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Thursday, 19 June 2014

Star Media Group employees sacrifice weekends to build homes for orang asli

DO YOU want to build a... no, not a snowman, but a house for a good cause?

I have always wanted to volunteer for a cause but did not know how to go about it or which charity organisation to help.

But when I received an internal memo about an initiative to build wooden houses for villagers in an orang asli settlement, I knew that this was my chance!

The Star media group Do Good Day is part of the group’s Employee Volunteer Programme which will see eight homes being built for the orang asli community in Kampung Orang Asli, Bukit Jenuk, Dengkil.

I immediately rallied colleagues and friends to take part. There were no takers but that did not dampen my enthusiasm and I wasted no time in signing up.

As it was a public holiday on Tuesday, many went away on long leave. Plus, it was Mother’s Day on Sunday.

Nevertheless, we made the best of whatever manpower we had.

We were divided into three groups: shelter (building), food and sanitation (to ensure that the common area and toilets were clean).

Every two hours, there was a rotation so that everyone had the chance to try out different tasks.

I was joking with my colleague before the trip that if I were to be in charge of cooking, we would be having instant noodles and fried eggs for every meal.

Lo and behold, I was assigned to the food team!

Nevertheless, I saw this as a chance to challenge myself and maybe pick up some skills along the way.

While I won’t be hired by Jamie Oliver anytime soon, at least no one had food poisoning.

I also discovered that I actually enjoy cooking.

What I did not enjoy was removing the fat and innards from fresh chicken though; I promised myself that if I were to cook meat again, it has to come in the form of fillets.

DoGooders from the fourth home build.
Do Gooders who built the fourth home

When it was my turn to help with house-building, I realised that construction was not my forte.

I mean, the last time I held a hammer was in secondary school during Kemahiran Hidup (living skills) class.

Thankfully, we received guidance from experienced volunteers, the local NGO Insaf Technical Relief Malaysia (Insaf).

Some of the volunteers, whose construction skills were far superior than mine, were encouraging and helpful in teaching me how to hammer the right way.

While I got it right a couple of times (I believe it was pure luck), I left a trail of bent and misshapen nails along the way.

I did enjoy painting though.

The roof was only attached the day after we left, by skilled construction workers and finally, the wooden house was completed!

It was a Mother’s Day gift for Jadam, the 71-year-old granny whom we built the house for.

Through her son-in-law Baharin Sangsene, 39, (due to the language barrier; she only speaks Temuan) we learned that she eats and sleeps in her dilapidated hut.

Steff Yong sitting up on a beam to install the wall panels as other Do Gooders help.
Steff Yong sitting up on a beam to install the wall panels as other Do Gooders help.

“She does not want to live with us in a brick house (which is just behind the hut) and prefers her wooden hut,” he said.

I went for another session from June 6 to 8, building a house for a villager named Shaharrin Shafielex, 41, who is a farm hand and rubber tapper who also picks fruit.

He has four kids between the ages of 13 and 20 and his family was staying at a relative’s house in the village.

He had been looking forward to the house ever since he saw his aunt’s house (the third house built during the volunteer project) was constructed and helped out during the three days, including preparing the groundwork for the house.

“I have been longing for a house to call my own, I’m so happy that my dreams can now be realised.

“I enjoy working with the other volunteers and am honoured to be selected to be part of this project,” he said.

Insaf Malaysia founder and president Ishak Abdul Kadir, who supervised us during the house-building session, said the wooden house does not merely provide a roof over the villagers’ heads but offers them hope.

“One of the villagers started planning on ways to improve the house, like adding a kitchen; something that he has not thought of prior to getting the new house,” he said.

It was also timely that he got his new house as just days later, his old house was destroyed in a thunderstorm.

Worksite after house is completed.
The completed house built for Shaharrin.

I loved the positive energy throughout the three days.

I was impressed with the other volunteers who toiled under the hot sun, building a house for someone whom they have never met, all in the spirit of volunteerism.

There was participation from The Star and subsidiaries’ employees and their family members and friends, as well as other volunteers.

Volunteer Belinda Jane Book, a 24-year-old teacher, had always wanted to help people and participated in charity projects in Cambodia, Thailand, South America, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia.

“I wanted to teach in rural areas in Malaysia and help underprivileged kids but could not do so as I cannot speak Malay.

“I have always wanted to get involved but did not know how so when my friend told me about this, I readily agreed.

“I hope to join projects like this again in the future,” she said.

It was definitely a great experience and like Book, I would love to join the next round.

So who’s game for our next session?

As of June 9, four homes have been completed and there are four more to go.

