SERENDAH: Feeling empowered and getting more confidence are among the key takeaways for a member of the Orang Asli community after joining Native Discovery.
Anissa Kassim from the Jakun community in Pahang said the social enterprise has allowed her to explore her talents in cooking and calling for other members of the indigenous groups to follow her footsteps.
The 38-year-old married an Orang Asli of Temuan tribe in Serendah, Selangor, which the family then partnered with Native – a community-led tourism business.
“I was a housewife before joining Native as a cook. I love cooking and seeing people enjoying my dishes, it makes me happy.
“Since then, I have become more confident and found it easier to interact with people from different cultures,” said Kak Anissa.
Kak Anissa’s experience echoed the main objective of Native that was founded by a young social entrepreneur, Daniel Teoh.
Teoh, 28, said the goal of the enterprise was to build business together with the Orang Asli while empowering and transforming the communities positively.
To date, there are 10 to 20 community partners from at least two Orang Asli villages working closely with him.
“Native runs a community-based tourism which is more sustainable for the community.
“The whole idea is to create ownership for the Orang Asli to utilise their strength as the host or steward of the land.
“It also serves a unique perspective through guided walks and the money that tourists paid will leave an impact for the community,” he said.
Teoh shared that his journey with the indigenous community started back in 2015 when he volunteered with an organisation to build houses for them.
He admitted that he did not know much about the community prior to actively being involved as his source of information about them was only through limited knowledge from school.
“I first discovered the concept of social enterprise while joining an organisation to build homes for the Orang Asli.
“That was my starting point, which back then, I didn’t know much about the community, except through text books or newspapers.
“But when I visited an Orang Asli village, the villagers there were different from what I knew – they’re unique in their own cultural way,” he said.
Teoh added that the public narrative about the community was not doing justice to the uniqueness and richness of culture of the Orang Asli.
It was then a lightbulb moment struck him when he pitched an idea to the community to share their knowledge and culture through social entrepreneurship.
However, he said it was not easy to execute the plan.
“Having an idea is a happy moment, executing it however, comes with difficulty.
“To progress, we must gain their trust such as showing up in their villages and walking the talk,” he said.
After a few years, the impact could be seen when Native channelled a total of RM75,000 of income to the Orang Asli community.
“We run a profit-sharing model with the community partners by dividing the profit equally after deducting costs.
“They worked for it (the income) and that was the most tangible impact.
“In addition, we had provided a platform for the Orang Asli to share their culture themselves, which is quite special,” Teoh said.
To date, Native had worked with various organisations and the latest project was building a homestay in Kampung Serendah to accommodate more tourists and expand the business.
Among the organisations were Epic Collective that assisted to build the homestay while landscaping services were provided by Free Tree Society.
“We appreciate partnership as it allows us to do what we are best at relative to us learning construction experts or becoming farmers. Partnership especially win-win ones also allow us to leverage other people’s expertise,” he said.
Teoh also said the homestay located near a river at the Orang Asli village in Serendah was built at an estimated cost of RM40,000, which was mainly supported by their partners.
It was constructed entirely by sustainable materials such as bamboos while the roof was made from leaves that was weaved using traditional methods.
Other than villages in Serendah, Native is also working with community partners in Kampung Orang Asli Sungai Lalang, Kampung Orang Asli Batu 12 and Kampung Orang Asli Gurney.
For their noble efforts, Native is recognised as one of the 10 winners of Star Golden Hearts Award 2022 (SGHA) under the organisation (community empowerment) category.
SGHA is an annual award by The Star and Yayasan Gamuda that celebrates everyday Malaysian unsung heroes. For more details, visit sgha.com.my.