Before year 2021 came to a close, Yaysan Pillar team and volunteers decided to pay kampung Tabuan Hilir and kampung Tabuan Dani a visit on Friday. Yaysan Pillar team was grateful to the ketua kaum Zamri Haji Putid and his team for their assistance in taking us around the kampung from house to house. 28 families with an average household of 7 persons per house were payed a visit. They were chosen on the basis of economic deprivation, abject poverty, illiteracy, and social deficiency. All the chosen households were either unemployed or partially employed with less than RM900 (U$205) monthly income to support family of 7 to 8. Another emphasis this time is on the emotional health, instability and mental depression of the selected families. Yayasan Pillar explained to them that help to deal with mental and emotional depression are available through Yayasan Pillar’s collaboration with Mental Health Association (MHA) and the consultation services made available by the Ministry of Health at every division in Sarawak.
During Yayasan Pillar team’s visit, Mr Ardi, principal of sekolah Tabuan Hilir, had dropped by to chat and shared his concern about the high illiteracy rate among some primary six school children who are about to leave school. Many cannot read and hardly can write correctly. After learnt of Yayasan Pillar’s mental health campaign, Mr Ardi also expressed interest in promoting mental and emotional health to his student.
During this trip, Yayasan Pillar extend food aid such as rice, cooking oil, sauce, milk, tea, coffee, flour, eggs, and washing detergent to the families for each visit as usual. Among these families, some suffered varying degree of mental depression due to challenges in livelihood.
One such example was a grandfather who may appear cheerful but carries a heavy burden in his heart actually. He has to depend solely on the goodwill and love of his son who is supporting this family of 10 by working multiple jobs. The whole family is supported by his son who is the only one working.
Another example was a long time unemployed father who occationally gets help from other NGOs and has 8 dependants to feed. The food donation we gave him was immediately put outside his house to sell for small cash. This prolonged pain that this father has to bear caused him to suffer mental and emotional depression. Yayasan Pillar assists this father to get help from psychatrist and psycologist.
Throughout the length and breath of these villages, filthy trash are everywhere as its pickups are irregular and unreliable. And this is the story of 3 generations long rubbish, with the third generations living in the same squalid and deprived condition of their ancestors.
We also chose to highlight the basic very poor infrastructure linking this community with each other and the only means linking them to the rest of what’s out there. The planks we were walking on which link these houses together are of old age and possesses potential danger if lacked maintenance. Sadly, majority of these planks are not maintained for decades and are not made of hard wood like belian. There have been cases of villagers falling through slippery planks and were attacked by crocodiles below their shanty houses. During our visit, one of Yayasan Pillar staff fell through the rotten planks as he was “dancing” his way to one of the houses in order to calm the ladies’ nerve. This proved the fragility of the planks first-hand.
Throughout the visit, Yayasan Pillar explains the importance of mental and emotional health and the rise of such depression among the society. Along the visit, we met many unfortunate families members.
One such is an unemployed mother who shared her long agony living in rented room, fully dependant on 1 son who earns less than RM900 monthly.
Another example was a housewife with 2 of her sons deaf, mentally and physically handicap. The whole family of 9 depend on 1 breadwinner to feed all. They have never received assistance of any kind from the government as they are not aware of the available assistance and have no idea of how to go about it.
Another sad story is wife of Mr Hipni who lamented of continuing poverty she has to endure and her 3 sons aged 14 and below who were spending their days on their backs waiting to die. 2 had passed away at the age of 14 and 10 and another son may go soon in the same way. It’s hard to swallow to see young boys vegetating, waiting for moments to die.
Yayasan Pillar team was met by rain and thunderstorm halfway which forced us to take shelter before moving on. Continued on we discovered more issues. One common problem among these village residents is the condition of houses they live in. These houses are often in bad shape, leaking during rain and slant more and more as time passes by. Fearing their houses might collapse one day, they applied for low cost affordable house but their request are often met with silence.
One such example is Puan Sharipah, who earn her irregular livelihood by treating the sick by traditional means. Her application was made more than 9 years ago but still heard nothing about it even until today.
Moving on we met Puan Hadiah, who is looking after her kidney failure husband. Because of this, her husband has to day in and day out dependant on dialysis 4 times daily. Like the others, their house is also slanted leaning to 1 side and leaking every rainy day.
Another problem is to broke free from renting houses, like Puan Suria, who has a long standing struggle to get attention from the authorities on her plight. She has been renting broken down house for many years and had taken the initiative to apply for low cost houses for herself and 9 others after realizing the same unfortunate situation of others who are renting. And that was 10 years ago. After being pushed around from one another among the authorities, the end result is nothing. What’s unfortunate is her 9 years old son, Mohd Danial, is plagued by heart problem which denies him of active lifestyle like other kid of his age.
When we asked the community chief Zamri Putid why so many families in Tabuan are still not receiving assistance from government.
He replied “Unfortunately many of these people just give up after several attempts to seek help. Their reason being some of the conditions to qualify for assistance are tough or they do not understand the processes to qualify. Some are also just incapable of dealing with the many documentation required to apply for assistance.”
For more than 12 years, Yayasan Pillar as a community help NGO which relies on the support of caring individuals and companies can only do so much.
Although so much more is needed to make a difference, we are always thankful for the generosity of our caring sponsors who have supported our community help effort during the last 12 years.