HOPE Program in Penang
On the 1st July 2012 the Penang State Finals of the drama competition in the H.O.P.E. Program was held in Sameo Hal, RECSAM. It was an event that brought together various schools together as the winners of the essay writing contest and greeting card competition were also present to accept their prizes. The Final of the drama competition was between SMK Convent Butterworth and SMK Bukit Metarjam. Joining in the organizing of this event was the Rotract Club of Penang.
The dedication of the students to their work and was evident from the very beginning. Much earlier, before the event even began, students were seen rehearsing lines, practicing bits of their performances on stage, and making various sound checks to see if their voices carry through to the entire auditorium. The props were many, and the costumes elaborate, and the make-up matching their characters very well. While there was a general air of friendliness between schools, it was quite clear that their minds were focussed on what lay ahead – the competition. Running concurrently with the drama competition was a colouring contest organized for children. The main participants in this contest were Bal Vikas students. While the drama competition was held in the auditorium, the colouring contest was held in the area downstairs.
The seats started filling up and eventually the drama competition began. It was evident that the students had invested a great deal of effort in preparing for this competition. However, some actors certainly stood out. Their inflections of tone, modulation of voice and mastery of gesture made some scenes seem like watching a movie in a cinema with professional actors and not a drama on a stage! It was as if the surroundings had dissolved and our minds were fully engaged in what was truly ‘drama’. Despite the ‘drama’ of the drama, the winning team – SMK Convent Butterworth, had plenty of humour infused into the script and acting, eliciting laughter ever so often from the audience. Very interestingly, the subject of honouring parents was not merely looked at from a parent-child perspective but also examined in a daughter-in-law – mother-in-law situation. The result was indeed quite thought provoking. What was perhaps most impressive was perhaps how much laughter the audience enjoyed. Such well-placed and excellently delivered humour is quite unusual even in amateur theatre productions! Midway there was a short speech on the idea of honouring parents every day.
The value of such a program, although questioned by many, including myself, eventually proved to be great. Through such competition, in the weeks it takes to prepare, the participating students are exposed regularly to the notion of respecting and honouring parents. These ideals of parental reverence, over the course of preparation are given the opportunity to sink into the subconscious where they will take root, reinforce the pre-existing morality while catalysing further, its growth. Unlike a debate where everything is objective and not even necessarily true, by spending weeks in preparation for a drama, or in the days and hours spent drafting and writing an essay, the youths are able to wallow, wade and explore this sphere of thought – of gratitude towards ones parents, and there is an opportunity to spend time consciously recollecting their old memories of time spent with their elders.
In today’s extremely fast paced, business oriented cyber age, where money is truly the new God, the selfishness of man is more evident than it has possibly ever been; and the worst part of it is how such selfishness, such low mindedness, such low morals, such low standards, are accepted so easily as a normal state of affairs. The philosophy of embracing change is originally linked to the undulations one encounters along the various stages of the spiritual path, and was never meant to be prostituted as a high flown excuse to succumb to complacency and accept the dumbing down of the mind and intellect.
As a result of that gross deficit in morality, as a result of conceding to complacency and forgoing penetrating thought from the depths of the intellect and the spring of the conscience, we see the very people that bring their children into the world suffering so greatly. The old folks home business has taken on unbelievable transformations – morphing today to be called ‘retirement facilities’ and other sophisticated or pleasant sounding names that ease the conscience. How children, grown from the hearth of home, are enmeshed in the mires of modernity, only to eventually shun his or her parents can never be fully understood. But what matters most is that we are able to identify it as being unequivocally, unambiguously, and resolutely, wrong.
With programs such as this, there is hope that the future generation will not only see and understand the wrongs of the present but will be the beginning of an age of goodness, where the meaning and value of the parent-child relationship is restored. They will be the first few of a generation that will inspire change in the generations after them and be the torchbearers towards a brighter, promising, spiritual, moralistic, future.