Armed with hammers, trowels and paint brushes, a group of Star Media Group employees spent their weekend building a home for a villager in Kampung Orang Asli Air Kuning, Shah Alam.
The volunteer programme was organised and funded by Star Foundation, the charitable arm of Star Media Group, in collaboration with Pertubuhan Bantuan Teknikal Insaf Malaysia (Insaf), a non-profit organisation that provides humanitarian aid and technical relief to marginalised communities and areas affected by natural disasters.
The 15 employees worked in teams to build a home with sanitation facilities for the family of Jun anak Akah, whose previous home was a dilapidated shack partially damaged by a fallen tree.
“It was a very hands-on project, with the teams taking turns to work on the floor, wall and toilet.
“Working in teams allowed us to get things done faster and we also looked out for each other and shared tips, such as the best angle to hammer a nail,” said the group’s corporate communications department graphic designer Aaron Amirul Haqim Mohamad, 23.
Aaron said the initiative allowed him to meet colleagues from other departments and hone skills he used to build mock-ups for work for the volunteer project.
“It was an interesting and eye- opening experience because I have never been to an orang asli village before and had no idea what their life was like.
“It is satisfying to know that the completed project will serve as a permanent home for a family.”
Hong Sok Yen, 32, signed up for the project due to her love for volunteer work.
“This is my first volunteer effort since joining the company and my way of contributing to the community.
“Working on the project has enhanced what I have learned about the environment and sustainability, such as respecting people and nature,” said the technical department confidential secretary and IT coordinator.
Hong said she made an effort to build the home as if it was her own, and not something that would only look good in picture.
“This initiative has given me a better appreciation of what I have and not to take things for granted.
“It also gave me the chance to learn how the sanitation and hygiene facilities work,” she said.
Jun, 21, and his wife Kuza Kuzaini, 20, were happy to be selected as the recipients and described the new home as a “dream come true”.
“It will be a safer and more comfortable place for us to raise our four-month-old daughter Elvira, and possibly more children in future. The old home was not ideal for a baby.
“Our new home also has more space to host other family members and visiting relatives,” said Kuza.
Jun, who works in a hardware shop in Puchong, said they were grateful that their home would also have toilet and shower facilities, which their old home did not have.
Insaf founder and president Ishak Abdul Kadir said the organisation believed its houses should be built for children, to ensure their comfort and future.
“Our houses are equipped with facilities with children in mind. The home’s electricity supply will be generated by solar panels, so the children can study at night.
“There is a toilet and shower so they can clean themselves properly,” he said.
“We want to change the frontline of the economy so the children have a future. We try to take care of certain basic needs so the parents do not have to worry so much, as many work in low-income or do not have permanent jobs.”
Ishak said Insaf’s programmes were based on four clusters, as per United Nation standards – health, shelter, food and wash (water supply and sanitation).
“The homes for orang asal villagers were based on Indonesia’s ‘Tampal Rumah’ concept but adapted to a Malaysian context,” said Ishak, adding that he prefers the orang asal term as they were the original settlers in Malaysia.
“The homes also adhere to the orang asal’s taboos and traditions, such as them being constructed from wood, the penghulu (village head) deciding who the recipient would be and tok batin (village leader) deciding on its location.”
Ishak said a typical “Tampal Rumah” project with solar roof and sanitation facilities would cost RM35,000 and last between 50 and 55 years.
“Insaf believes it is important to work with orang asal as they are a marginalised community who are often bullied because they do not speak up.
“We work hard to win their hearts and trust, while our programmes allow volunteers to see for themselves how the community lives.”
Star Foundation has worked with Insaf for close to five years, with the project in Kampung Orang Asli Air Kuning marking the 13th house built by SMG’s employees and their friends.