2 weeks ago we started out on a journey of self-discovery more than rural community service. Thanks to fate we chose Tenom, a sleepy little town in Kawasan Pedalaman Negeri Sabah. We departed without knowing very much about our final destination and things we are about to face.
We're one of the firsts, however, to combine both activities of Tzu Chi and the Lion's Club during our 2 weeks here. People working with the NGOs will agree that it is very seldom that 2 NGOs of different nature work together. From our experience dealing and negotiating with both we could not agree more. Tzu Chi emphasized structure, organization and efficiency, while the Lion's emphasized honor, the need of every humanitarian effort and cooperation out of their field. Prejudices against each other existed and we faced tremendous challenge trying to coordinate both.
2 weeks in Tenom, we held 2 one-and-half day camps in two local Chinese primary schools, visited a very primitive village accessible only by 4x4, and plied many trips with professional people on the Lion's. We were showered with Malaysian hospitality everywhere we go - breakfast, second breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, high tea, dinner, supper. Living under one roof, we've slowly come to realize all Malaysians are hospitable and warm at nature. They will take the effort and go the extra mile to make you feel at home.
One question I kept asking myself is the unequal distribution of wealth. Tenom is merely 3 hours away from Kota Kinabalu, and yet they don't even have a proper hospital. Kampung Rundum (the very primitive place) is another 3 hours away, and we had a hard time finding toilets. Power supply was constantly out, and the water supply is dependent on how it rains. 1Malaysia the government says, but I see a few rich, corrupt big cities and many more bare-bone, poor villages.
I will be back in Penang this afternoon, when I'd finished resizing my pictures you'd get to see what a fulfilling 2 weeks we had.
Happy Holidays everyone!
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