Malaysia Floods

Lydia – serving in Sabah

By Lydia Lee
World Vision Malaysia

My name is Lydia and I am responsible to initiate and oversee World Vision Malaysia (WVM) community development programmes (CDPs) in Sabah, provide direction for the growth of CDPs in Malaysia, capacity building of local staff, engage with stakeholders and explore partnering opportunities, collaborate with like-minded organisations and am one of the spokespersons for the media.

Before embarking on implementing any transformational community development programme with an aim towards a community’ self-sustainability, relationships and trust must be built with the community. The initial phase in starting in Tulid CDP starting from October 2011 was tough – no one in the area has heard of World Vision, WVM had no past track record in Sabah, the communities had limited engagement with NGOs. In one of the villages, some leaders actually thought I was from a new political party when they saw my orange World Vision shirt.

A lot of hard work and sacrifice was made, achievements were slow to come by (for example, it took one whole year of generally working alone in Sabah throughout 2012, before we had the first two Sabahan co-workers, and later on more Sabahan staff as field facilitators), plans can be suddenly thwarted by unexpected, unannounced events (such as the 13th General Elections and the Sulu crisis in 2013 when we planned to facilitate a series of participatory programme design workshops in several clusters of villages).

Personal life is usually at the backburner as a high degree of flexibility is needed to shuttle between West and East Malaysia to accommodate stakeholders’ timing. In spite of having the ‘best laid plans’, community development work in Sabah inevitably takes priority over other commitments, resulting in feelings of guilt from bailing on commitments to my husband, family and friends, or simply not committing to events and gatherings for fear causing disappointment later. Nevertheless, I am grateful that they continue to be supportive and I hope to do better in the area of being a good wife, daughter and friend.

I am touched by the care and hospitability of the community in Sabah and also a partner NGO, Good Shepherd Services when I first started working in Sabah. They took me in as one of them, allowed me to join them in their day-to-day activities even though I had zero farming knowledge – unable to chop trees and slow in moving tree trunks to clear lands for planting, slow in harvesting paddy and unable to distinguish edible and non-edible wild vegetables.

During the early, relationship-building period I got to know the community better. Through spending more time with the community, they opened up when they share their thoughts. Mothers, fathers and youths share their dreams and struggles. People really desire to do something to improve their condition, but lack the opportunities.

Successes are – when you are able to witness for yourself that children have shown increased confidence and motivation to learn, when field staff increase in their capacity, confidence and commitment, when a community showed initiative, motivation and ownership in setting set up their own pre-school in their village for their children’s well-being. Parents are willing to sacrifice for their children’s future. After seeing improvement in their children, parents are motivated to be good role models, even to the extent of changing their old habits for the sake of their children.

Last year, we responded to the floods in Kelantan. It was WVM’s first local disaster response. I was responsible for the relief and rehabilitation work among the orang asli communities in Gua Musang. It was a steep learning curve, I was further stretched to juggle a precious resource, i.e. time, in working in three locations – Sabah, Kelantan and Selangor.

The amazing grace of God, even though I do not have the ability to teleport or to be omnipresent (my occasional wishful thinking and outrageous daydream), God had protected me from major physical injury caused by accidents, and I have been safe from any serious harm that may have happened to a female staying alone in a village(s).

Throughout my time in World Vision Malaysia, I grew in my relationship with Jesus Christ. It is in times of struggle, uncertainty and knowing you are not able to do things with your own strength that leads you to a deeper dependence on God. When I was nearing the brink of burn-out after expending physical and mental energy throughout two months without a break, He brought forth renewal, sustained me from simply giving up and reminded me that He is my source of strength and hope.

He has also provided help in the form of people – people who are really committed to serve by availing themselves to be full time staff. I am very grateful for everyone I work with, for without such committed people giving their lives to do this work, we would not have gone very far.

What keeps me motivated? Colossians 3:23 says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”  These words drive me to focus and do my best in every circumstance, that ultimately what I do will be pleasing to God.

