Reaching out to rural communities through John Curtin Weekend

Volunteers with representatives
from Deleum at SK Kampung Bakam.

Volunteers doing repair works  on 
SK Kampung Bungai in Bekenu.

Volunteers and their foster
families at Rumah Mandau, Sungai Sekerat Niah.

MIRI: Members of Curtin University, Sarawak Malaysia’s biggest student volunteer organisation, Curtin Volunteers! (CV!), have reached out to rural communities in and around Miri through the annual John Curtin Weekend (JCW) for nine solid years.

Curtin Volunteers! can be found at Curtin campuses in Western Australia as well as in Sarawak, and JCW is their largest and longest running community outreach project providing them the opportunity to travel to rural areas and metropolitan sites to work on initiatives that add value to the community.

In Sarawak, volunteers built strong community partnerships by working alongside rural villagers in Miri Division on a range of community development, educational and cultural awareness projects.

JCW in both Western Australia and Sarawak is run over multiple weekends to accommodate the needs of various communities.

Each year, projects in both locations are run concurrently, but the one in Sarawak is an ‘anak angkat’ or adoption programmes where volunteers are adopted and provided meals and accommodation by the villagers for the weekends.

During the recent JCW in Sarawak held over two consecutive weekends, more than 200 volunteers went to two rural primary schools (SK Kampung Bakam and SK Kampung Bungai in Bekenu) and four longhouses (Rumah Empaga in Sungai Beluru, Rumah Linggi in Sungai Urong, Rumah Mandau in Sungai Sekerat, Niah, and Rumah Panjang Sungai Tiris in Sibuti).

At the schools, the volunteers cleaned the school compounds, painted murals on walls and carried out repairs on buildings, as well as conducted grooming and educational workshops and games for students.

In the longhouses, they carried out a variety of activities like organise work parties with the villagers to refurbish and repaint longhouse structures, as well as help them on their farms and oil palm plantations.

In addition, they organised sporting activities with them, taught them to conduct fire drills and first aid, and held handicraft and basic English workshops at nearby schools.

First time volunteer, student Clara Michael said it was an exceptional experience engaging with the Kedayan community at Kampung Bungai and students of the primary school there.

Fellow student Arthur Fong said his exposure to rural community living made him appreciate life more, comparing his relatively privileged lifestyle in the city to the villagers’ hardship.

The headmaster of SK Kampung Bakam, Awang Rapbil Awang Sulaiman said the interaction among the volunteers, staff and students of his school enabled them to learn from each other.

Baki Lamat, a villager at Rumah Mandau, said it was the first time his longhouse had received such a large group of volunteers, and looked forward to future collaborations.

JCW was co-organised by the Leadership and Entrepreneurship Centre (LEC), Curtin Sarawak’s student and community development arm to enhance the overall university experience for domestic and international students, and develop socially responsible graduates to be future leaders in business and the community.

It eanbles students to engage with the community and develop new skills by offering volunteering opportunities, leadership skills development, and leadership experience.

The sponsors were Deleum and Lyn Min Perdagangan Sdn Bhd as well as the Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS) Miri Chapter.

Since its inception at Curtin Sarawak in 2000, CV! has enabled students and campus staff as well as the wider community to experience the benefits of volunteerism.

It regularly organises activities such as blood donation drives, beach cleaning campaigns and charity fundraisers in addition to JCW and other community outreach projects to support rural communities.

JCW has its origins in John Curtin Day to mark the day wartime Australian Prime Minister John Curtin took office on Oct 7, 1941.

John Curtin Day was first held in 1998 with medals presented to those who demonstrate John Curtin’s values of vision, leadership and community service.

In 1999, students and staff began doing community service on John Curtin Day and within a year, this became ‘John Curtin Weekend’.

For more information on CV!, email or call 085-445 025.