It’s not easy to approach the indigenous people especially the Jahai who live in a very remote area in Kg Sungai Kejar and Kg Sungai Tahan, off Tasik Banding, Perak.
The journey to Kg Sg Kejar by boathouse took almost 6 hours. The 3-day 2-night ‘Khidmat Masyarakat’ program which was held on 16th to 18th Dec 2018 involved 40 UniKL RCMP staff including 22 medical students and 13 staff of Malaysian Resources Corporation Bhd. Foundation (Yayasan MRCB). The students were very excited to meet the Orang Asli.
Professor Dr Abdul Karim Russ Hassan the program advisor said, “At one time we were not allowed to visit these villages to conduct medical health checks because they were suspicious of strangers. After a few attempts, they finally opened their doors to the UniKL RCMP team. In fact, we have established a good relationship with the Jahai tribe and have been here several times to do research and perform medical health checks. We have even distributed rice and cooked food for the people.”
Based on the research done recently most of the Jahai people suffered from skin problems such as hypopigmentation, pityriasis versicolor and itchiness. These conditions are neither painful nor contagious. But they can lead to emotional distress or low self-esteem. This type of fungus can also be found among many healthy people. It only starts causing problems when the fungus overgrows. Several factors may trigger this growth including humid weather and lack of hygiene. Meanwhile, the male community suffer from continuous coughing caused by heavy smoking from a very young age.
After having experienced dark nights without electricity at Kg Sg Kejar and Kg Sg Tahan, Dr Karim had decided to return to the villages with a few UniKL students to install a solar energy project for the community.
Program secretary Zahaimi binti Abdullah Sani expressed her desire that the government provide suitable jobs for them without them having to leave their village. “Their income is not stable and at times the children do not get proper meals because they have nothing to eat. This could lead to malnutrition among the children. The villagers’ income depends on collecting forest products, traditional fishing and hunting. I hope the relevant organizations could teach them to venture into freshwater fish farming as a source of income since they are living near a very clean water source. Apart from that, they can easily earn money if they could involve themselves into eco-tourism, as they are very familiar with the jungle”.
Ustaz Muhammad Iqbal Samadi, Head of Student Development and Campus Lifestyle extended his utmost appreciation to MRCB Foundation for sponsoring this community program and for providing a platform for the students to apply their skills. He added that the main objective of the program is to produce holistic students who not only excel in their academic pursuits but also in character, integrity, personality as well as the spirit of volunteerism.
Student Director, Anis Waheeda binti Musaddad, MBBS year 2 student was happy to be given the opportunity to participate in the activities. “As a medical student, this experience will help me to strengthen and enhance my knowledge outside the classroom through the UniKL RCMP mobile clinic”. Anis was given the responsibility to conduct hygiene and medical health checks. “We help to promote a hygienic lifestyle to create awareness among the population especially the children and women. Many of the children have been detected to be having lice on their heads”.
Participant Firdaus Mansor, year 4 MBBS student said that this program is an eye-opener for him and his friends. “All this while we have taken for granted whatever facilities we have in life. The Orang Asli community here not only live in a remote area which generally lacks necessities but is also lacking in education and healthcare. Now I realize that my life has been blessed. I'm grateful for everything that I have. Nevertheless, the Orang Asli community are very close to each other and they supplement and complement each other. Despite being very tired, I enjoyed every minute of the program and I hope to join similar programs in the future.
Farisha Sofea, year 2 MBBS student wished she could have spent more time with the orang asli children. “I was lucky to be chosen to participate in this program. Many of my friends were interested to join but only 25 were selected and I’m one of the lucky ones. I was able to practice my soft skills and communication skills here, thanks to the Orang Asli who spoke fluent Bahasa Melayu.
The orang asli rarely seek medical attention from public hospitals but were very responsive when we approached them for the health check. Some of them came with skin problems as they hardly change their clothes and keep on wearing the same clothing for days”. All in all, it was a very enriching experience for all the participants of the program.