Putting Penan kids on the ‘write’ path

KUCHING: Hoping to give Penan children a good start in education, non-profit organisation Barefoot Mercy is raising funds for a new building and boarding facilities for a kindergarten.

Tadika Pawah is now located in temporary premises in Long Lamam, a remote village in Sarawak’s Baram district. Set up in 2014, it has three teachers and 34 children.

Barefoot Mercy co-founder Elaine Chan said the kindergarten was the children’s first exposure to education.

“Long Lamam is six hours from Miri by four-wheel drive and 40 minutes by boat. There are about 300 people living there and many of the adults can’t read or write.

“It is important to have a preschool in the village because we believe the first few years of education are vital for the children to get a good start,” she said.

So far, Barefoot Mercy has raised about half of the estimated RM200,000 needed for the project, which will be carried out in phases.

The site for the new kindergarten has been provided by the community while the design was pro bono work by Kuching-based architecture firm DNA.

Construction is to begin in July or August and is expected to be completed by year end.

“We are getting the Penans involved in the construction. They have also provided the wood we need for the project.

“We are calling on corporate organisations to donate other construction materials,” said Anna Wee, another Barefoot Mercy founder.

The boarding house will enable the children to remain in school while their parents forage in the forest.

It will also help prepare the children to be away from the village when they enter Year One.

On Sunday, Barefoot Mercy held a charity tea dance and makers’ market as part of its fundraising efforts for the project.

More than 150 people gathered to dance barefoot at the Old Courthouse while 20 vendors set up stalls selling local produce, handicraft and other handmade items.

Barefoot Mercy put up a stall selling pro­ducts sourced from rural communities, such as mountain spring salt and jungle honey.

Source: The Star

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