2020 has been an extraordinary year – full of disruptions, anxiety, agony and challenges. At the same time, there has also been plenty of heart-warming stories of medical workers making sacrifices to save the sick, strangers helping those in need and friends going the extra mile to care for each other.
This year, more than ever, I’m reminded that those who are more fortunate and more privileged should always extend a caring hand to the ones in need. As I observe how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our communities, I’m wary that there are some who are more badly affected than others, directly or indirectly by the virus. Some of these people include the Orang Asli (‘Orang Asli’ is the collective term for the native people of Malaysia) communities in the depths of the state of Pahang.
Last year, Siemens came to know three Orang Asli communities in Kampung Ulu Semul, Kampung Sagong and Kampong Ulu Tenlan in Pahang through Yayasan Hijau Malaysia (YHM), an agency under Malaysia’s Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources.
These communities of about 80 families live in the most basic condition, and struggle to travel to the nearest town due to a lack of proper roads. Kampung Ulu Tenlan is the most remote village, hidden in the Pos Betau forests. Without even a trail of a road, opportunities for families in this village to go to school, venture into the city for a job or even get medical help are hindered and their quality of life remains low.
So together with YHM, we launched the Paving the Pathway of Hope program last July to construct roads and sanitation facilities for them.
Building proper roads and a bridge enable the Orang Asli villagers to travel and reach further into town to obtain better sources of income, such as selling their harvested produce like durians, petai, vegetables and rubber. With a new sturdy metal bridge in place of a makeshift crossing made out of chopped wood, the villagers of Kampung Sagong can now cross the river that divides the village into two safely. This upgrade also means that the villagers can get proper healthcare treatment, and hopefully better quality of life.
On top of better quality of life, we hope to give these villagers longer lifespan too. Some of us may not have given bathrooms a second thought because they were always within reach in our homes. But I was surprised to find out that the Orang Asli in Kampung Ulu Semul have lived without a toilet for decades. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, and more viruses emerging from the most unlikely places and animals, good hygiene is increasingly important.
Through our project, we installed a proper sewage tank and toilets for the community. We hope this will help to reduce parasitic infections and the community as a whole can maintain good health.
The possibilities with something as simple as building roads, a bridge or toilets have a great and lasting impact. I am honored to have led this project and helped the Orang Asli improve their lives and their communities. Of course, this project wouldn’t have been a success without a dedicated and like-minded team in Siemens, who worked effortlessly to ensure the smooth execution of the project. A big thank you to my team! At the end of the day, our ultimate goal is to contribute to the betterment of society and it’s humbling that we, alongside YHM, have been able to do so.