NOT MANY students today would be keen to spend time looking into the
concerns of the aborigines or orang asli in Malaysia.
However, that’s just what several KDU students decided to focus on recently
when they embarked upon a research project.
They found out that the orang asli – a small and somewhat forgotten
community – are still plagued by problems such as poverty, social stress,
loss of culture, lack of development in key areas and health problems.
The students' two-month long “Orang Asli Social Awareness Campaign”, which
began in September, finally ended recently with an exhibition and cultural
performance organised by students pursuing a communications degree under the
American Degree Programme (ADP).
Aptly themed The Forgotten People of Malaysia, the cultural extravaganza was
the culmination of months of hard work. Featuring 15 orang asli dancers,
musicians, a storyteller and a poet, the exhibition and performance was
organised in collaboration with Jabatan Hal Ehwal Orang Asli, the Centre for
Orang Asli Concerns, Museum Orang Asli and Koperasi Orang Asli.
Initial research findings suggest that although most young people were not
well-versed about the plight and problems faced by the orang asli, a good
majority were keen to find out more about the community.
The students were keen to share some of the insights they had gleaned from
their project. Many felt that previous campaigns to raise public awareness
on the plight of these “forgotten people of Malaysia” lacked in-depth
coverage on their plight and serious concerns.
The students explained how work on their project had started with a
comprehensive literature review on the way of life, culture, arts, crafts
and problems faced by orang asli. When a seminar on the orang asli was then
held at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, the main organising committee of 15
students had been quick to take advantage of the situation by attending the
They had then kick-started the campaign by inviting the director of the
centre for orang asli concerns Dr Colin Nicholas, to discuss the issue with
students and staff of KDU.
In order to authentically capture a slice of reality and get to know the
community well, the ADP students decided to live with them and interact with
them on a more personal basis.
To do this, they had visited an orang asli village and stayed there over two
The students’ mission to “do something” for this community of marginalised
people had continued with a week-long fund-raising project in early October.
Activities held included a food sale, jumble sale and a car washing
campaign. The students' efforts raised close to RM2000 and several bags of
clothes for the orang asli.
The project has seen the students learning much more than what textbooks or
lectures could have taught them. Besides experiencing a totally new culture
and learning about teamwork and the importance of cooperation, the students
also honed organisation skills.
They also learnt to become more caring and responsible. Working on the
project together has provided the students with many opportunities to be
proactive and, at the same time, sensitive to the needs of others especially
those of the underprivileged. Most important of all, the students have also
learnt to be passionate about creating, if not a better world, then at least
a better Malaysia.