Lydia Lee currently serves in World Vision Malaysia under the Malaysian Programmes team as a Manager.

Giving Assistance to Kak Wani, Chung Hwa Primary Temangan, School Canteen Operator

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Photo taken on 18th May at the school canteen

In January 2015, Kak Wani started work as the school canteen operator.

She was really excited to start her new business, but the flood in December 2014 scattered her hopes as the canteen was badly damaged, cooking utensils either broken or swept away by the flood waters.

She felt sad, lost and worried after seeing the post-flood conditions of the school canteen, as Kak Wani is the sole breadwinner in the family.

Her husband has chronic diabetes and cataracts. So he is not able to work anymore. While her eldest daughter has serious kidneys problem and needs money for transportation and monthly treatment fees.

Kak Wani works at the school canteen during the day and opens a food stall in the evening till midnight to earn extra income.

She often feels tired from working so much and driving is taxing to her as she has poor eyesight but can’t afford to pay for glasses.

World Vision supported her by:
: buying new cooking utensils & canteen equipment
: providing her with a model to start her business
: supporting with Child Friendly coupons – to encourage students to eat healthier meals at the canteen & in turn it gives her better business
: getting her a pair of glasses
: getting a food rack for her food stall

As a result, Kak Wani’s food is not praised by the students and teachers alone but also by the parents. This was through the feedback forms we got from students and parents, they stated that her food is much cleaner, tastier, cheaper and has more variety than the previous canteen operator

She expressed her gratitude for the support that she received from World Vision Malaysia and she’s very glad that she can provide better for her family and make new friends too.

She hopes, the mural painting at the canteen will encourage more students to eat at the canteen.

We hope that one day Kak Wani can afford to hire 1 more helper to assist her, so that she can rest more. While at the same time continue to provide yummy and healthy food for the children and be able to cut down on her workload.

USM students in Kelantan also contributed back to the local school, read more here.

Mural Painting at Chung Hwa Primary in Temangan by USM Volunteers

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Photo taken on 24th May at the school canteen

Volunteers are all 3rd year dentistry students, this year is their clinical year. It is the most hectic and stressful year for them.

We at World Vision are grateful that despite the busy schedule of lectures and postings, they were still willing to spend their time and energy in the mural painting activities.

We were at the school for 8 days to complete all paintings.

They started painting in the morning and only stopped at night

This team was lead by Yap Hao Zhi (sitting third from the right). We approached him on the 15th of March. He then gathered his friends to join in the activity.

He recently injured both his knee ligaments but insisted on completing the mural painting.

He thanked World Vision Malaysia for this opportunity to do something meaningful and he found that he and his friends were able to relax their bodies and mind and relief stress during the painting.

“Thank you for the opportunity to make some memories and for the past few weeks while in preparation and painting, I felt like I had achieved a great milestone in my life.” – Yap Hao Zhi

To read more on how assistance was provided to Kak Wani, click here.

Reflections on an impossible road.

By Edmond Lee, Communications, World Vision Malaysia

For 2 days, I was stuck in the back seat of a truck belonging to the Elite 4×4 Search & Rescue Squad as we attempted to reach the most isolated Orang Asli villages in Kelantan on a medical mission. Here are some of my thoughts from the trip.

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Roller coasters.

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I have never liked roller coasters. But right now, I would rather go 5 hours on the world’s most terrifying roller coaster than spend another second slowly traversing these mountain roads. At least roller coasters have basic safety standards.

Pow! Bang! Crash! Every jerk, every twist causes you to be thrown into your fellow passengers or the truck door next to you. Waves of nausea overtake you every time you shudder up and down an uneven hill. When you lean out over a vast hole where the side of the road should be, it’s like staring death in the face. It takes every ounce of energy to stay upright. More than I have sometimes.

