Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Year 2010: Merrymaking in the Mangroves and Mudflats!

(This entry is posted after the conclusion of the Blog4FT contest and the events herein were not conducted in Kuala Lumpur. This blogpost is posted for the benefit of the followers of this blog and contributors to the Shoebox Project.)

Sometime in the final week of 2009, I decided that at least 40 of the surplus shoebox gifts I received from our generous contributors could go to the hardworking and deserving children of Kelab Alami, a nature club set up by Cikgu Bakhtiar and Cikgu Zurina, dedicated teachers who I met while volunteering with Save Our Seahorses (SOS Malaysia), in Tanjung Kupang, Johor. The club is assisted and co-coordinated by my dear friend, Serina, and the members of the club are local children who mostly come from the fishing community.

Most of the children come from low-income families, and some are from truly disadvantaged backgrounds. The objective of the club is to inculcate a love of the environment in the children and provide them with basic knowledge in natural history and ecology. Among the projects they have undertaken this year include data collection visits to the seagrass beds and mangrove forests and the establishment of an organic vegetable patch. Since the children have worked hard all year, I made plans to throw them a New Year's Day party and hand out shoebox gifts filled with school supplies and other treats.

My buddy Zawalan was roped in to assist and we started our journey on the morning of New Year's Eve. Serina had also informed us of pollution having occurred in the vicinity of the seagrass beds and I wanted to accompany her to visit the site to collect samples.

We arrived at Pendas Jetty in Tanjung Kupang, Johor, at 1730h. Serina, some of the children and teachers, and our marine scientists Alfian and Leena, were already waiting in the boat. Off we went to visit the seagrass beds to see what could be done to mitigate the damage done to the ecologically-sensitive area.





31 Dec 2009
Serina took her charges, Udin and Amal, along with us to visit the affected seagrass bed in Tanjung Adang.





31 Dec 2009
A sea squirt at the seagrass bed in Tanjung Adang, looking rather poorly.




31 Dec 2009
I checked on yet another poorly-looking "chocolate chip" starfish at the pollution site.




31 Dec 2009
One of the club members, Jannah, inspects the sections of pipe planted in the seagrass bed 2 months ago as part of an experiment on seaweed and seagrass habitats.




31 Dec 2009
Ebony and Ivory... Live together in perfect harmony...




31 Dec 2009
We went out for our New Year's Eve dinner at Awana restaurant in Gelang Patah, as there were no shops and eateries open in the village after dark.
From left to right: Alfian, Leena, Serina, Lan and Zawalan.




1 Jan 2010
Serina's kampung house is the only one in the entire village with a Christmas tree. The kids were absolutely fascinated by it. For many, it was the first time they have seen a Christmas tree in the flesh.




1 Jan 2010
The Kelab Alami organic vegetable patch, maintained by the hardworking children and teens of Kelab Alami Tanjung Kupang, behind Serina's rented pad.




1 Jan 2010
The children started arriving for the party in the afternoon and Serina required a few of them to complete a natural history survey.




1 Jan 2010
To keep the youngsters who have completed their surveys occupied, I organised a nature-related Scavenger Hunt outside and instructed the children to search for specific stones, fruits, leaves and grasses. The first child to bring me the correct object receives a prize. This game had the children running all over the streets and climbing trees and over fences. I gave out over 20 packs of stickers, writing equipment, felt-tip pens and chocolates, which were loose items left over from the Shoebox Project.




1 Jan 2010
The entire village was our playground on New Year's Day. Due to space constraints indoors, we took our Pass-the-Parcel game outdoors. My version had a natural history / Green Living component, for which the youngsters had to answer questions like "Name one way to conserve water at home" and "Name one way to improve fuel economy" before they could have the goodies buried under each layer of paper.




1 Jan 2010
The feline club mascot had a field day begging scraps from everyone.




1 Jan 2010
Tea-time for the Kelab Alami youngsters does not have to be an elaborate affair. I paid for the fried noodles, green bean soup and iced syrup. Serina supplied a watermelon and lots of apples and oranges. A friend, Desmond, contributed chocolate wafers and biscuit bars.




1 Jan 2010
The youngsters were all shiny-eyed and excited over the lovely gifts they received. Most boxes had high quality school supplies in Cartoon Network/Disney themes that our rural children could not afford or could not find in their local shops. The school supplies made practical but fun gifts for the children of Kelab Alami. Once again, I would like to thank our generous sponsors for their thoughtful gifts!




1 Jan 2010
After the party, Shoebox Elves Serina, Jannah and Cikgu Zurina helped me sort and label the remaining gifts for the children who could not attend the party. Most village children either had household chores to do or had to work at little jobs during the school holidays.

We also decided in the evening that some of the remaining gifts could go to the very needy Orang Asli (indigenous) community in Kampung Simpang Arang in Gelang Patah the following day. We opened up the boxes to make the items easier to distribute, as there would not be enough boxes for all, and even if there were, entire boxes full of school supplies would be of limited use to children who do not attend school.




2 Jan 2010
The following morning, we dropped by Kampung Simpang Arang in Gelang Patah to distribute presents and treats to the children. I tried to make them queue up so that I could hand out school supplies to those who do attend school, and hand out presents according to age, gender and need, but it soon descended into anarchy. No one was listening to my pleas to queue up anymore. It was an unpleasant experience as I have hitherto had only positive encounters with our friends from the indigenous communities.

The children of Kampung Simpang Arang were patently impoverished. Many were sickly and clad in rags. Some had such sore and infected eyes that I was surprised they could see what I brought them. They screamed, snatched and fought with each other over the toys. I am glad we made the decision to hand out individual items rather than entire boxes and expect them to share. For our next visit, I think it would be wiser and better for us to give them clothes, soap, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes instead.




2 Jan 2010
One of the boys in the Kg. Simpang Arang Orang Asli Village had found an abandoned baby otter and decided to hand-raise it until it was strong enough to be released. Thankfully, no one tried to sell it to us and the people seem determined to nurse it back to health.


We left Johor on the afternoon of 2nd January and made our way back to Kuala Lumpur. It has been a productive and enjoyable trip, and I was pleased to have spent my New Year in the company of dear friends. Work and the City beckons, and next weekend I will be back at the SPCA animal shelter and be kept busy henceforth for the rest of the year with work and coordinating other projects.

2010 is off to a good start!

5 comments:

mamasita said...

So you thought the Orang Asli kids would queue up..mana boleh??

I love your Ebony and Ivory..

Keep up the fantastic work!
2010 I forecast will be a great year for you because you're more pro than ever!

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

Hello Datin! I am back to my old blog now. Only cross-posting here once in a while, on the Shoebox Project and any KL Events.

Thank you for your kind words. 2010 will be a good one, asalkan I tak sibuk derma semua pada org lain sampai pokai.

Budak2 org asli will queue tapi diorang tengok siapa yang herdik. Diorang tengok I ni macam boleh kena buli aje.. so semua buat tak dengar je lah.

iLiYamashita said...

omg. there was a baby otter??!!!!!!
it is SOOO CUTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
wa... bestnya!!!!

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

Dear Ili,

A baby otter with a big head, fuzzy body and bright eyes -- and it chirps like a bird when hungry! What could be cuter?

iLiYamashita said...

urayamashiinaa.. (jelousnye..)
i wanna hug that baby otter!!!! haha