[Written by FELISE WONG & GLORIA NGU]
Many a time, we find ourselves thinking how is it possible for us to remember all the lyrics to an entire album but not the words in our textbooks. Before you shamefully put away that CD and pretend to get to work, hear us out because you might just find a place where you belong, right here with us!
About two months ago, serendipity bridged us with a land on the other side of Malaysia called Bario. Ever heard of it? Well, neither did most of us until Project WHEE! approached us. Started by youths, Project WHEE! whose tagline is “We the youth. Helping those in need. Exceeding expectations. Empowering others.” is a nine month youth project supported by Dana Belia and eHomemakers. The aim of Project WHEE! is to recruit 30 youths from Malaysia to spend 16 days in the mountainous community of Bario. This is to teach the local Bario women English so that they can become eco-tourism tourguides for the 25 homestays which are already hosting mainly Western eco-tourists. To know more about this project, do head on to their Facebook page at fb.com/projectwhee.
Now all this talk about Bario, what is it all about? Well, Bario is a remote village on the Kelabit Highlands in Sarawak and is inhabited by the Kelabit people. In the recent years, the population has been dwindling as the younger generation is moving to the urban areas to work or study. And thus the women of Bario are left behind in the village with a barely sustainable economy. However, there have been efforts to revive Bario by establishing it as an eco-tourism site. Currently, there are 25 homestays around the said area in support of its eco-tourism trade and as to date, it mainly hosts Western tourists.
This might seem like the perfect way to bring people back to Bario, but there is an issue with that. As most of the women of Bario have not gone through the schooling that you and I have been through, they can barely speak English, in fact most of them do not speak English at all. This is causing a language barrier between the Western tourists and the locals. Nevertheless, they are excellent hosts, and are brilliant at showing people the ways of their life at home and on the fields. They are also remarkably friendly, whilst balancing a simple life full of colour, dance and song.
This opens up an avenue for tourists to learn about the different ways of life outside of their own sphere. Tourists that participate in these Bario homestay programmes are often led there by its beauty as well as its unique culture. The women of Bario are just the right sort of guides to do just that. All that is needed is for them to have a basic command of English to bridge the communication gap between both parties. Plus, this might enable the women to have a source of income and here is where my friends, we come in.
Project WHEE! endeavors to rejuvenate the village of Bario one step at a time. What with the women being able to teach and speak to tourists, Bario will become more accessible to a lot of people. This will bring in the crowd to Bario, ensuring that its charm and beauty does not fade away nor will the progress of time stunt its growth.
To assist this cause, 11 of us from the Diploma in Education course will be flying down to Bario to teach the women English as the first batch of youths from Project WHEE! .
To get to Bario from KL, we would have to fly to Miri, Sarawak first and then hop on a smaller plane to Bario as there is only one route to Bario which is provided by MasWings. We are paying for these flight tickets on our own, and the amount comes up to a total of almost RM500 per person. The sum might not seem to be a large total for some people out there, but to us, it is something big and for a few, it is even a burden. Our main aim is to raise sufficient funds for everyone ( a total of: RM5458). However we are aware that we only have so much time to carry out these activities, hence we need your support!
Our entire cause is about connecting people from different worlds and using that connection to empower people. In line with that, we have decided to connect with more people whilst raising funds for our flight tickets! We will be busking along the walkway in front of the Student Life Centre (SLC) for several days and you are more than welcome to join us! Do remember to jot down these dates in your calendar: 16, 18, 22 to 26 April.
The awesomeness of busking by Project WHEE! will start at 10a.m every morning and will continue till 6 p.m. in the evenings on the given dates. We will be opening the floor to anyone wanting to jam with us as well. All you need to do is to show up, donate a certain amount and go wild. Also, we will also be opening up an Instant Poetry booth on some of the days where our very own poet will write you poems based on any three words you give to her. Is that not great?
Art, music, words and a drive to make a change. Be the little stone that starts a landslide!
Still thinking of putting that CD away?