PETALING JAYA: It was a wonderful moment for friends Sam McCann and Roslan Abu Kassim to finally find each other online after having lost contact for over two decades.
However, for the licensed tour guides, boat operators and villagers in Kuala Tahan in Jerantut, Pahang, the reunion is even more of a blessing after the meeting between McCann, 50, and Roslan, 56, led to the start of a donation drive for them via a Facebook page called Feed A Village.
Taman Negara’s closure under the movement control order (MCO) due to the Covid-19 pandemic has effectively cut off their source of income since mid-March.
Roslan said he was happy to receive a Facebook message earlier this year from McCann, who now lives in Norfolk, 20 years after having lost contact with her.
“She told me that she has been trying to get in touch with me and I told her that I have been trying to contact her too, ” he said.
McCann, a primary school teacher, said she found him through a search on Facebook.
“I searched on Facebook and his name was there! I don’t know why I hadn’t thought to do this before.
“Finding and reconnecting with an old friend is such a wonderful thing, ” she said when contacted.
The reunion led to conversations between the two friends on climate change and eco-tourism.
When the MCO was implemented, McCann became concerned about the situation of the licensed tour guides, boat operators and villagers in Kuala Tahan who rely on tourism in Taman Negara to feed their families.
“I knew they would no longer be receiving income and I felt really concerned about this as there is nothing they can do, ” said McCann.
Roslan said he explained to her about their plight.
“She immediately told me that she wanted to help, ” he said, adding that McCann then donated £200 (RM1,069.70) to be distributed among them.
“The amount may not seem much but I was able to buy necessities for about 20 families, ” he said, adding that other donations soon followed, the latest of which was for the Bateq community in the area.
Their friendship had begun in 1994 when Roslan became a tour guide for McCann, who was accompanying a group of students and staff from Cawston College, near Aylsham in Norfolk, for a Gunung Tahan climb.
McCann said her trip to Malaysia did not only lead her to her friendship with Roslan but also to the start of her love for Malaysia.
“It is an environment I have never been in before and it felt so good to be surrounded by so much beautiful greenery and nature. This was such a memorable first trip!
“We left Taman Negara to go to Tioman Island and I fell in love
with the people and the country, ” she said. Roslan said the duo had previously kept in touch despite living in different continents but lost track of each other after changing addresses.
“I kept trying to find her for the past 20 years – whenever I was showing tourists from Norfolk around, I would ask if they would know Sam by chance.
“I am thankful for the care that Sam has shown to us who have been affected by the park’s closure, ” he said, adding that he hoped that the tourism industry could reopen in the near future.
“It’s been a difficult few months for those who rely on business from tourists as there is zero income, ” he said.
For now, Roslan, who is the chairman of Birdgroup Taman Negara, is focused on helping his fellow tour guides and villagers, as well as the Bateq community.
“I was born in Taman Negara as my father was a ranger here.
The Bateq people have been my friends since childhood so I want to help them through this crisis, ” he said.
McCann said she wanted to return to Taman Negara in the future. “I really hope to visit Taman Negara again soon to see Roslan and spend some time with the Bateq children and learn from them.”
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