words in the song: Look for the silver lining ………‘A heart full of joy and gladness will always banish sadness and strife’ helped me look at the positive side of things.

One by one dark clouds slipped away. Looking back, those dark clouds were like a drop in the ocean compared to the joyful days in the classroom with the children and the teachers. Those were the sunny days when I felt loved and appreciated. Happy days were here again.

Twenty years have slipped by all too quickly. In retrospect, I would say that my journey is well-travelled- one that I would want to remember and to treasure.

Twenty years have slipped by all too quickly. In retrospect, I would say that the years have been most fulfilling for me, having helped hundreds of children embrace English literacy. I would consider my journey well-travelled, one that I would want to remember and to treasure.

May Vital Years continue to spread her wings, reaching out to children far and near. May the Vision of Mrs. Lam continue to warm the heart and soul of all those who have placed their trust and confidence in the Programme.
May I give thanks to God who has seen me through all these years, without whose blessings, I would not be able to witness the twentieth birthday of Vital Years.

Pip! Pip! Hooray for Vital Years!
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING
When ‘er a cloud appears in the blue
Remember somewhere the sun is shining
And so the right thing to do
Is make it shine for you
A heart full of joy and gladness
Will always banish sadness and strife
So always look for the silver lining
And try to find the sunny side of life.

Sung by Judy Garland

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