RYTHM Foundation provides for indigenous people in Malaysia
The Orang Asli (indigenous people) of Semai tribe in Malaysia are among the most backward communities in the country.
They have low or no skills and no access to education or information, due to which many of the Orang Asli live in impoverished conditions. The lack of public transportation to the outside world alienates them further.
Their meagre income comes from jungle produce which is not much as most of the jungles in the region have been cleared for development and other plantation schemes. When the Malaysia government ordered a lockdown due to Covid_19, the Orang Asli community in Trolak region in the state of Perak faced starvation as they were unable to sell the jungle produce. The only person who serves as a link to this community and the outside world was not able to enter the village due to the lockdown order.
When their plight came to light, RYTHM Foundation partnered with the St James Social Concerns Work Team to assist the community with food provisions which included rice, cooking oil, milo, sugar, tea, coffee powder, salt, chili powder, turmeric powder, curry powder, ginger, garlic, potatoes, red onion, flour, green lentils and biscuits.
Jasmine Adaickalam, the coordinating chairperson of St James Social Concerns Work Team said that RYTHM Foundation’s food provision was the only one that reached the community during the lockdown period.
“Of the near 300 Orang Asli households, more than 90 are women-led households and were in dire condition. Their needs were greater than the rest and no assistance whatsoever had reached them,” Jasmine said.
Provisions were distributed in three phases to ensure there is no wastage.
“It was a meaningful and worthwhile exercise. Feeding the hungry and the poor is not just an act of benevolence, but a spiritual experience.” she said.
“Unfortunately, we were not able to provide for all of them but the beauty of it all, were the stories we heard of how those who received the provisions, shared it with the others in the village,” she added.
“The first time the provision arrived, we found that the villagers were not wearing masks because they did not have the means to purchase them. So, when we went there the second time for distribution, we provided them with masks a well,” she said.
She said the Orang Asli community speaks mostly in Semai dialect and only a few can speak in the national language, Bahasa Malaysia.
“They expressed their joy through their beaming faces and some even broke down, as they received the provisions after many days of starvation. The children were overjoyed to get the cream crackers and the green grams to make sweet porridge,” she added.