Sabah, a land known for its beautiful beaches and the majestic Mount Kinabalu! Undoubtedly a breathtaking place. Yet through research and recce, Global Peace Foundation Malaysia came to know that the plight for clean water is prominent in rural parts of this state.
In partnership with Breeze, the team under the leadership of Dr. Teh Su Thye, CEO of Global Peace, made a visit to rural villages of Keningau in the efforts to bring clean water to the people who lacked access to this basic necessity. Breeze sponsored 26 water filters for the project. These contributions were allocated to 2 villages, a school, and a church. A whopping 1050 people were benefited. We opted for Lifestraw’s Community filter, designed by a Swiss company known for its travel-friendly water filter.
The first stop was SMK Sapulut located in Sapulut Town, 2 hours away from Keningau. The school has over 850 students with 60% of them living in the dormitories of the school. According to Mr. Salimun, a teacher of the school, their water source is derived from the river nearby and during rainy days, it becomes murky and undrinkable. Water is saved in tanks, but when the pump breaks down, students will have to buy mineral water. On a daily basis, the students buy water from the water dispenser machine installed in their school, which unfortunately, no longer functions. Clean water supply in the dorms is limited.
Johaili Saman, a student of SMK Sapulut stated that the students desperately need clean water, especially in the school toilets. Some students wait to get back to their hostels, located approximately 15 mins away from the school when they have toilet emergencies. During PE session or sports festivals, students have fainted due to dehydration simply because water is scarce.
Following a demonstration of the Lifestraw Filter, we proceeded to conduct a fun and thought-provoking workshop with 50 student representatives.
The workshop focused on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These humble and excited leaders were asked to pick one of the 17 goals and present a solution to overcome the issues related to the goal. When asked for post-workshop feedback, Christine, 13, said she had a great time. She found it very informative and learned about the importance of healthy living and how a filter works in improving the quality of drinking water. Christine hopes that the water in the school will be cleaner and safer for consumption.
At the end of the workshop, the students tested the filtered water.They were excited to know that 2 of these filters will be installed in the dormitories of the school. According to Johaili, the filter would be very beneficial in the school since most of the students come from poor financial backgrounds and having a filter would mean saving more money and their health is improved as well. As for Sandra,16 years, she believes the clean water this filter will produce will improve their health which in turn will prevent them from falling sick as easily as before, thus improving their focus in class.
Later, we proceeded to a remote village called Kampung Padang to install 6 filters. The journey to this village involved a long walk over a shabby bridge. According to Ustad Sidin, the Kampung head who welcomed us, the village receive gravity water and the water quality is inconsistent as it depends on the weather and pollution level. The pollution sometimes clogs the water flow, sometimes causing them to go 3 days without the water supply to the houses. When asked about the health of the villagers, he said that the villagers have had diarrhea, even the doctors consulted pointed out that unclean water could be one of the cause.
Another resident of Kampung Padang, Mrs Rohaini Onduk, voiced out the troubles women of the Kampung face with unclean water. Mothers of the Kampung are concerned with how the poor water quality, especially during rainy seasons, affects the health of their children, so water will be bought when conditions are bad. If they don’t have transports to travel to purchase water from the nearest town, they would use their “sarong” as a filter. As for pregnant mothers, for the sake of their health and their babies, clean water is often bought. For these reasons, Mrs Onduk expressed her gratitude. She said the filter will help provide a better future for the kids and such conditions will not persist for long.
The day began early with a visit to Kampung Nalasaran in Nabawan, a village approximately 20 minutes away from Kampung Padang. We arrived at the community hall in the village where breakfast was served. Shortly after, we began the demonstration session. This time, the villagers tried their hand at assembling the filter themselves (top pic).Thereafter, the team visited some houses to interview the residents regarding their water predicaments and personally pass the filters to the homeowners.
Our next stop was the church in Nabawan. The pastor said that one of the biggest challenges he faced when he was first transferred to Nabawan was access to clean water. According to Pastor Sollus, dry season affects the water quality the most. “It is not safe to be consumed”. Hence for cooking and drinking, they would have to buy water from outside. He spends approximately RM200 a month to purchase mineral water. The pastor also explained that the worshippers had to bring their own drinks during mass and Sunday prayers as they had no clean water to serve in the church previously. In his words, “we thank God that today, I believe God has answered my prayers to have clean water”. He plans to put the filter outside so for all villagers and for the congregation to have clean water.
“We thank God that today, I believe God has answered my prayers to have clean water” -Pastor Sollus
Though the journey through the rural parts of Sabah was not an easy one, the experience of bringing clean water to the homes of people in need has been rewarding. We thank Breeze for making this possible through their sponsorship of the water filters. With more projects ahead, Global Peace Foundation Malaysia aims to provide clean water to the many more Malaysians out there who are in need.