A YOUNG man from Kampung Tersusun Kowdow used to collect leftover food from house to house and sell them as pig feed is now a success story.
It was a smelly job that no one wanted to do, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for him.
Along the way, he spotted large tracts of vacant land where he delivered the feed to the farms.
He smelled business there, and that led him to venture into oil palm and poultry farming.
That was in the 1980s. In his 50s now, the pig feed collector-turned businessman still drives his lorry around doing his job.
His story was told by former village chief Chang Kwong Yok during a visit to the village in Kampar.
“Look at him. He is a big boss now,” said Chang upon spotting the businessman driving past us in his lorry.
This is just one among the many stories from this village dubbed “Lonely Island” (gu dao) in Chinese.
“Our village is surrounded by huge tin mining ponds which turn it into an island,” said Chang of the village where he grew up.
The word “Kowdow” is a mixture of Mandarin and Hakka dialects in this predominantly Hakka area in Kampar.
The story of the village will not be complete without tin mining in the picture.
While the exact year the village came into existence is unclear, many of its residents were relocated from surrounding areas to make way for mining work.
This is where the arranged village (kampung tersusun) concept came about.
Chang said the villagers were mostly miners leading a simple life until the world tin market crashed in 1985, triggering massive unemployment overnight.
Villagers subsequently left in droves for big cities and abroad to find jobs. In hindsight, this could have been a blessing in disguise for some people.
Some of them who went to work abroad without permits managed to earn, save money and rebuild their village houses, said Chang on the modern concrete houses that nestle among the old wooden ones.
He said there were some families who were very poor, comprising the elderly who needed help to repair their dilapidated homes.
While they are a close-knit community with a slow-paced lifestyle, the poor and elderly are able to fend for themselves.
The 1980s and beyond also saw many youngsters with tertiary education moving to big cities for jobs.
Jobs were scarce in rural areas and small towns then, and that has not changed much until today.
The continuous wave of migration to big cities for more than three decades did not just leave a greying village.
Only one of Chang’s four children is still with them in the family’s sawmill business in the village.
The sawmill was started by Chang’s late father, Chang Kam Yee, more than 70 years ago.
Chang said the young and old are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the rising cost of living in the cities with the challenging job market.
Chang said some from the cities have also returned to the village.
He hoped the government could come up with proper plans to utilise the large tracts of land in and around the village to provide business and job opportunities to locals.
He said the government-owned land could benefit from the taxes and fees when the land is utilised.