For details, call 03 - 42519444 (Insaf Technical Relief Malaysia) or email admin@insafmalaysia.org


Grace Leong - Advertising

There’s nothing like the feeling of knowing that all the hard work, sweat and effort put in goes into helping to provide a better home for the orang asli. You’ll know it when you see it.

Kelvin Ho – Red Tomato

It was a great experience, one that I never had before. You will have the same feeling if you join the programme. “I LOVE DO GOOD”. 

Oh Ing Yeen – Editorial (Metro)

The best reward was seeing how happy the beneficiary was to have a new home and knowing that we made a difference. Overall, it was a great experience and I look forward to volunteering again.

Ho Kuan Wing – Red Tomato

For me, it’s definitely not an easy job but when you see people working as a team, helping each other to build a home for Orang Asli, you will reali se that building a house is a piece of cake.

In unity there is strength, we took this opportunity to meet a lot of friends and learn to work together. It really was a good experience for me.

Gan Hong Bin – Red Tomato

You probably hate working under the hot sun, so do I, BUT trust me, you will love it as you don’t always get the opportunity to build a house. 

It was a really great experience and you get to work with a bunch of great people! This is definitely not my last time.

Volunteers Wanted

1. Tutor a Refugee Kid – Cybercare

Refugees predominantly from Afghanistan are staying on temporary shelter here for three to eight years before a sponsor country can adopt them. It is our goal to make sure their kids lead a normal life by having some schooling since they are not accepted in government schools.

This ongoing event is held at a charity school called Pandawas Academy running on donations and volunteering.

We need volunteers for two hours weekly to give the refugee kids existing homework book revision in English, Maths, Art or games. For further enquiries, please call Mok at 012-2017760.

2. CRISIS! – United Living Centre

United Living Centre is looking for volunteers to teach and give lessons to Myanmar refugee children aged three to 16 years.

The lessons taught can be basic with no prior teaching experience is required.

United Living Centre is currently facing a shortage of teachers for the classes, as many of the foreign volunteers have returned to their countries.

The teaching sessions can be once or twice a week, based on volunteers’ availability.

Meanwhile, English lessons would be the best option. The sessions are held at 3C Jalan Imbi. For details, call Mink at 019-600 1733 or Macy at 03-21482669 for further information.

3. Special Olympics Bocce Invitational Tournament – Cameron Highlands Educational Rehabilitation Informative Special Home

On June 19, the Special Olympic Bocce Invitational Tournament, Cameron Highlands will be organised. The Bocce Tournament will be participated by at least 80 special children and young adults from 10 homes throughout Malaysia.

We are looking for volunteers to join in to act as spectators and cheer all participants on, as they put their physical strength to compete with their peers in this tournament, specially organised to boost interaction and promote awareness towards the capabilities of special needs children and young adults.

For enquiries, call Mary Pang at 012–648 6162.

4. Healthy Lifestyle (Skipping for Health) – Rotary Club of George Town

The Rotary Club of George Town is organising the Healthy Lifestyle – Skipping for Health event on June 22 between 7.30 am to 10.30 am at the s-Five Rest Garden and MBS School Penang.Children and adults for the skipping exercise.

We also need one photographer and a videographer to record these events for Malaysia Book of Records apart from aerobic dancers, line dancers and other body exercise activities to participate.

For details, call Don Law at 012–433 1155.

5. Stop Hunger Now – Rotary Club of George Town

The Rotary Club of George Town is looking for 400 volunteers between the ages of eight and 70 to help pack uncooked rice and soy products into small plastic bag for hungry people. Volunteers may opt for a two-hour or four-hour-shifts or stay the whole day to complete the task from 10am to 5pm on June 28 at West Wing of Sunway Pyramid in Petaling Jaya.

The Health Minister or his deputy will be invited to launch the event between 11am and 2pm at Sunway Pyramid. Volunteer copywriters are required to draft a speech for the VIP. For details, call Don Law at 012 – 433 1155.

6. Budi Penyayang Ramadan – Yayasan Budi Penyayang Malaysia

During Ramadan, Yayasan Budi Penyayang Malaysia, a charity foundation, is looking for volunteers to work with the Foundation staff to visit the less fortunate in the vicinity in the Klang Valley.

Volunteers are needed until the breaking of fast at the last stop they make for the day.

We would like to spend some quality time with each of the families we visit and to spread some cheer.

Volunteers are also wanted to help with the packaging of food items, join the staff in delivering them, and to conduct surveys when necessary. There are several scheduled dates between 3pm to 8.30pm. For details, call Ghazali from Yayasan Budi Penyayang Malaysia at 03 – 8946 0222.

For those who would like their volunteering opportunities to be featured here, kindly post it up at

www.dogoodvolunteer.com and we might just pick yours!

Tags / Keywords: Central Region , Family Community , do good volunteer


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