I am so glad for these trucks. They are tenacious, taking the teeth-rattling roughness of these roads in their stride. Our driver Chok is no slouch either. The truck fights his every move, but he fights back, muscling it up roads that nearly any other wheeled vehicle would find impossible to navigate.

It always strikes me as absurd that anyone has to travel these roads. But the Orang Asli do. What choice do they have? The maddening geography makes the chances of consistent aid deliveries close to nil. They travel to the Kuala Betis relief centre every day, and every one of them will have to navigate a treacherous path to get there. They will lift their motorcycles over debris. They will climb massive hills. They will cross bridges that don’t even look safe enough to step on.

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The writer is pictured here in orange

They will do it as many times it takes, because their community needs them.

Mud.

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Rain causes it. Children play in it. No one would build a road out of it.

Here though, roads are nothing BUT mud. Mud that can stop a huge 4×4 truck dead in its tracks or cause it to slide and lurch just out of the range of human control. Mud that sloughs off at the slightest provocation, leaving gaping holes and ruts where solid ground should be. Mud that catches your feet in its clutches and refuses to let go without a fight.

If the roads here were JUST hard and bumpy (and they are), maybe the long distances that must be travelled to reach these remote villages would almost be tolerable. The steep hills and sheer slopes are bad enough, but when a truck simply can’t move for the mud, the time needed to get anywhere grows exponentially.

Time. That’s what the Orang Asli don’t have. In the hours it may take a relief convoy to move five feet, how many Orang Asli children will die because of dirty water? Or hunger? Or a preventable illness? We haven’t heard news about any children dying. But again, it would take time for news to reach us. Time we’re spending stuck in place.

I hate mud.

A bridge too far.

When you’re riding a motorcycle, a river or sudden gap can become an insurmountable obstacle. For the Orang Asli who live in the most remote villages, a river is literally the difference between reaching the aid station or turning back empty handed. When people are starving, thirsty, or ill, the latter option is unacceptable.

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Building bridges must come naturally to the Orang Asli. With no real infrastructure to speak of, they have been forced to rely on their own creativity to get over the obstacles nature has set in their path. It’s almost an art form: Strong young men heaving heavy logs down the slopes, grunting in military-like unison. Others float more logs down the gentle currents of the river, swinging them against said currents to put them into position.

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They are glad for any assistance you can give them. They accept sturdy ropes and metal ties gratefully; another flood could wash their hard work down the river, so any security is welcome. A hard, heavy axe and a truck winch makes short work of felling trees.

As the work continues, we are told that there are over a dozen villages across the river, with more than 2,000 people. I’m sure there are actually far more than that. But even if each village sent a representative to Kuala Betis, how many bags of aid could each of them possibly bring back? Two? Three, maybe? That’s hardly enough, but it’s better than nothing at all. Some will walk for three days to get a few bags of food or water. They will walk three days to get back. Rinse and repeat.

And what about the children who need to go to school? There are few good schools near the villages so they have to attend school in Gua Musang or go out of state. And what if they get seriously ill? There aren’t enough good doctors and the better hospitals are in town. More long distances. More treacherous paths. More bridges to be built.

Speaking of which, it has taken more than two hours to finish a rickety bridge that just barely supports the weight of three trucks. It’s going to be a long day.

Kg.Tohoi

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Kg. Tohoi is almost idyllic. Nestled in among the mountains and shrouded by fog, it feels like a postcard. The other trucks have moved on to the next village to delivery some relief goods, and I am here with Dr. Rashidi as we examine the village chief. I feel inadequate as a writer to say that I never got his name.

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He has a variety of complaints. His wrist is in pain, and his legs are weak. During the flooding, he had to be carried to safety because he can barely walk. I do not hear the diagnosis. I’m glad journalism isn’t my current career.

Dr. Rashidi examines the whole family. He is disturbed by their heartbeats. Something is irregular. He checks peculiar rashes inside a child’s ear. They are red and angry-looking. He borrows my flashlight to look down a girl’s throat. His concern mounts. There is clearly some sort of major health issue facing the community. He doesn’t have any medication on hand, but it’s obvious that he wants to come back here. They need medical help badly.

