They regularly travel thousands of miles from their base in Kuching to remote jungles and mountains all over Sarawak to carry out long-term sustainable community outreach programmes.
For years, they have been visiting distant settlements and introducing educational and social projects like micro-dams and health awareness programmes to the people there.
Barefoot Mercy co-founders Anna Wee, Doreen Ho and Elaine Chan and volunteer Azura Ng; and Association for Development of Education of Indigenous People Sarawak (PPP Orang Pribumi) founder Lim Siok Hong have shown physical toughness and emotional determination to carry on with their mission.In an interview in Long Lamam in Ulu Baram in interior northern Sarawak, Wee said Barefoot Mercy had over the past decade set up micro-hydro dam projects for villagers in Long Kerabangan, Long Tanid, Nanga Talong, Puneng Trusan, Pa’brunut, Long Lidung, Long Resina, Long Beluyu and Long Remirang.
Among others, Barefoot Mercy had also built several bridges in Punang Trusan and Long Telingan and facilitated a solar-lantern project for households in Long Lamam.
There were also dental healthcare campaigns organised in Nanga Talong and Lubok Antu, she added.Barefoot Mercy has also built a kindergarten in Long Lamam for the Penan kids.
“We have also organised entrepreneurship training for cottage industries like food and fruit processing. We would also buy handicraft from native women and bring these items back to Kuching to showcase during our fund-raising events.”
Wee said that Barefoot Mercy was set up in 2010 to help bridge the urban-rural divide in Sarawak.
“We started out by using our own funds and over the years, we received much needed financial and moral support from kind-hearted people, private companies and corporations.
“We are grateful to all of them,” she said.
Lim said she and her sister Siok Yam started PPP Orang Pribumi more than 10 years ago to provide pre-school education for rural native children.
“We have so far set up Penan pre-school education in Tadika Kemurung in Long Lamai, Tadika Penika in Batu Bungan, Tadika Pawah in Long Lamam, Tadika Jian Kenin in Long Ajang and Tadika Kebit Kenin in Ba’Lai.”
Tutorial camps were also set up in Batu Bungan, Long Lunyim and Long Imam, she added.
“In places we go, we would hire local youths and train them to be preschool teachers.
“We pay the salaries of these local teachers using our own funds and from individual and church donors,” she said.
Lim said that Tadika Pawah in Long Lamam was a joint project between her group and Barefoot Mercy.
Long Lamam Penan community elder Liam Iyu thanked those who helped make the kindergarten a reality.
“Our children have a place to learn to read, write, calculate, sing and even basic hygiene like brushing teeth and bathing.
“Before this, there was no kindergarten,” he said.
Long Laman has about 400 Penans from 74 households.
Other Penan settlements nearby are Long Lajem, Ba’sabatu, Ba’mubui and Long Ajen and Long Murum.