Monday, March 9, 2009

LONG Sukang, a remote Lun Bawang village in Sarawak’s northern Lawas district, is set in a pristine valley overlooked by green mountains.

It is accessible by four-wheel drive vehicle on an unpaved timber road, about 90 minutes away from Lawas town.

Recently, the village played host to visitors from Samsung Malaysia, World Vision Malaysia and the media.

Natural setting: Villagers crossing a bridge leading to Long Sukang.

They were there to see a pre-school programme set up under World Vision’s Lawas Project, a beneficiary of the Samsung Hope charity initiative.

The visitors were received by a traditional bamboo band which played a medley of tunes on instruments made of bamboo.

Another musical ensemble playing the buluh gura, a bamboo instrument similar to the Indonesian angklung, welcomed the team into the community hall.

According to headman Balang Asi, Long Sukang has a population of about 400, the majority of whom are padi farmers.

“Our main source of income is selling rice, vegetables and fruits. We also raise buffaloes,” he said.

Welcoming: Children of Kampung Munchu waving hello to visitors.

He said the villagers travelled to Lawas to sell their rice and other produce and to buy essential items like salt and sugar.

“It is convenient that we can now go to Lawas by car. In the past, before the road was built, it took days of walking through the jungle to reach Lawas,” he recalled.

He added that there were flight services between Lawas and Long Sukang, with the aircraft landing on a grassy airstrip.

The flights were discontinued after the timber road was built sometime in the 1980s. The airstrip can still be seen today, a long green lawn at one end of the village.

On the pre-school programme, Balang welcomed it as it provided early education to young children of the village.

Awesome: Maktab Injil Malaysia students putting on a show of traditional Kayan culture for visitors.

“Before we had the pre-school classes, the children used to be very naughty.

“They would run here and there and not heed our calls.

“But now they are not so naughty. They can also read and write,” he said.

At Kampung Munchu, an ethnic Tagal village in Ulu Merapok about a 40-minute drive from Lawas, a similar pre-school has been set up by World Vision.

Simpson Tuie, a church pastor in the village, said it was the first school of any kind to be built in Kampung Munchu.

“Many children here don’t go to school because their parents can’t afford it. There are kindergartens and a primary school about 2.5km away but some parents cannot afford the transport costs.

“Now the children can attend the pre-school right here in the village, so it is a big help,” he said.

According to him, most of the villagers were rubber tappers and farmers, and were becoming more aware of the importance of education.

“We would like the children here to be able to read, at the very least. Since the pre-school was opened last year, some of them have learnt to do so and we are proud to see the progress they are making,” he added



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