Teaching Orang Asli community about health, education and entrepreneurship

Our colleagues in Nilai were approached by a specially installed government agency to improve the lifestyle of the Orang Asli Community with the request for help. They were introduced to the leaders of 4 settlements, mostly inhabited by the Temuan tribe, located at the foothills of Mantin Range. An evaluation on feasibility and site survey was conducted and, based on criteria such as leadership organization, geographical factor, socio-economy background, village community support and impact to population, the Kampung Belihoi was chosen for a three-year pilot program.

The plan comprised to provide computers and education to people of all ages; the promotion of health and hygiene among the 300 villagers, especially at home; to establish means of communication and information for the village head and the village Safety & Security Committee as well as to enhance entrepreneurship among the villagers by starting and driving local businesses using the availability and abundance of local resources. The ambition is to transform Kampung Belihoi into a modern Orang Asli settlement and become a social development model, particularly in Seremban.

A detailed schedule for the projects taking place in the first year, including a cost overview, was made and approval from the Community Program was granted. Teams were formed for the 77 volunteering employees from various units of Deco Malaysia as well as Packaging Coatings and a rotation structure for all involved, including students and faculty members from the Universiti Teknologi MARA in Johor, was made. Phase 1 focused on Environment, Health and Hygiene. A major clean-up of the surrounding community area was the first activity followed by repairing, refurbishing and re-painting of the Warung (Café) Grocery Store and the Community Hall where also the Kindergarten and Village Safety & Security Volunteer are housed. Computers, printers, meeting tables and other furniture were installed by the volunteers and as a surprise the building was decorated by a mural painting in the main entrance wall of the Kindergarten.

While working on the premises our volunteers performed some (unplanned) but much needed jobs, like the installation of new piping for water supply from a reliable source, two public toilets, electrical wiring and landscaping, using the available local natural plants and pebbles from the nearby river and waterfall.
When this part was finished an official opening ceremony was organized for the villagers where health introduction sessions were conducted by governmental Health institutions. It was their way of showing their support and collaboration with the AkzoNobel volunteers in helping the community. The villagers participated in health and hygiene-related games on topics selected based on common health & hygiene issues among this community, like the prevention of dengue and leptospirosis outbreak, prevention of non-communicable diseases i.e. heart, diabetes and alcoholism, and healthy & balance nutrition.

The interest of the villagers to attend the basic computer and adult education classes appeared to be quite high. Due to the still limited capacity only 20 participants were allowed to attend on first come-first-serve basis. Both classes are planned in the afternoon and evening during weekdays and weekends to accommodate for school children, working villagers as well as housewives. For these programs, volunteers from our IM Department were involved in setting up the computer hardware and software while the community and e-learning section of the Faculty of Education, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) will assist in setting-up the course module as well as providing trainers who will mostly consist of researchers and doctorate students in their respective field who are conducting their own research and thesis at the same time. It’s definitely a mutually beneficial partnership to all parties involved. Both classes will start in May 2013. At the end of the academic year, attending villagers will be provided an achievement certificate and rewarded accordingly for their efforts. The computer class will provide them basics in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. This will serve as a basis for a business module which will assist them to run their own small scale businesses and market their locally-produced products through multimedia and internet.

Our volunteers, the students and the officials involved in this first phase of the project were all very pleased with the results and particularly with the positive reactions of the villagers. The different entities housed in the Community Center are now running full swing and the villagers feel responsible for their new village. Every two weeks they clean up the community square and also take care of the proper maintenance of the new water supply and toilet facilities. One of them said: ‘each time I enter the village with the beautiful colors and its new look, I feel proud to be part of it. We are excited to explore the internet and all applications on the computers and we hope this project will have a positive impact also on the nearby villages.’ And this was just the first phase of an ambitious three year project. Our volunteering colleagues are determined to realize their objectives and make a real difference to the lives of this small community and turn it into a better, safe and healthy place to live. Also for them it was a rewarding experience, as Safety Officer, Sahmsud Amar Aiz said: ‘this was really something new. I just knew about these original inhabitants of our country through books and media. It was a real and once in a lifetime experience. Not everyone gets such an opportunity’.