Reaching out to the marginalized
Our initiative to alleviate the poverty level of the Orang Asli community in Gerik and empower them through economic initiatives.
Prima Avenue Reaches Out: Gerik OA Visitation
On 29 February 2020, 9 team members departed from 3 separate locations in Klang Valley at 5.00am with the plan to converge at the town of Gerik around 8.30am. Gerik is a the district capital of Hulu Perak District, Perak, Malaysia. The town is also known as Rest Town owing to its strategic location next to East-West Highway, the main route linking Kedah and Penang to the east coast.
This sleepy town will be our meeting point for breakfast before departing to the Banding jetty for a 1.5 hour motorboat ride to visit 3 villages that Prima Avenue has established contact, building trust through the visits. At the jetty provisions for the villages, ranging from clothing, foodstuff as well as nails were loaded onto the boat as we prepared to depart from the jetty. There’s no mobile coverage at the village so say goodbye to connectivity!
The objective of this trip was also to get an update on the welfare of the three villages for action to be taken in subsequent visits in the near future.
Our visits aren’t about giving handouts. We encourage them to produce quality handcrafts to further sustain themselves economically.
The first destination was Kg. Taroh. This remote “island” is home to 8 families and the village headman, Along welcomed the team. It was good to see the familiar faces of the villages, and to check on their welfare and economic progress. The clothings, foodstuff and essential items were unloaded with the help of the villagers. The team also went to work to troubleshoot a faulty off-grid solar panel setup. The fault was diagnosed and rectified thus the village’s lighting was restored.
Through casual conversations with the village headman Along, the team followed up on the progress of the vegetable and fruit plots. In the previous visits, the village was provided with vegetable seeds as well as young fruit seedlings to encourage them to cultivate vegetables and fruits for better diet intake.
Update: 29 March 2020
Staying true to their nomadic lifestyle, we received news that families at Kg. Taroh has abandoned their current place of stay and have relocated to two separate locations. This was communicated to us by the boatman who managed to send some essential supplies to the three villages before the enforced lockdown.
While the exact reason for the relocation is yet to be determined, we will attempt to reach out to them after the Restricted Movement Order (RMO) is lifted. Our hope is that they will be able to sustain themselves during this period of enforced isolation as they are now not allowed to go out for supplies and no tourists are allowed to visit them.
Building Trust Thru’ Craft
Often, we are reminded of the stark contrast of the lifestyle of these indigenous people with our urban lifestyle. Many things that we take for granted, such as electricity, clean piped water, food, clothing and shelter are daily struggles for these people. Their remote location means extra cost arising from boat rides to reach the town area to purchase essential items.
Arrival at the 2nd village
Distributing Essential Items
Sugar, salt and rice are the much needed items here. Due to the remoteness, items brought in cost more for the OAs.
So Remote, So Beautiful
Did you know…a visit to the nearest hospital in Gerik entails one and a half hour boat ride, followed by another hour by bus or car.
The second village, or Kampung Dua as it is called consists of 9 families. This village has a community hall where they receive visitors and also groups of NGOs who come in to provide basic education. The size of the village is not consistent as the Negritos (tribe name of the indigenous people) practice nomadic lifestyle and may move from one location to another. Occasionally if an incident is perceived as being “bad”, the entire village may uproot itself and search for a new settlement to reside.
Here in Kampung Dua, they are led by Abang Madir and Adim, who preside over the village, providing leadership and facilitate issues that may arise between families. Their main priority remains the basic necessities that we take for granted. Food, shelter and clothings. During the visit, the men of the villages have left for work in the nearby mining quarter while the rest have ventured into the jungles to hunt and forage. It was extremely hot and the dry during the visit and this resulted in the forest igniting.
We aim to provide opportunities and avenues for the villagers to enhance their economic status by encouraging them to be productive with their skills.
The third village, Kg. Kelian is just a stone’s throw from village 2. The team was warmly received by the village headman, Ismail. The village headman is highly resourceful and skillful in producing beautiful works of crafts. He is able to fashion wrist bangles, head bands, fish traps (which are called “bubu”) and necklaces. These crafts are labour intensive, taking about 4-5 days from the preparation of raw materials to finished products.
Ismail also showed us the site of his new home. His previous home burned down due to a defective lighter which exploded. The wooden hut with dry thatch palm roof was consumed by the fire in no time. The Prima Avenue team set up a solar-powered electrical fencing system at the request of the villagers as their plantation plot was constantly encroached by wild boar and elephants. With the solar-powered electric fence, it will ward off further encroachment.
By purchasing their handcrafts, the villagers are rewarded for their effort and initiative. The team aims to reduce the amount of handouts and nudge the three villages towards economic sustainability and self-empowerment.
These handcrafted items are available for purchase at www.trustthrucraft.org soon! We will keep you updated on our social media.
Visit our site dedicated to bring the delicate crafts of the indigenous people of Gerik to the urban markets. Your purchase will go directly towards improving and empowering the life of these marginalized communities.