25 families in Kampung Jenit, Pahang have access to flowing water in their homes for the first time.
MUADZAM SHAH, PAHANG – On 19th October 2019, 18 Ecolab Malaysia associates volunteered at an Orang Asli settlement, Kampung Jenit, to complete a water project in collaboration with Global Peace Foundation Malaysia, a non-governmental organisation, that will benefit 25 families with flowing water in their homes for the very first time.
Kampung Jenit, which has been in existence for over a hundred years, is home to 86 Orang Asli of the Jakun tribe. In the past, the Orang Asli here relied on rivers and ponds for water. But as activities like mining, logging, and agriculture changed the natural landscape, the people here have been struggling with issues like water scarcity and water pollution.
“We get our water from a few places, mainly the river and ponds, whichever is nearer to each family,” explained Pak Jelita, the tok batin (village head). “The diesel pump breaks down easily and we still end up walking far to fetch water. During the drought season, the water dries up and becomes murky and smelly.”
The water issues outlined by Pak Jelita is commonplace in this area of Pahang. In Malaysia, more than 92% of the population have access to safely-managed water services. However, in remote and undocumented Orang Asli villages, access to clean water remains a pipe dream.
In line with Ecolab’s commitment to the community where we live and work, Ecolab supported to solve Kampung Jenit’s water woes through Global Peace’s Communities Unite for Purewater (CUP) initiative.
The proposed solution was to build a solar water pump system that can supply 2,000L of water a day to all 15 houses in Kampung Jenit. The solar pump will deliver water to three storage tanks located at the three village clusters. There will be piping leading from the tanks to each home.
As the pump relies on solar energy, it is virtually free to operate and can help the villagers save on money required to run a conventional fuel-powered pump. On average, villagers spend up to RM50 a month on fuel for a petrol-powered water pump. The solar pump requires minimal service and maintenance.
The Ecolab team split into three groups to carry out work; two groups were to complete the piping work while another helped the villagers prepare and cook lunch. The piping crew spent most of the day unrolling spools of piping, attaching the pipes with connectors, and connecting the piping into each villager’s home.
“I’m truly inspired by the compassion of our people and to see what we could achieve when we work in unity. At Ecolab, we believe in partnerships for positive change, and we are glad that this collaboration is helping Kampung Jenit address problems that may not be apparent to many of us living in modern world – lack of access to water and water scarcity,” said Mr. Ong Kian Tick, Managing Director of Ecolab Singapore and Malaysia.
During lunch time, hungry Ecolab associates and Orang Asli alike congregated at the gathering area to enjoy a lunch of chicken, fish, and vegetables. For dessert, Mr. Ong was given a pleasant surprise in the form of a birthday cake, meant to celebrate his belated birthday.
Some children whose birthday fell in the same month joined in the celebration and experienced the novelty of singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and blowing off candles on the cake.
This was followed by a Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) training conducted by Global Peace and Ecolab associates to develop awareness and good habits of proper sanitation and hygiene that will foster better health among children and adults.
The session on handwashing was demonstrated through a sing-along activity, which the kids actively participated in.
After lunch, it was back to work and everyone laboured together to complete the remaining piping work before it got dark. The final step after fixing the pipes was to make sure that the water flow and pressure was consistent.
One person was stationed in each house and when the main tap was turned on, shouts of happiness and “There’s water here!” resonated throughout the village. The Orang Asli men who toiled hard with the team throughout the day broke into wide grins and gave a thumbs-up, happy that everyone’s hard work has paid off.
As a result of this project, the women of Kampung Jenit will no longer need to walk to various sources to carry water, a backbreaking task that requires a lot of energy and time. The village as a whole can save money on paying for fuel to pump water, which can be saved up for more important things like their children’’s education or income-generating activities.
It is projected that there will be enough water supply even during the drought season, which used to cause the villagers much worry as they have to walk further to search for water and young children are prone to falling ill during that time.
“Saya sudah tak tahan dengan hidup saya! Angkat air setiap hari! (I can’t stand living like this any longer, having to carry water every day!)” shared Kak Nai, one of the beneficiaries of the project. Kak Nai is a single mother whose sole income is from rubber tapping, earning anywhere between RM60 to RM240 a month depending on the weather and rubber prices.
Almost all her income is spent on schooling expenses for her daughter, who is studying in a boarding school. She only has around RM30 for her own use per week. Living on her own, she had to walk 2km to carry a bucket of water, which amounts to 6km per day to get enough water for a single day’s use. She suffers from back pain as a consequence.
“Saya amat berterima kasih kepada semua yang telah membantu kami di sini (I am thankful to everyone who has helped us here).”
Ecolab also distributed 200kg of rice, oil, flour, body wash, hand wash, and clothing detergent to the 20 families in Kampung Jenit, and donations in the form of clothes that were collected by their associates prior to the engagement, in hopes that it will help alleviate the burden of travelling during the monsoon season to purchase food and essentials.
Ecolab associates had also raised a total of RM800 in monetary donations to be channelled to families in need.
One of Ecolab’s associates commented that she felt a sense of nostalgia talking to the people in Kampung Jenit and visiting their houses as it reminded her of her own village.
“Overall, it was a heart-warming and meaningful experience for our team to be able to give back to the community. We hope that the help we provided impacts the health and wellbeing of the people of Kampung Jenit,” said Mr. Ong.
Special thanks to our technical partner, SolarNRJ, for lending their expertise and on-site support.
Yong Joy Anne, Storyteller