By Emiko Perea
The Orang Asli (original people) is comprised of 18 indigenous ethnic groups who are regarded as the oldest inhabitants of the Malaysian peninsula. Unfortunately, many of the Orang Asli children in Hulu Chemperuh are unable to invest themselves in school, rather prioritizing farming or gaining immediate income. This contributes to their low school attendance and high drop-out rate. But what is more, the Orang Asli children have appeared apprehensive when engaging with peers and educators, demonstrating a lack of self-esteem.
From January 21, 2019, Global Peace Foundation (GPF) Malaysia, in collaboration with Deutsche Bank, launched a new youth empowerment program, expanding upon Deutsche Bank’s Born to Be youth engagement program. The program aims to cultivate self-esteem, resilience, and social skills among Orang Asli youth to foster greater interest in learning, thereby reducing the number of school drop-outs.“Our Born to Be program helps young people realize their dreams,” said Annie Yeo, Regional Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for Deutsche Bank. “Working in partnership with Global Peace Malaysia, we can enhance the lives of these indigenous children and empower them to build a better future for themselves and their community.”
GPF education initiatives expose students to activities that foster their character and interpersonal skills. Ultimately, this advances students’ confidence and mindset for peacebuilding.
In February, the partnership culminated in a Born to Be camp for 26 Orang Asli youth, ranging from 5 to 17 years of age, in Janda Baik. The activities were a challenge for many, consisting of 3D printing, river trekking, and other “Camp Challenges” catered towards young children. The river trekking activity required the adventurers to climb and sometimes swim along the river. During this activity, the facilitators took the opportunity to share their knowledge on wildlife, teaching the children how to catch and release small fish from the river without harming them. The children wholeheartedly invested themselves in the activities together, boosting their confidence and creativity as a result.
One of the highlights for the Orang Asli children in the Born to Be Camp was the Nightwalk. This consisted of the children being blindfolded in the dark, relying on the facilitators and other children to guide them. This session became a favorite among the children due to the teamwork and trust they cultivated from it. By the end of the camp, the coordinators and the Orang Asli youth developed strong bonds with each other, opening up to each other through working through these activities together.
“So far, they have surpassed my expectations. Most of them are quite disciplined in the camp and it will be very exciting to see, in terms of character development, how much they will develop over this one year. I have a very positive view on them,” explained Wan Nurul Hanani, the Program and Community Engagement Manager.
The Born to Be Camp has proven to foster social engagement and excitement for learning among the Orang Asli children that participated. Global Peace Foundation and the Deutsche Bank committed themselves to organize monthly engagements with Hulu Chemperuh’s Orang Asli community in the future to continue their work in uplifting the potential in the Orang Asil children.