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Suddenly, a drop of rain falls from the sky. Oh no. This is not good. The worse the rain gets, the worse the roads will be. We come here to save people, but are we the ones who will need saving? The trucks arrive. We rush for them. We need to get on the road now before it’s too late. There are a few more trucks with us. More things that could go wrong. We’re off.

When the convoy makes it back to the makeshift bridge, we find to our dismay that it has been washed away by a strong current. The rain is still coming down, the sky is darkening, and it’s just not safe to go any further. We’re stuck.

Stranded.

When you’re cold, damp and hungry in the middle of the jungle, a cup of instant noodles is a tasty treat. A tent stretched across the tops of the trucks isn’t a house, but you’ll take any shelter you can get. The inside of a truck is too cramped for sleeping, but… well, you get the picture. When you’re stranded out here, making do is a requirement.

The career adventurers in our group are cavalier about the whole thing. They’ve been in worse fixes than this. Like earlier on, when we were trying to beat the rain back to the bridge. Water was splashing across the road, turning it into a waterfall. Robert, a bulky man who rides a souped-up motorcycle, was stuck in the middle of the deluge, the back wheel of his bike slipping out from under him. We had to use ropes to pull him to safety. A night in the woods is a walk in the park.

I’m not feeling the same way. I haven’t been at my best all trip long, but this situation is the nadir for me. I am physically and mentally exhausted. Crammed into the back seat of a stuffy truck with colleague Dawn, who takes up two thirds of the back seat, I get no sleep at all. I can hear the others chattering outside as they watch over the fire they built. I wish I could share their enthusiasm.

There are two female colleagues with me on this journey, and they’re both doing better than I am. Dawn in particular. She is a small woman, but she has thrown herself into every situation with brio and enthusiasm. She has a deep faith in God, and it’s not uncommon to hear her uttering words of prayer in dangerous situations. She is a comforting presence to have around.

Once again, my thoughts drift to the Orang Asli who travel these roads for days to reach help. When they can’t find shelter, where do they sleep? Do they lie out under the trees, exposed to the elements? Are they accosted by wild animals? Actually, are there wild animals out here?

Suddenly, I’m glad for this cramped, stale truck.

Plan B.

When you’re stuck at a bridge that you can’t cross, you need a Plan B. When you’re stuck on the other side of a bridge that isn’t there at all, you need a Plan B.

This whole trip was defined by Plan B. Some of the absolute worst routes we took came about because the shortest possible paths weren’t available to us. And sometimes, the best moments came about because our first plan didn’t work.

This brings us back to the bridge that was swept away. We had every intention of repairing it, and in fact, most sections of it were completely intact. The ropes had saved them from floating off entirely, and we were able to pull them into position.

But this process was too long and cumbersome compared to Plan B: The water was shallow enough. Why not just set up a winch on the other side of the river and use it to guide the trucks through the water? They are built for river crossings after all. The bridge was a necessity for the Orang Asli, but we had to get ourselves unstuck first.

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And wouldn’t you know it, the alternative plan turned out to be the best one. Seeing the trucks splash through the river, water gushing from the wheel wells, was a spectacular moment that lifted the spirits of everyone who experienced it. Except for the occupant of truck 279. It stalled midway through the crossing.

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But we made it. While we attempted to get truck 279 fixed, we turned around and saw the Orang Asli who had gathered nearby… busy fixing the broken bridge.

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We had helped to extricate the logs and secure them, but the speed with which they pulled the assembly back together was stunning. They are architects and builders of the highest order. Soon, motorcycles were driving over the bridge like it was never gone. Will it stand up to another flood? Probably not, but never doubt they have a Plan B.
We took another detour back to Kuala Betis. It was among the worst terrain we had ever seen. Oh well. It’s good to be back.

Epilogue.

