Remote old folks home gets attention

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 18 May 2019

KANGAR: Nestled in the foothills just 3km from the Thai border is a half-forgotten old folks home built on Malaysia’s tin rush legacy.

Pusat Jagaan Rumah Sejahtera Kaki Bukit in northern Perlis is a sanctuary for homeless senior citizens, but its remoteness means that the home faces such huge challenges in raising funds that residents themselves must chip in what little money they have to keep it going.

Star Foundation got wind of this and has stepped in to give support.

Visitors may wonder why a village like Kaki Bukit – with a population of under 3,000 – has a well-built old folks home, and the truth lies in the town’s rich history.“We had tin mines here – in caves thousands of feet underground. It was hard to mine but we had tin ore by the chunks. That attracted thousands of Chinese migrant workers,” said the home’s adviser, Chong Lian Tong.

However, because of China’s Communist Revolution of 1949, Chong said the migrant workers could not go home.

“They were all stuck here. They never married because they thought they were just here to work and would some day go home.”

Chong said when the miners grew too old to work, they became homeless and slept in the local funeral parlour when it was empty.

In 1956, Chong said former Perlis exco member, the late Datuk Loh Ah Tong, urged the community to start the old folks home.

“He got the state government to allocate a budget, local leaders to donate land and the tin mining towkays to donate RM5 for every tonne of tin they cast as the home’s operating expenses,” he recalled.

He said Loh, who was once MCA vice-president, even convinced government agencies to ensure the home’s residents received monthly allowances, which started at RM10 and grew to RM100.

Chong, who has served the home for decades, said there were about 50 residents at the home in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, it has 16 men and four women.

“Our residents have to contribute RM100 out of their RM300 monthly allowance from the Social Welfare Department. Otherwise, we would have trouble with the food supplies,” said Chong.

Star Foundation has provided the home with RM20,000 for this year.

“We are grateful to Star Founda­tion. Every sen of the donation will go to our residents’ welfare,” he said.

The home’s secretary, Chung Heong Min, said it needed at least RM11,000 a month to provide for the residents, including caregivers to look after those who are bedridden. Star Foundation is the charitable arm of Star Media Group Bhd, aimed at delivering meaningful initiatives with lasting outcomes to a diverse group of beneficiaries.

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