The Malaysian indigenous community, otherwise known as the Orang Asli, are one of the poorest demographics in Malaysia. 33% of the Orang Asli population are considered hardcore poor. During a 2019 press conference, Dr Colin Nicholas of the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns stated that 99.2% of the Peninsular Orang Asli population are in the B40 income bracket earning less than RM4,000 a month.
Whilst this community may not consider themselves as poor and thrives in their own way of life, their lack of basic necessities cannot go unaddressed. Here are notable organisations that have committed themselves to work with these indigenous communities in efforts to eradicate inequality.
#1: Projek Edukasi Asli
This pilot youth-led advocacy project champions educational equity amongst the indigenous Orang Asli community in Malaysia. Projek Edukasi Asli aims to bridge the education-disparity gap among Orang Asli students by first understanding the challenges they face and coming up with viable policy solutions to help better learning.
The project also aims to increase awareness on the education inequity, the need for digital learning and advocating for educational policies that are more inclusive of the needs and challenges of these communities. The end game is to eventually increase the literacy rates of indigenous students in Malaysia.
Want to help Projek Edukasi Asli? They are looking for financial support from the public to help sustain a few of their initiatives. A good example is their most recent efforts to provide access to digital education for the Orang Asli community.
#2: SUKA Society
According to SUKA Society:
- Most Orang Asli children enter Primary 1 without basic knowledge in reading, writing and maths.
- 7029 indigenous children have never been to school.
- Only six in one hundred Orang Asli children who enter Standard 1, complete their Form 5 eleven years later.
Understanding the dire situation of the educational system for Orang Asli children, SUKA Society wanted to work with the OA communities to provide them with better access to proper education and ensure that the next generation is not trapped in a never-ending cycle of poverty.
Through their Empower2Teach initiative, the project provides training, support and resources for the indigenous teachers to start their own pre-school education classes within their rural villages. This eliminates transportation challenges this community faces in early education.
SUKA also trains OA teachers, to ensure the sustainability of their efforts. These teachers take on classes of up to 25 children per class. At the start of 2019, they have ten pre-schools located in remote villages off Slim River, Gopeng, Gerik, Tapah, Gua Musang and Kuala Rompin.
Want to be a part of Empower2Teach? SUKA Society offers a variety of ways to be involved. You can help by donating school supplies, like stationery, art and craft materials, storybooks, and teaching aids or sponsor an indigenous teacher. You can also volunteer and be a regular assistant in helping to teach English and training OA teachers in their respective villages.
#3: SOLS 24/7
Its mission is to serve, educate & empower the bottom 40% of the population with FREE education, personal development & employment support. SOLS 24/7‘s courses range from soft skills, technical vocational skills as well as skill sets in the solar industry. All courses are FREE and serve the B40 in Malaysia.
SOLS works closely with several Orang Asli communities and have upskilled several members of the Orang Asli community to such a level that they now run different SOLS divisions, and educate others just like them. Prime examples of the successes of SOLS include Hamdan Akau (the Director of Innovation at SOLS Academy) and Ayu Majid (SOLS English Teacher).
Want to be a part of SOLS24/7? Well, they are always looking for volunteers, interns and donations from the public.
#4: empowerNCER Academic
empowerNCER (Academic) targets children from B40 and Orang Asli communities who are sitting for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examinations. This programme provides tuition classes, and personal development programmes for under-performing students sitting for major exams such as UPSR, PT3 & SPM. They also have a Special Customised Programme for Orang Asli in order to improve their performance of the 3Ms. (Membaca, Menulis & Mengira)
Established in December 2019, the first phase of the programme assisted 2,550 students (including 300 Orang Asli) from 15 areas. In phase two, they reached 3,600 students (including 200 Orang Asli) from 17 areas.
The reach of this programme covers indigenous students in the northern states of Malaysia; Perlis, Kedah, Penang and Perak. Find out more about empowerNCER iniaitives in Perak in this short video.
#5: The Asli Co.
Founded by Jason Wee and Lim Xin Yu in April 2019, The Asli Co. is a social enterprise’s mission is to improve the lives of Orang Asli in Malaysia by empowering indigenous mothers to earn a sustainable living through making artisanal handicrafts and products from home.
They have helped 42 Orang Asli mothers earn more than four times the minimum wage hourly income on top of providing materials, equipment, training and wages this social enterprise has helped these mothers to keep their children in school to break the cycle of poverty in the community. Currently, they are working with OAs from six different villages in Malaysia.
We will be helping them procure sewing machines so they can start production on the fabric face masks, build a more seamless payment gateway so their customers can make payment easily, receive mentorship from our SME banking team and expand their social procurement plans. We are also planning to organise financial literacy sessions for the mothers so they would have a better understanding of the right financial planning for their future.
