HUNDREDS of Orang Asli families living in eight villages in the jungles of Taman Negara in Kuala Tahan, Pahang, received much-needed supplies donated by private companies and individuals.The supplies ranged from food, toiletries and medical items to blankets and towels.
The humanitarian/relief effort was carried out by Ecotourism and Conservation Society Malaysia (Ecomy), with help from the Bird Group of Taman Negara (BGTN) and volunteers from the Civil Defence.
The villages affected were Kampung Yong, Kampung Kuala Atok, Kampung Dedari, Kampung Aur, Kampung Tabung, Kampung Cangkung, Kampung Teresek and Kampung Blau.
Volunteers went through arduous journeys to get the essential supplies to the villages, some of which were only accessible by boat.
The project — named ecoHero initiative — is a new segment of the award-winning KampungKu project managed by Ecomy, which aims to raise funds to buy much-needed essentials from local businesses, as well as source for local doctors for on-site healthcare check-ups.
“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic movement restrictions, we heard that eight Orang Asli communities involving some 600 people — 60% of whom are children — were unable to earn a living from ecotourism, preventing them from paying for food, healthcare, education and other necessities,” said KampungKu Lead Project coordinator and co-founder Arran Rahul Hashim.
“The ecoHero programme was created and launched on June 28 for that purpose.
“We are responsible for the back-end work, from fundraising to corporate social responsibilty management, logistics and project management.
“The Bird Group of Taman Negara and Civil Defence volunteer personnel were our on-the-ground partners responsible for identifying and securing local sundry shops to support and deliver goods to the target villages,” he added.
By helping the Orang Asli community, they were also indirectly helping the Kuala Tahan shops in the area.
Arran said they took pride in using the formula where donors’ contributions go towards helping local businesses, some of which are owned and run by women entrepreneurs in the area.
“Unfortunately, we could not go to the delivery sites due to strict travel restrictions. But we were still able to organise the needful on the ground,” he added.
Most of these villages are currently only accessible by boat, with the exception of Kampung Dedari which can be reached by car.
“Journey time to these villages from Kuala Tahan vary but are in the ballpark of 15 to 45 minutes each way, depending on water conditions,” added Arran.
The aid packages were ferried up and down Sungai Tembeling as the village sites were located close to the water.
Arran said some villages required a short hike up steep hills, as was the case for Kampung Kuala Atok.
“With the exception of Kampung Dedari, I would classify many of the villages as remote with nomadic communities and very little connection with the outside world,” he said.
The Orang Asli, particularly the Bateq community, relied heavily on tourism and ecotourism to earn an income that is spent on buying necessities such as rice, cooking oil, sugar and essential medicines.
The project managed to raise about RM60,000 from the targeted RM80,000.
Supplies are estimated to last between 12 and 14 days.
“The villagers still forage for food in the rainforest, but many flora and fauna species are critically endangered in that region,” said Arran.
The ecoHero programme is currently mobilised as a humanitarian and relief programme and is made up of Ecomy president and chief executive officer Andrew Sebastian, Arran and three Bird Group Taman Negara members led by president Roslan Kassim, plus a handful of Civil Defence volunteers.
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