by Leonard Pasqual
It was a long drive but a rewarding and fruitful one for nine members of BEC SS3 St Catherine when we ventured out of our comfort zone to reach out to our less-fortunate Orang Asli brethren in Bandar Muazzam Shah in Pahang on Saturday 23 July 2016. Led by Kenny Lee, our day started at 7 am, stopping at Kuala Pilah about 1½ hours later for a quick breakfast of wantan mee and coffee. Then it was an hour’s drive to a supermarket in Bandar Muazzam Shah where we bought provisions like rice, sugar, salt, instant noodles and biscuits to distribute to several Orang Asli families. These families live in separate settlements deep in secondary jungle and oil palm plantations, and we were lucky we were in Kenny’s 2WD vehicle and Raphael and Michelle Jeremiah’s 4WD SUV as they could negotiate the clearing leading to the Orang Asli.
Given the twists and turns in the jungle, we would have been lost if not for Kenny leading the way. Our indigenous friends were happy to see Kenny, a regular visitor who has been reaching out to them for some time now, including helping them build wells so that they can gain access to better drinking water. The families are living in appalling conditions without electricity, depending on streams and the rain for water. Their homes are nothing but ramshackle wooden and zinc structures. Besides the food items, we also handed out used children’s clothes which the Orang Asli families had especially asked for.
When leaving one settlement, Kenny’s 2WD got stuck in a small mud pool, and we thought the worst – that we would be stranded in the middle of the jungle for who knows how long! For about 30 minutes we tried in vain to rev the stuck tyre out. A few of our Orang Asli friends came to help, filling the tyre depression with earth, and with a little muscle power, the vehicle came unstuck. Praise the Lord! It was a four-hour drive back to SS3 which we reached at 7 pm. It was a long day but one which we cherished.
As Reeta Gomez put it: “It was an eye-opener. Here we are all trying to outbeat each other...and here is a group of people fighting for survival. It was heartbreaking. Makes us realise the joy of giving and sharing.” The BEC thanks all donors who contributed in cash and kind towards this outreach for your care and concern for our poor Orang Asli. Also, we thank and praise God for a safe journey.