Want to help The Asli Co? Well, they are a business. Head on over to their website and social media and buy their amazing products. They have everything from cemented plant pots (made from recycled bubble teacups), handmade bar soaps and hand sanitisers made from all-natural ingredients.
#6: Jungle School Gombak
Jungle School Gombak is a leadership empowerment programme, solely focuses on elevating the unique cultural heritage of the indigenous people. Unlike other education programmes, this jungle school has the Orang Asli community educate others about their cultural knowledge and expertise.
Through this programme, members of the public pay to participate in a five-level programme that includes survival skills, knowledge on the use of flora and fauna, the basic skills of food searching and the traditional ways of the Orang Asli hut making, camping, awareness of the rainforest sustainability, law of the jungle, preparing food like the Orang Asli style and tree planting program.
What started out as a family project, has won three awards in the fifth edition of the International Invention Innovation Competition in Canada (iCan 2020). These include the Gold Medal Award in the preliminary rounds, and the Special Award and Committee Choice Award. This programme has been acknowledged as one of the best by thirty-eight world-renowned investors and highlights the fact that the Orang Asli can share their skills and earn a living.
There are numerous efforts from many stakeholders to tackle Orang Asli’s issues in Malaysia, but only a handful are sustainable, and JSGM’s effort is one of the sustainable ones…
Want to help The Jungle School Gombak? Well, They are looking for volunteers to help them with these activities. They also accept donations and welcome those interested to teach tuition to indigenous children.
Started in 2016, the Othrs began contacting underprivileged youths and teaching them barbering skills with the aim to provide a career path in efforts to break their cycle of poverty. Through the Asli Barber project, these barbers teach youths in Orang Asli villages barber skills.
The Othrs members also conduct talks about personal hygiene and provide haircuts to all those interested. Currently, there are three Orang Asli youths who were trained and now are employed as working barbers at Othrs. Visit their website to learn more.
empowerNCER is a skill and entrepreneurship programme that focuses on skills, academics and the socioeconomic enhancements of marginalized communities in Malaysia. It is currently working with Orang Asli, women, youths, unemployed graduates, retrenched workers and Orang Asli from the B40 community. Through various collaborations with agencies and organizations, this project aims to have at least 90% of its participants receive training and relevant certification, along with access to job placement opportunities upon completion. They also aim to help them increase their income from RM500 to RM1,100.
#8: Epic Homes
Over 12,000 Orang Asli live in unsafe housing conditions. 82% are in need of housing aid. 77% are classified as poor. 35% are classified as hard core poor
Epic Homes started off as a small building project putting together a toilet and helping Orang Asli villagers paint their houses. Through that first project, the founders realised that dilapidated housing among the OAs were very much a reality. The OAs needed more than just one toilet, they needed better homes. After a lot of planning and designing, the blueprints for an Epic Home was completed.
Focusing on ensuring a modular design that ensures flexibility, durability and adaptability these Epic Homes are easy to assemble and can be built in just three to four days. The best part is that The Asli House is designed to cater for different family size according to “adequate shelter” guidelines by the UN and do not believe in a one-size-fits-all model. These houses are 100% suited for the Orang Asli lifestyle and environment, ensuring that the traditional values of the Orang Asli are sustained.
Since 2011, this group has helped to build a total of 155 Epic Homes in Selangor, Perak, Johor and Kelantan, with the help of over 6,000 volunteers.
#10: Global Peace Foundation Malaysia
The Global Peace Foundation Malaysia is an international non-sectarian, non-partisan, nonprofit organization, works on improving the overall quality of life under the vision of One Family under God. The Malaysian division works closely with the Orang Asli community and carries out various projects targeting different indicators of multidimensional poverty.
For example in 2018, the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) initiative were carried out. This program aimed to provide access to clean water and sanitation to the Orang Asli communities who were still reliant on unclean water sources like polluted rivers and springs. Their latest efforts revolve around farming possibilities for the Orang Asli and improving their access to energy. Those interested can simply go to their website and see all the latest projects.
Want to help the Global Peach Foundation? Global Peace Foundation welcomes donations and all forms of CSR volunteering projects.
Explore Our Sources:
- O. K. Hui. (n.d.) Poverty, Inequality and the Lack of Basic Rights Experienced by the Orang Asli in Malaysia. Link.
- X. Y. Tan. (n.d.). Digital Education Access for the Orang Asli Students of Kampung Kemidak, Johor. Sedunia by epic. Link.
- Suka Society. (n.d.). What’s the situation in Malaysia. Link.
- The Star. (2020). Jumpstarting Future of Orang Asli Mums. Link.
- M. Teoh. (2020). An initiative to help Orang Asli families in Malaysia wins three awards in international competitions. The Star. Link.
- Epic Homes. (n.d.). Our Impact to Date. Link.