Charity convoy brings Hope in the wilderness

KUCHING: Hope Place Kuchings second edition of the Charity Without Border Ride was a courageous touchdown for remote folks in the wilderness of Lubok Antu and beyond.

Their convoy of fifty 4WDs lumbered through logging tracks and rugged terrain to reach Rumah Bakar Andau in Bawi Patoh, Lubok Antu, to distribute foodstuffs to the longhouse folk and repair their rundown suspension bridge.

The 24-door Rumah Bakar Andau was one of the four longhouses the convoy visited and helped.

The others were the eight-door Rumah Chendan Pilang in Nanga Bawi, eight-door Rumah Luta Melina in Lenggong Isu and 11-door Rumah Dasu Jengkang in Bawi Ulu.

As there were many challenges along the way, the convoy on Dec 12 took around 12 hours to reach Rumah Bakar Anadau located in the remotest part of Lubok Antu, near the Sarawak-West Kalimantan border. The adventurous convoy returned to Kuching safely on Dec 14.

On the eve of their departure, the longhouse folks even put up a cultural show for the visitors as a show of appreciation and goodwill.

From Kuching, it took us around five hours to reach Lubok Antu and from the town to the junction leading to the longhouse is 28kms. It is in the area of Ulu Lemanak. It took us around another six hours off road to reach Rumah Bakar Andau in Bawi. Altogether, we managed to visit four longhouses, Hope Place chief coordinator and founder Kelvin Wan recalled when met here yesterday.

We prepared basic food items and this year our main objective was to repair the wooden bridge at Rumah Bakar Andau which we found in poor condition even during our first trip there last year. The sponsor Bintulu 44 Club brought volunteers including a few engineers to help in repairing the wooden bridge, he added.

We even brought and played movies at the longhouse ruai (common living room) to entertain the folks during the night. They were so happy to meet us, Wan said.

Hope Place Kuching (or Persatuan Kebajikan Harapan Kuching) dispensed a total of 100 packs of rice, 100 boxes of biscuits, 100 boxes of noodles, 100 packs of Milo beverage, 100 packs of milk powder, 400 apples, four sacks of an assortment of seedlings like corn, long bean and ladies fingers among others, to the longhouse folks.

This years convoy saw fifty 44 vehicles from Miri, Belaga, Batu Niah, Bintulu, Sibu, Sarikei, Saratok, Sri Aman and here (Kuching), join the adventure and the transportation cost was sponsored by Bintulu 44 Club.

When you think about tough machines for rough terrain, you cant help but to think about 4x4s or known as four-wheel-drives (4WDs). Good news for those who are obsessed with these versatile vehicles and with an avid taste for challenging adventures, Kelab Cabaran Pacuan 4 Roda Bintulu is one such group for you to share your interest in Sarawak, said Wan enthusiastically.

The club was established about two years ago by individuals who are passionate about 4x4s. This club currently has more than 50 members. On top of having the passion for 4x4s and adventure, members of the club also have very big hearts for those in dire need, he pointed out.

We started our journey from Kuching on Friday morning at 5am. We reached Sri Aman town around 8am for breakfast before we continued. After entering the off-road, one of our 4x4s broke down at 2.30pm on Friday afternoon, near Rumah Mat, Tinting Brunei, Lemanak Engkilili. The vehicle gear got into problems, he said.

The convoy however managed to reach Rumah Bakar Andau in Bawi around 5pm last Friday (Dec 12).

On Saturday (Dec 13), Hope Place Kuching volunteers and visitors commenced their charity work, firstly by repairing the suspension bridge with the help of the longhouse residents early in the morning. After repairing the bridge, they distributed foodstuffs.

Among the visitors were five volunteers from Singapore who are actually barbers who gave haircuts to the residents. One of the volunteers even brought fogging equipment to fog the area and prevent the spread of dengue.

According to Wan, one of the elderly women shed tears of happiness when she sank her teeth into an apple which she has never tasted before in her life.

We also gave Christmas presents, apples and stationery like pencils and pencil boxes to the children, he added.

The nearest primary school is SK Nanga Uyau. All students and parents for the four longhouses have to walk for three to four hours to reach the primary school, Wan pointed out.

Not only that, they have to traverse hills and cross streams or rivers without any bridge to reach SK Nanga Uyau that caters for children from the four longhouses, he said.

About 90 per cent of the people in the area are farmers with some trading on the Upa and various other jungle produce.

Last year, Hope Place Kuching helped the longhouse to apply for rubber trees from the Agriculture Department and after a four months wait, the department approved 500 rubber saplings for them. This year, they also applied for seedlings from the department, Wan said.

The folks however faced greatest hardship in terms of transportation where they must fork out RM1,000 for a two-way trip using private 4WD to Lubok Antu town. The other hardship is that their longhouses are not covered by treated water and electricity supply and thus they have to bear with high cost of petrol to run their generators.

It is our hope that the government will provide them with cement to toughen the pathway leading to the longhouse(s) and also the front compound. Next, they will need solar system or mini hydro to obtain 24-hour electricity. And if the government could sponsor building materials, we have the volunteers to help repair some parts of their homes, he said.