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Kampung In Focus Lessons from the Heart of Jinjang

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Lessons from the Heart of Jinjang PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 25 September 2009 01:45

The year 2009 has been marked the United Nations International Year of Reconciliation. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia is making poverty its main theme for reconciliation, given that government figures and the reality on the ground do not quite match. The SABM Special Events Working Group files its observations


Location: Jinjang North


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When you're down – in what seems like forever – you don't curl up and die. You fight harder. You also love harder. Some souls in Jinjang Utara will simply tell you that.

 

Gan Poh Poh and Kak Leha will tell you first-hand that poverty isn't fun. No fun wondering about grim prospects, three square meals, their children's future, and the leaks in their roof. But they are fine examples of loving thy neighbor.


Both live with their families in the Perumahan Awam Jinjang Utara, a community of citizens resettled from around Kuala Lumpur during the 80s such as Sentul Pasar, Pekeliling Flats, and Kepong.

In the rip-roaring days of land development around the city, DBKL promised these folks that permanent low-cost housing would be built by the government within five to seven years.


It's been 20 years.


Meanwhile, rental for each 2-bedroom unit measuring about 500 sq ft costs RM45 a month excluding utilities. While some units appear decently kept, the majority are in dilapidated condition.


An SABM team has tasked itself to conduct fieldwork on urban poverty. Jinjang Utara is the first in a series of low-income communities we plan to feature.


The Jinjang Utara public housing scheme features single-storey transitory longhouses and sits saddled between former mining pools at one tip of Kampung Baru Jinjang (itself a testimony of resettlement during the Communist Emergency years). The area visited – Section J – had been constructed more than 20 years ago.


As one walks about, these scenes confront the senses.

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In one home, wheelchairs laid within the grilled entrance area of the longhouse unit.


“Are you looking for somebody? Can I help you?,” asked a voice in helpful tones.

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Gan Poh Poh, 40, is a victim of polio. She was inflicted with the disease when she was three. Her husband, a locksmith, is similarly afflicted. They have two school-going children and had been relocated to the area from Pekeliling Flats in 2001.


Both husband and wife each receive RM300 monthly as participants of the government-sponsored EPC (Elaun Pekerja Cacat). Nicky Su Lee, her daughter, was at home during the conversation. Nicky is a normal, healthy kid with an impish dislike for school. “Boring lah,” she said.

 

Before long, Poh Poh began gushing about Kak Leha. “Mari, mari,” she beckoned her neighbour who lives directly opposite.


Kak Leha, 50, will always accompany and help push Poh Poh's wheelchair when they go into the city centre. Together, they form a symbiotic relationship born out of necessity. Being best friends came naturally enough.


Unsurprisingly, Kak Leha is equally approachable. Her admiration for Poh Poh’s tenacity in life was articulated with genuine understanding. Formerly from Sungei Buloh, Kak Leha and her husband plus four children, have stayed 12 years in Section J.


The two ladies shared another slice of humanity – their common concern for the Indian Malaysian couple with 14 children staying at the end of the same road.

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Thamotharan and his family were relocated 17 years ago from Sungei Buloh. He has 14 children – 12 boys and two girls. His wife is expecting another within the year.


Tamotharan runs a recycling business and draws side income with a lorry transport service. With the economic downturn, he faces bleak times due to lower demand and prices for his recycled materials. Oftentimes, he has had to endure lower charges as well to compete with other transport providers.


A two-year-old son was given for adoption to his wife’s brother several years back because the couple were childless for sometime.


Thamotharan’s school-going children are in national schools except for a seven-year-old studying in a Tamil-medium vernacular school. He lamented that his seven-year-old was able to read within a few months, but the rest were basically illiterate despite being in school several years earlier.


That's not all. Although five of his kids qualify for the government's free textbook scheme, he said it proved to be a handicap instead.


“The books took a long time,” said Thamotharan. “Three months after school opened. How to learn like that? How to do homework?” He has given up applying for it annually.


With daily food expenses of about RM60-80, he admitted that there were occasions when his children had to skip school (totaling RM30 per day for bus fare and canteen food) when his income was insufficient.


There were more stories; stories of hardship the poor could easily fathom. But bubbling through would always be the ones about support.


“Kak Leha, Poh Poh... I trust them,” said Thamotharan. “This row of houses, I only let my family mix with Kak Leha and Poh Poh’s families. Tak kira kulit lah. Hati mau baik, itu lagi penting.”

 

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Postscript:

What was truly amazing for the field team was that we found genuine warmth, trust and sincerity within the three families. They could empathise with each other despite their impoverished living conditions.


Not once did they ask us: “Who are you? Where are you from?”


Not once did we catch a glimpse of suspicion from the corners of their eyes. They took us for ourselves, devoid of judgment nor envy. May we learn from them. Aug 8, 2009.

 

Fast Facts on Poverty (From The Nut Graph):

Incidence: According to the 2007 mid-term review of the Ninth Malaysia Plan, poverty nationwide stands at 3.6 percent of the population. The urban poor figures stand at 2%. Of this, only 0.3 percent fall into the hardcore poverty range.


Definition of poor: From the 9MP, the poverty-line income drawn for a family is below RM720 in Peninsula Malaysia, RM960 in Sabah, and RM830 in Sarawak. In the hardcore poverty category, the respective incomes are RM430, RM540 and RM520.


Welfare and Support: The 2009 Budget includes several provisions targeted at this group, one of which is raising the eligibility criteria for welfare assistance under the Welfare Department, from a monthly household income of RM400 to RM720 for Peninsula Malaysia, RM830 for Sarawak and RM960 for Sabah. With this increase, the number of eligible recipients is expected to double from 54,000 households to 110,000. This includes an increase in the number of eligible senior citizens from 14,000 to 40,000.

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didy |2009-09-25 11:02:44
nice..well written. brought tears to my eyes. Thamotharan's "Tak kira kulit lah. Hati mau baik, itu lagi penting" is classic. May we learn from them indeed.
ken |2009-09-25 16:43:25
good people, good story. hope we can help in some way if they need help.
SAJ |2009-09-26 14:35:39
Fantastic!
Kudos to the SABM Team.

We need more stories like this to open up the eyes and hearts of our People to the real plight of their fellow Anak Bangsa Malaysia.

Thanks
bob lim  - None |2009-09-27 12:55:44
I must congratulate u 4 highlighting d plights of our poorer brethren. If ever theres any specific area of need, we may be able to reach out.
More of such news is awaited.
Remember, there r still many generous and caring hearts ready to do their bits for the poorer n lesser fortunates though we, ourselves, may not be that much better off.
God bless us all.
Jack Lim |2009-10-06 17:26:36
Noble move. We need more Malaysians who share your conviction, especially the Malays. This is because they make up the majority of the population and most of them are the people the politicians have conned more successfully than the others.
Every success to your patriotic initiative.
Tan Jing Khoon |2010-05-24 16:14:08
As born and bred 'Jinjang Joe', but now residing in Sydney, it saddens me that this kind of hard-core poverty still exists within a stone's throw from the gleaming Petronas Towers.

But then, why would the government want to improve the lot of poor (or the general infrastructure) in Jinjang when it's a safe opposition stronghold?
Last Updated on Friday, 25 September 2009 02:42
 

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