Global Peace Foundation (GPF) Malaysia sponsored six volunteers to spend a week in the field with Orang Asli (Malaysia's indigenous population) villages to work side-by-side in the community's farming project. The young volunteers were exhausted after the end of the first day but were adamant in completing their tasks with the intention to help the village to the best of their abilities.
“The main challenge was myself. Every time I went to the grounds, I fought with my own emotion and energy but we kept going until our tasks were completed.” —MoKA
“Initially when we started the tasks, it wasn’t easy at all," said Yan Cheng. "It required learning all the steps and we needed to be strong mentally as well.”
The Syntropic Agroforestry farming method that GPF Malaysia introduced to the OA farmers is a useful way to utilize degraded land to create a productive working farm. But it is not without its challenges—especially for older farmers or those without additional help. The initial stage of land preparation, in specific, requires more time and manpower.
This volunteer program was organized to aid such disadvantaged farmers and to quicken their farming initiatives while inspiring the motivation to carry on independently. Pak Apu, one of the OA farmers from Kg. Patah Pisau, told GPF Malaysia that he was not well enough to do other jobs so his only way of ensuring food for his family would be through farming. However, the farming process was quickly becoming difficult for him due to his health conditions.
“I’m very interested in the farming project as I know there are many benefits to it, but I feel helpless as my body can’t take it. It requires a lot of time in the sun, that’s why I can’t do it for long hours.” —Pak Apu, Kg. Patah Pisau
The volunteers were thoroughly briefed on the principles of Syntropic Agroforestry as well as its methods and process. Some were so impressed by this farming method that they told the team that they were going to start food farming at home with their families.
“The SA method has changed my perspective completely—although it seemed difficult at first, I have now come to realise that it’s a very useful method with a long-term impact.” —Aaron
Apart from spending time on the ground, the volunteers had the opportunity to learn how to prepare seedlings and do nursery work. After that, they were taken back to the farm plot of the day to begin the planting process.
Some afternoons were spent a little differently. The volunteers would get the chance to help with other projects, such as painting washrooms and conducting activities for the Mobile School students—which they absolutely enjoyed!
“It was good that we had a range of activities in between the main one, it kept us energized for the next activity and I learnt so many new things in one week.” —Luannie
Towards the end of the program, the volunteers had the chance to camp out in an Orang Asli village—barbecuing out in the open, sleeping underneath the full moon, and gathering their own breakfast from the forest.
“We got to learn how to live and adapt to the surrounding using simply what is around us and nothing more,” said Luannie. “Knowing it’s possible to live this way is very satisfying.”
What may simply sound like a week-long volunteering program to service the needs of the community is, in reality, a mutually beneficial project that raised leadership and compassion in both the volunteers and the local community.
Having such an amazing group of helping hands is creating an impact in the communities we work with, making sure the seeds of hope sprout in time to come.