Reconnecting with history

  • Education
  • Sunday, 20 Sep 2020

Helping hand: Ryan (back row, right) posing with the other Sunway student volunteers and some of the members of the Semoi tribe in Muadzam Shah, Pahang.

SOCIAL awareness, moral consciousness and the desire to know more about Malaysia’s rich and diverse culture has steered our youths to help the Orang Asli.

Though they’ve spent their whole lives here, these students rarely come into contact with the country’s indigenous people. In conjunction with Malaysia Day, StarEdu speaks to selfless students who embody the spirit of togetherness through volunteerism.

Please read: Raenuga (right) conducting a vision test on a Kampung Orang Asli Serendah villager.Please read: Raenuga (right) conducting a vision test on a Kampung Orang Asli Serendah villager.

A gift of sight

DESCRIBING the Orang Asli as an “underrepresented community”, Raenuga Indran, 21, said being part of The Gift of Sight project opened her eyes to the lives and difficulties faced by the marginalised group.

Volunteerism, she said, gave her an opportunity to understand the needs of the Orang Asli and what we can do as individuals to support them.

In February this year, she joined a volunteerism project to help the community in Kampung Orang Asli Serendah.

“We used alphabet charts and asked them questions to gauge if they were short sighted or long sighted. All the second hand spectacles were sorted according to the power of the lenses to be distributed to those in need.” Her time spent on the project led to Raenuga discovering how resilient the villagers are in the face of challenges.

“They work extremely hard daily to make ends meet and they make the best of every situation.” Sharing how she was moved by the story of a Pak Cik who had to use the same pair of broken and badly scratched spectacles because he could not afford to buy a new pair, she said he made her realise how privileged we are to be able to afford new spectacles.

“After we got him a new pair, he said: ‘Lepas ni saya tak perlu takut bila naik motor’ (I don’t have to be afraid the next time I ride a motorcycle).’

“This was when it hit me – some of us have the privilege to change our glasses when we need to or when we feel like we want a new look, ” she said, adding that most of the villagers she helped did not change their lenses even when their prescription changed. Another elderly villager kept thanking Raenuga each time she handed him a new pair to try on.

“We went through quite a few pairs and it took us a while to find the perfect one, ” she said adding he was “grateful beyond words”when they found the right pair.

20-second rule: Children from the Semoi tribe learning how to wash their hands correctly.20-second rule: Children from the Semoi tribe learning how to wash their hands correctly.

A generous people

CREDITING the Orang Asli for teaching him not to take things for granted, Ryan Tan Sing Sze, 20, said a community hygiene and water sanitation project last year exposed him to the difficulties the Semoi tribe in Muadzam Shah, Pahang, faced.

The accounting and finance student from Sunway University had participated in a project to conduct workshops on making D.I.Y filtration tools. It also taught the community the importance of hand washing and teeth brushing. Due to the limited access to clean water, they lacked the basic knowledge about personal hygiene and sanitation, he said. Looking at their living conditions, he realised how different their lifestyles are compared to urbanites.

Even the most basic necessities such as electricity, water and food are precious luxuries to them.

“After dark, there are no lights to light up the village so they go to bed after the sun sets.

“We had the chance to interact with the adults and children through the project. They were shy initially and there was a language barrier but the Orang Asli’s friendly and welcoming nature quickly took over.

“Although their resources and income are limited, they would try their best to accommodate and welcome us ‘outsiders’ as we were their guests.

“When they knew that we were going to visit them, they made the effort to put on make up and dress up.

“They prepared delicious dishes for us despite the limited food supply. They are such a generous people, ” he said, adding that they taught him not to take things for granted and to appreciate all that he has.

He hopes to do more for the community through volunteerism. “The Orang Asli tribes deserve access to a good education and better hygiene. I hope we will all pay more attention to helping the community, ” he said.

Let’s learn: Jia Suan (right) teaching English to Orang Asli children.Let’s learn: Jia Suan (right) teaching English to Orang Asli children.

Grateful hearts

BELIEVING that the Orang Asli should have the same opportunities as their urban peers, Taylor’s University Bachelor of Computer Science (Hons) student Yap Jia Suan, 21, joined a church group that provided tuition classes to these children.

What she did not expect was that the Orang Asli children she would be teaching lived nearby. In fact, they were living within Damansara, Petaling Jaya.

Tasked with teaching simple English vocabulary and mathematics to children between the ages of four and six, she shared how they were not as fortunate as others who got to attend private tuition classes after school.

Yap, together with six of her friends would also sing and play games with the children and they enjoyed every minute of it.

“Although they are young, these kids are very independent. They wash their own dishes, scoop their own food, and they never complain and are not wasteful.

“Even though they are not staying with their own parents, all of them are disciplined, friendly and really involved in all the activities we planned.

“I was a little embarrassed because although they had so little they were so well behaved compared to some of us who have so much.”

She wants to do more to make a difference for underprivileged communities especially in relation to education as this is one way they can improve their living standard and succeed in life despite their disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Education is very important.

“I want to continue teaching these special children.”

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