I spend 3 days inside an Orang Asli village in Ulu Slim, Perak. It was a volunteer work for the Malaysian Relief Agency (MRA) and I have to say that I'm glad that I took part.
It was really an eye opening experience, and opens up many possibilites for me in the future.
There is lack of knowledge among us regarding Orang Asli. Most of us assume that they are a single group of native people. Actually they are not.
Just as with the Malay people and their many sub-ethnics (Jawa, Bugis, etc), there are 3 main groups of Orang Asli namely the Proto-Mealyu, Senoi and Semang. Each one of these has sub-ethnics of their own.
The Semai people which lives in Ulu Slim belongs to the Senoi ethnic group.
The village is by a mountain hill. There are only 13 houses here so it makes for a very intimate atmosphere.
These brick houses were finished in 2009, so it was only recently that they lived in a comfortable home.
Going in, we were divided into 4 groups, and each group were given a pair of Walkie-Talkie to communicate with each other. Our group were assigned with the codename Mike Romeo Alpha. There's also Bravo, Charlie, Delta and Sierra.
Each group were assigned to a different village. Ours were assigned to Post Bersih 3.
Mixing up with the villagers were quite easy. The trick is to get to know their children and move up from there. We were lead to the river by a child named Amir, the first person whom we make friends with.
The river is absolutely beautiful. This is where the villagers bath, wash their clothes, etc. The water is as clear as any water can be.
There are many rocks to block the water current so it is safe to take a bath here - unless it is raining of course. However precautions should be made to prevent encounters with wild animals by the river.
There are sightings of wild boar and snakes here.
We taught the children how to correctly brush their teeth, and how to wash their hair and body. It was great fun - and helps us bond with them better.
I love this picture.
Head lice (kutu) is a common problem among them.
She looks so happy is she not?
We were soaking wet by the end of the day.
But making them smile was all worth it.
Though the majority of villagers were given more comfortable houses to live in, a pair of husband and wife is unfortunate to still live inside this.
The condition of the house is heart wrenching to see. The owner said that he is fine with this, but I'm sure he will be grateful if any help is given.
He considers himself as having no religion to speak of. This is different from being an atheist where a person rejects the idea of God completely. He and his wife seems content with their life, and sometimes we need to respect their opinion.
Out of 13 families, 3 of the families are Muslims, 4 of them Christians while the rest are either Bahai or without a religion.
To think that they live only to survive is heart-wrenching.
This is the village chief, or Tok Batin as they call it. He is a very humble and soft spoken man - and also the very first person we seek right after we enter this village. As the village chief, we need to get his permission if we want to stay in the village or do any activites here.
As a side note, look at the background inside his house and notice how clean it is. This is true for all houses in this village. The outside surroundings may be littered with garbage but inside, it's very clean. It's an interesting observation.
After many broken promises from the State Office, Tok Batin personally met the Sultan and asked for his help. You can say that he is the one responsible for the development in this village.
However, there are still many areas that can be improved. This is their bathroom, it doesn't look like one isn't it? Looks more like a washroom.
The given contractor promised to built a bathroom a year ago but alas no effort nor any contact from them. These bathrooms were built by the villagers own iniatiave.
The piping system were done by themselves as well. It looks amateurly made but in their word "better to have a simple piping system than none at all."
Thankfully electricity is fine.
On the second day, we did a free Medical Checkup for them.
Most of us are from a medical background so setting up the place and preparing the apparatus weren't much of a hassle. We owe it to the villagers who let us use their chairs and tables.
Pardon the blood, but this is the test done to detect our body's blood glucose level. The suitable range in between 4.0 - 5.9 mmol. We also measure their blood pressure, took their height and weight, and also measure their temperature.
Appropriate medicine were given according to their conditions.
This is Johari, one of Tok Batin's grandson. He looks sad and in pain is he not?
He was bitten by a stray dog, and had 14 stitches done to him. It has been 2 weeks since the tragedy and his leg looks to be worsen. Thankfully, Our doctor checked on him and proceded with a follow up treatment.
The doctor also wrote a referral letter for further treatment by a nearby clinic.
Speaking of dogs, Orang Asli love dogs. In this village alone, there's more or less 10 dogs owned by the villagers. I'm sure there's more. I was afraid to get close to them so I think this picture will do.
The medical checkup went smoothly. The majority of the villagers were also in good health.
We gave each house some food to ease their burden.
We played games next. Another thing of note regarding these people, they are very lenient, ask them to line up and they will.
This is Budin. He's very shy in the beginning but by the second day he is by far the most happy go lucky guy in the village.
The rain forces us to change what we had planned, so we played games indoor.
Orang Asli loves singing and they are not shy to acknowledge it. One thing of note is how fast they can learn something if singing is involved. It is another interesting observation that I feel those more qualified can do further research on.
We had a simple feast at night. All were served with banana leaves given by the villagers.
Earlier in the afternoon when the kids were playing games, we cooked food with the adults and teenagers.
We served them simple food that they themselves can cook at home.
We also made a video of pictures taken from the 2 days of us staying with them. You can say that it is a parting gift from us to them. You can view them here.
The third and final day. We departed back to our base camp early in the morning. Though our time with them are short, I'm sure this experience had an everlasting impact on each one of us.
I imagine there's a part inside each and every one of us that wants to help people one way or another. Some maybe too shy, some may not know where to look, and some may even feel that they are not good enough to contribute.
Believe me, every one of us is special one way or another. This is my first time doing this and I can't wait for a similar trip to happen. Try contacting volunteering groups such as MRA and MERCY. They are more than happy to accept your presence.
Hopefully our bond with them is a bond that lasts forever.
EDIT: A lot of people have been asking how to get involved with this kind of activity. Well you can register your name here if you're interested.