This was always going to be tricky to write. It’s hard to compress so much into so few pages. (At 8, I think I’m pushing it). And it’s even harder to end it, because everything I’ve talked about is still going on. The health problems, the impossible roads, the bridges. The Elite 4×4 team is still out there, helping the Orang Asli communities. The relief efforts may be winding down a little in other parts of the country, but here, they’re just getting started.

Do me one favour: Don’t forget about the Orang Asli. These people are resilient and ingenious. And they need you. They need all of us. It will be hard, but nothing is impossible.

If you’d like to contribute back to the rebuilding of communities and lives, please consider and give here : https://www.worldvision.com.my/donations/emergency-relief-fund

Livelihood lost

For Khor Siu Yan who is from Tumpat, her livelihood is in a mess.

Her family has always produced and sold fish and prawn keropok for a living.

When the flood waters began to rise at 10pm on 24 December, the family tried shifting the important items to the back of the shop but the waters continue to rise and soon it was at chest level. As best as they could, they moved items to the 2nd floor.

When the waters finally receded after 7 days, the mess and the mud was everywhere.

Her machines for keropok making and the fridge that would keep the seafood fresh were spoiled.

An unmistakable sadness appeared on her face when she realised that she had no means for future income generation.

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The shop next door which they also own and rent out, is wrecked and can’t be rented out now.

“This flood has done much damage but we thank God that we can still live in our house, despite all the mud. My mother’s house got completely washed away by the flood waters.”

World Vision and their partners Crest were able to distribute some food items to help the Khor family.

Many families have lost their homes and means of income generation as the flood waters rose as high as 6 feet in some areas. Do consider donating to help those affected by the floods : https://www.worldvision.com.my/donations/emergency-relief-fund

Worst floods in more than fifty years

By World Vision Malaysia Monsoon Floods Response Team

TUMPAT: Standing outside her grandfather’s house, Nor, 21, speaks of the fearful days when her family realised the floods this time weren’t going to be the annual downpour.
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“My family has lived in this area for more than 50 years; five of these houses belong to my extended family. We have never seen floods like this before,” she said.

Last month saw some of the worst floods in Malaysian history, with the northern and eastern states being the most affected.

A total of 21 people were reported to have died, and more than 225,000 people had to flee their homes and seek shelter in evacuation centres.

In Nor’s village of Kampung Kelong, the water levels reached more than six feet high, and her family had to seek shelter in a nearby primary school for a week.

Her father and uncle, however, braved the floods and stayed in the house as there had been stories of looting and theft as families fled their homes and left belongings behind.

With the lack of clean water, many families including hers have been drawing water from the river that runs through their village. However, the water is muddy and unclean.

“My aunt actually caught a water-borne virus from the dirty water, which gave her fever and throat problems,” she said.

They are also using the river water to try and wash away the mud from inside their homes, but to no avail as the water itself contains mud.

Another big concern for her is her young cousins who will be starting school next week.

“We lost everything in the flood, including school uniforms and their books. We will have to find a way to get them ready in time, that is what we want to do,” said Nor, a kindergarten teacher.

Nor’s family is one of the registered beneficiaries due to receive various relief kits through World Vision Malaysia and its local partner Crest. These include food kits, hygiene kits and back-to-school kits.

As a child-focused humanitarian organisation, World Vision is committed to ensuring that in all its relief work, children are cared for and protected.

World Vision Malaysia child protection officer Jasmine Lee, who is also part of the response team, said every effort is made to ensure children are supported in their education.

“As different ones, we ought to come together and provide as much support as possible to get a child back to school. Education is a child’s right and our responsibility as individuals and communities,” she said.

Jasmine said sponsors have generously provided stationeries, notebooks and learning resources that help a child get back to normalcy.

“It is part of the rehabilitation process, after a disaster such as this it is important that we help children return to their normal way of life,” she said.

The needs are still very great. Would you consider donating? Please do donate here : https://www.worldvision.com.my/donations/emergency-relief-fund