There is a saying which goes “not all heroes wear capes” – a most apt description of Nelvianna Masandul.
The Sabahan is slowly but surely changing the lives of those in her village in Pitas, Sabah – ranked by the World Bank in 2010 as the poorest and most undeveloped district in Malaysia.
With help from the Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) church, which runs over 200 kindergartens, Nelvianna works at Tadika Tabung Harapan in Kampung Ungkup, Pitas.
Tadika Tabung Harapan is open to children from Kampung Bongkol, Kampung Ungkup and Kampung Gumpa and they have worked hard to make education as affordable as possible.
The extra challenge is raising awareness on why preschool is important for the development of a child.
“Not many realise the importance of helping children develop during their formative years (from birth to eight years),” said Nelvianna.
“And since many in Pitas are poor, they do not send their children to kindergarten or preschool. They are losing out.”
“We have explained to parents why they must send their children to school and we even pick the children up from their homes. We make three trips in the morning to pick them up and another three in the evening to send them back.
“If the (kindergarten’s) car breaks down, there is no school!”
She has also reached out to friends all over Malaysia to raise funds to help the children as some parents cannot afford the RM25 monthly school fees.
Nelvianna’s story of hardship and sacrifice touched the hearts of those who attended the Early Childhood Education Symposium by her former alma mater, Dika College.
There was hardly a dry eye in the room when she explained her hardship prior to studying early childhood education.
In 2012, Nelvianna graduated with a diploma in pharmaceutical studies. She, however, was unable to find work and ended up doing several menial jobs instead.
“I spent a night sleeping on the streets … that’s when I decided to return to my kampung (in Pitas),” she said.
“I sold my laptop, mobile phone and settled my debts before buying a flight ticket home.”
In 2013, she was told that a church, New Hope Hostel, was looking for candidates to study Early Childhood Education.
“Luckily, our local church did a collection and raised RM300 for me.”
That was enough for a flight ticket to Kuala Lumpur. New Hope Hostel sponsored her education and the rest is history.
Two-and-a-half-years later, Nelvianna graduated as one of the top five students in Dika College.
“When I was younger, I was very shy and could not speak English. Today, I give talks and share my experiences in English!”
Last year, Nelvianna was selected to participate in the Sabah Community Transformation Project, a collaboration between SIB Sabah and the Full Gospel Assembly Church to help improve the standard of early childhood education in the state.
Since then, she has dedicated her life to giving back to society and helped several kindergartens in her hometown thanks to the good wishes of the church and kind souls.
“I’m living proof we can all overcome adversity if we stay the course and never give up hope,” she added.