This is going to be a little longer and different than the previous blog posts. I am going back to Malaysia this summer! No, not for diving though: I have been very lucky to be selected into the Southeast Asian Leadership Network’s (SEALNet) Project Malaysia 2014 – Batang Kali. It is a two weeks service project that aims at empowering the indigenous Orang Asli community in Malaysia and youth through rural service engagement.
Now a little bit of background history: The Orang Asli (it is a Malay term meaning “original people”, “natural people” or “aboriginal people”) are the indigenous people of Peninsular Malaysia. Officially, there are 18 Orang Asli tribes, categorised under three main groups according to their different languages and customs: Semang (living in the northern portion of the peninsula), Senoi (living in the central region) and Aboriginal Malay (in the southern region).
Orang Asli land has been and is sadly still coveted by powerful interests for its timber and minerals, for conversion into oil palm plantation and many more. The government has long pursued a policy of assimilation to turn Orang Asli into Malay Muslims and, in the process, eradicate the category of aboriginal people in Malaysia, calling it a strategy for “integration”. After the Second World War, the push for economic development accelerated the conversion of forests into plantations, mines and land developments. The construction of roads and dams destroyed large tracts of forests and with them, Orang Asli livelihood. Timber became an important export, bankrolling Malaysia’s development.
When the growing middle class produced by Malaysia’s economic success began to call for the protection of forests and creation of parks for recreation, the Orang Asli where obstacle to two conflicting interests: they were sandwiched between commercial logging and forest preservation. Deeming it “foolhardly” to preserve a way of life for a group of only 50,000 people, the government did not want to “jeopardise the future of a nation”. The Orang Asli were moved from their original lands for land exploration.
Today the Orang Asli are stuck between the modern world and their traditional lifestyle. They comprise less than 0.5% of the total population in Malaysia and the poverty rate among them is around 75% . Approximately 12,000 indigenous families live in extremely unsafe housing conditions. The average sole breadwinner of an Orang Asli family of 5 earns RM600-RM700 (estimated 200-233 USD) per month. A human’s basic needs such as shelter should be met above and beyond the rest! The Orang Asli children are often left behind in their education. As a result, poverty becomes a viscous cycle and these families struggles to break that cycle.
This July, I will join a group of students from 8 countries to go to Kampung Buloh Telor, Kuala Kubu Bahru, Selangor, in Malaysia to build a home for an indigenous family of the Orang Asli tribe that has been living in a 8m x 2.5m concrete shack for 10 years!
I have never built a house with my bare hands before, so despite the amazing opportunity to live with an indigenous tribe, I also look forward to this little challenge for a greater cause.Below is a picture of the family we will be building the home: Norizan (1978), Perina(1974), Zairul (1952), Liza (2010), Ahmad (2013), Samri (1978), Rahmah (1979) and Eti (2013)
UWC Values: Community Service
Instead of paying for the home with money, our recipients of the home will actively join us for the whole building process commit to building not just their home but two additional homes for their neighbours. We will ensure that this concept is carried forward for the next house builds!
We want to empower the Orang Asli to overcome their own challenges by giving them insights into their problem solutions. There are some Orang Asli who are looking to start their own business (i.e tourism, day trips and to teach survival skills) to the public but have not done so yet. After interacting with the community through the build, all of our SEALNet members will brainstorm on how to push their businesses to the next level with feedbacks and idea generation, The outcome of this process is a sustainable new business models that the Orang Asli can use to provide job opportunities.
A learning experience
Not only will I gain insights into the culture of an indigenous tribe which has been marginalized, but I will also meet students from all over Asia, working working very closely with them throughout the build (Teamwork!!!) I am quite excited to meet my co-builders! It will also be a time of active reflection: due to the intense nature of the project (I mean when do you build a house with bare hands?!), we will all be forced to adapt quickly to different situation. Also, I always believed that everyone has the power to make a difference but only few recognize their ability to do so (including myself sometimes). The build will give all of us to explore our capabilities and potential, I am sure there will be nothing more satisfying for us participants and the Orang Asli community than finishing the project with our bare hands – and who knows, I might start building more houses! Everyone has the right to not just a house, but a home which provides comfort and adequate living conditions.
Now to the title of this post. My dear readers, I need all of your help for fundraising
As I will be participating in this project with nonprofit organization and this entire project is planned and conducted by students, the funding of our project will come from grants and private support. Each member is required to fundraise 500 US$ so that we can make this project a success and buy the materials necessary to build the house.
So PLEASE help and share! Below is the link to the Indigogo crowdsourcing website that I set up:
As I believe strongly in the power of people, I am very optimistic about reaching this goal (more than 60,000 views on the blog, we can do this!) Every donation and share will make a difference and I have to reach this fundraising goal before I depart on June 1st.
Thank you so much.