One of my proudest associations in life is with the 1st Kuala Lumpur Boys Brigade Company; where I honed much of my leadership, character and sense of brotherhood – with peers, older mentors and younger upstarts, which last to this day! So, when I was asked to talk to the media about some of my experiences with them to help drive some publicity for a great charity initiative they were participating in, I was nervous… but very glad that I could do just this little bit for an organization that I loved deeply.
Family: Band of Brothers (New Straits Times)
INTAN MAIZURA AHMAD KAMAL
Lt Wong of the first KL Boys’ Brigade and his band of brothers are raring to get their names into the Malaysian Book of RecordsBoyhood bonds formed during days with the Boys’ Brigade transcend time. Wong Giok Leigh of the 1st KL Boys’ Brigade tells INTAN MAIZURA AHMAD KAMAL more.I’D always wanted to be part of a uniform association when I was young. I had good friends who were in the Brownies and prospective boyfriends in the Boy Scouts. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to be in either.
I used to listen wide eyed as they regaled me with tales of camping exploits, of knots they learnt to tie and the fun they hadwhile I was stuck at home, my violin propped under my chin and pretending to be virtuoso violinist Vivaldi.
So when Lt Wong Giok Leigh of the 1st KL Boys’ Brigade (founded in 1954) began to wax lyrical about life in the Brigade, I knew exactly where he was coming from.
Who needs video games when you can be out there bonding with fellow brothers and doing your bit for the community?
Take the Brigade’s involvement with the Dutch Lady Malaysia’s Largest Milk Drinking Event, organised in celebration of World Milk Day 2010 for example.
Together with nutrition advocates Persatuan Pengakap Malaysia, Persatuan Pandu Puteri Malaysia, Malaysian Red Crescent Society as well as various car clubs and cyclist groups and AMP radio stations and their cruisers, Wong and his “boys” will be on hand to aid Dutch Lady Malaysia in this United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation initiative to give away 250,000 limited edition milk packs to celebrate the global importance of milk.
“They’re thrilled to be a part of something so big,” says KL-born Wong, a communications personnel with a bank. “It’s the world’s largest milk drinking event so they’ll have a part in the Malaysian Book of Records. They won’t forget this in a long time.”
Memories formed with the Boys Brigade, which has 9,000 or more members nationwide, never leave you, says Wong, who joined when he was 12 at the encouragement of his friends.
At 31, this former KL Methodist Boys’ School pupil continues to be a part of the organisation, helping to nurture young boys towards adulthood.
Are uniform associations still relevant these days, I ask, referring to the younger generation’s penchant for hanging out at mamak stalls or the malls for bonding sessions?
“Definitely,” nods the father of two boys.
“An interesting point was brought up by a presenter during a market research study talk on social media that I attended recently. He pointed out that technology may change but people generally remain the same.
“In their teens, our boys are looking for identity. How they look for it depends on the time they’re living in. Maybe they use Facebook, but at the heart of it, they’re still trying to discover themselves.”
The set-up at the Boys’ Brigade, with their character-building activities and strong support network, are conducive to helping the youngsters discover themselves.
“My colleagues and I volunteer a lot of our time here, and we find that the kids end up confiding in us. They know we’re here for them.”
That aside, Wong acknowledges that more can be done for the organisation to remain relevant.
One such endeavour can be seen with the Boys’ Brigade in the UK which launched the Video Games award. The KL counterpart, meanwhile, recently came up with LAN (Local Area Network) parties.
“We brought some computers, hooked them up and let the boys play. It’s definitely a step up from the hide-and-seek in the dark!”
He is not against traditional games.
“Urban kids, despite toys and malls, actually find our activities exciting because they’re new to them. You don’t get the same kind of thrills from video games.”
Parents should let their kids have some adventure, he suggests.
“Don’t fret too much about them wilting under the sun or getting dirty! Their life shouldn’t just be about piano lessons or tuition. There are jungles and beaches to discover, trumpets to play and friends to knock about! I think these are the things that parents forget as they become more urbanised and ‘sanitised’.”
Being a part of uniform organisations such as the Boys’ Brigade allows the young to revel in adventure and instils in them timeless values. For Wong, he learnt leadership skills here.
“The system provides ample leadership opportunities. When you come in at 13, you spend a year learning the environment. At 14, you’re tasked with organising a camp. By 15, you start taking care of your squad members. It grows from there. I learnt how to deal with people and make decisions.”
You also build character.
“Social activities that are fun but they don’t actually make you a better person,” says Wong. “Here, we talk about values and respecting parents. Youngsters are guided.”
The deep sense of brotherhood is something Wong holds dearest.
“Our school days may be over but we remain great friends. This is the place where genuine friendships are formed. There’s no hierarchy. We take care of each other.”
NB: World Milk Day 2010 will be launched at Pavilion KL today, with celebrations from 10am to 10pm. There’ll be celebrity appearances and performances, distribution of free milk packs and a charity sale, with all proceeds going to Yayasan Nur Salam.