It’s been a year since we began working with the Ibanese community in Kampung Sion, Sarawak. We started Communities Unite for Purewater (CUP) in this village of 44 families that struggle with water scarcity, providing each family with a filtration and rainwater harvesting system to ease their burden.
While the CUP project will draw to a close at the end of April, our continued engagement with the community has built a strong foundation of trust that led the people to open up to us about their challenges on a personal and community level. This open communication brought about our second community project there, Solar for Sion, which helps the villagers switch from relying on diesel-powered electric generators and oil lamps to clean and renewable solar energy.
We gained new insight on the dynamics of the village through facilitating group discussions with the villagers. Many slowly began to express their aspirations of unity and need for a strong leadership team to guide the village. Everyone strengthened their resolve to work together for the benefit of the village.
Villagers Gathered for First Community Clean-Up
Kampung Sion is a village filled with unrealised potential, brimming with energy and hospitality. There is just one huge hurdle facing the village. Since its inception, except during festive seasons, the village has never come together for a communal event of their own accord.
This changed on 10 March 2019, when the village had its community clean-up (gotong-royong) for the first time ever. The villagers joined volunteers recruited from UCSI and Swinburne University, and the Global Peace team for a gotong-royong and community development workshops for both the adults and children.
The children were very happy to see us and eager to start the clean-up. Geared up with masks and gloves, they went all around the village with trash bags, picking up trash with speed and fervour. With the help from our volunteers, the children were able to fill up more than a dozen trash bags in less than two hours. Meanwhile, the adults worked on cleaning the communal areas and their homes.
Community Development Workshop: “This is Our Vision”
The community development workshop conducted after the clean-up further brought together the villagers. By engaging in games and activities together, the villagers saw each other in a different light. Many expressed their joy at being able to bond with their neighbours. The workshop also became an avenue for the villagers to express their aspirations for the village.
We invited Dr. John from UNIMAS, who has extensive experience in community development to facilitate a ‘Change Agents’ discussion for Sion’s leadership committee. Dr. John offered his insight and thoughts on how the villagers can organise themselves to work towards a common goal, and provided them with the necessary tools to achieve their goals.
They shared their concerns, things that were close to their hearts. Together, they thought of steps they could take to address these concerns. Throughout the whole process, they began to see that their concerns and challenges were shared by many others, realising that they were not so different after all. We now can see the initial stirrings within the community towards fostering bonds of unity within the village. By having an open and honest discussion, the villagers were able to build a vision of Kampung Sion that has a stronger sense of community, clean and healthy environment, and children that are thriving in education and in life.
Concurrently, a workshop was also conducted for the children in Sion. The children workshop focused on educating them on how to keep the environment clean and to start practicing the 3 R’s (Recycle, Reuse, Reduce). They were also engaged in artistic activities and games. Through their drawings, the children shared their vision for the village. Like the adults, the children aspired for a cleaner, prosperous, and progressive village. They drew and coloured pictures that represented this vision and shared it with their parents and the entire community.
Moving Forward: Growing Sion’s Children’s Potential
The children of Sion represent the most receptive group in this village. They constantly demonstrate their eagerness to learn and build relationships with others. They display resilience and creativity when engaged. They are the most promising group to work with for the progress of Kampung Sion.
It is however unfortunate that they face challenges in getting access to a holistic education. Many of them drop out from school, some never make it to secondary school. They have immense potential but are trapped in a vicious cycle because of their life circumstances.
The growing ownership taken by the villagers is promising for the future of the village. A stronger leadership and more community involvement is something that needs to be further nurtured. Together with improvement in other critical aspects such as communal infrastructure and education for the children, the village will be able to fulfill its vision of a flourishing and united community.
“Our village has a lot of room for improvement and potential to grow. I believe we can do this as long as everyone works together,” says Julita, one of Sion’s community members.
The story of every community has pivotal moments that serve to shape the direction of its narrative for the future. The story of Kampung Sion is no different. The engagement with the village for the last one year is one such pivotal moment that can propel Kampung Sion to a brighter future. While we know that this journey will not be without challenges, we are confident that the resilience this community has shown will transform any stumbling blocks into stepping stones.
This CUP project is made possible by our sponsor, YTL Power for Social Outcome Fund in partnership with Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM).
Koh Xiu Heng