The Hut Lady

No matter how long you’ve been in ISKL, Panther Hut mom Michelle May is a name we’ve all seen in our gmail inbox, to inform us of the new merchandise in ISKL’s Panther Hut. 

This year will be Ms. May’s third year in ISKL, and the booster club has come a long way. She may be the most well-known member of the panther hut, but she readily acknowledges that she didn’t do it all by herself. “I’ve got a great team of men and women, it isn’t just moms, we also have several dads.”

One of the underlying motivations for her, were the different community atmospheres. In the US, Ms. May wasn’t involved in an expatriate community or an international school, “we were in a local school and it wasn’t the same kind of feel.” In fact, Michelle believes that “a big part of that was walking through the doors of ISKL.” ISKL is like family to her, “I love the school here, and I love the students here, and I love the staff here.”

Ms. May notes that PTA presence isn’t something US, she was looking for a way to be part of the community here in ISKL, and started out by helping with Pac Shack. To her, it was a “natural fit”. “And so [it was] just finding people with the same passion in their hearts to put ISKL in that position.”

For her, the work in the booster hut was certainly new territory, “I’ve never done something like that, I’ve never started from scratch and built something up.”

Michelle’s most prominent motivation to keep going and improving the panther hut, to continue everything she’s done till now, is simply “just being surrounded by like-minded people. You surround yourself with the right people who say ‘yeah let’s do it.’ It’s the why-nots instead of the whys, right? Let’s just do it, let’s change things!”

Besides, the “building blocks” already being there, the panther hut did not do everything completely on their own. “We just happened to be able to capitalise on the fact that they were doing renovations,” and since ISKL was already making so many changes, “we were able to reconfigure what the booster space was…we just happened to come in at the right time.”

Not only did the booster hut receive help from the building blocks provided by ISKL, but the business class in ISKL also guided the process. “They came and we did presentations to their class to tell them what our needs were, they spent time in our panther hut seeing where our issues were, and then the classes did the research for us as part of their business project in class. It was very real-situation for them.” After, the class’ hard work, they finally presented their ideas and thoughts to Ms. May, Ms. Church and others, in order to determine the best system for the Panther Hut.

And then, very much like how you would build a community, the panther hut just kept on expanding with new possibilities, ideas, and opportunities.

“Through my girls playing sport I got to very quickly meet the other parents, and then just started to build that community, and that’s how it all happens… you start with one or two people, they bring their people in, and it’s just, exploded from there.”

Everything moved along with exponential speed and became very advanced, very soon.

In the past, the panther hut ran on a paper pencil system, much like everything else. Now, everything’s online. “We know from with a touch of a button or with the touch of a screen what we have in stock, what colors we have, what sizes we have, when we need to re-order. We’ve really fine tuned and we’ve also, because of that, we’ve made it all easier for our volunteers.”

Technology makes everything way more convenient for everyone, and the panther hut participants are no exception. From training newbies, “now it only takes 5 to 10 minutes to train somebody in there, and it’s simple, easy,” to providing appropriate accountability, “the school knows what we’re doing at any given time, they can ask where our money is, how much money we’ve made… It makes it easy for us,” and ensuring that there is a smooth transition for the next batch of participants.

“Our inspiration for clothing comes from simply watching. Watching the kids, seeing what they’re wearing. We’re very open to kids sending us emails. We’re willing to listen, [but] we’re not always promising we’re going to do everything that everybody wants. Sometimes it’s not cost-effective, or we do not have the resources…but at the end of the day, it’s all of you who are buying it, it’s all of you who are wearing it.”

Right now, Michelle wishes to stay for at least 2 more years. “Hannah has one more year after this, which we hope we can stay for, and I would like to stay another year after that.” Additionally, since all her children will soon be in Canada for college, there is more of an appeal to move there. “I would like to move that way, a little bit. It’s far from home here, that’s the only drawback of being here.”

Despite being uncertain about what she wants to do in the future, she knows that she wants to “take what I’ve learnt, take that momentum, take that experience, and put that energy into something else or something more. It [this] has given me motivation to think beyond going back teaching in a classroom or think beyond being a mom, thinking beyond.”

“What’s nice about moving to different places of the world, is that you get to reinvent yourself, and here I got to reinvent myself with the Panther Hut. That was something I’ve never done before, with the whole great team of people behind me, and the creation of this. I loved doing that.”