[By Gloria Ngu]
If you had been at the Pink Wigathon Charity Run (organised by the Pink Ribbon Wellness Foundation) at KLIA2 last month, you might have been fortunate enough to catch some cultural performances by a Sarawakian group and maybe even bought some accessories at their booth. This Sarawakian group was under the Datuk Seri Temenggong Lawai Jau (DTLJ) Education Trust, a newly founded organisation with the aim of raising funds for the education of the children of Baram.
What is this organisation about?
The DTLJ Education Trust is an initiative by the family of the late YAM Datuk Seri Senator Temenggong Lawai Jau, the paramount chief of the Orang Ulu in Sarawak. While he did not have the opportunity to experience formal education, he realized that education was crucial in order for his people to move forward. He even started one of the first schools in Long San, a village in Baram.
DTLJ is an inspiration to the Orang Ulu of Sarawak as well as many of the non-Orang Ulu.
Despite this charismatic leader’s emphasis on the importance of education, the Kayan and Kenyah community did not have its own education fund for a long time despite being the most populous segment of the Orang Ulu, approximately 60,000 strong. Hence, this education trust was started to provide for the Kayan and Kenyah community as well as to honor Datuk Seri Temenggong Lawai Jau.
The funds that this organisation raises will be used to give assistance to children attending school or tertiary education as well as to children with special needs. For now, their priority is to aid students that have been denied scholarships or loans due to the lack of documents such as salary slips despite excelling academically. The DTLJ Education Trust also aims to offer support in the form of allowances or ‘topping up’ of scholarships. Of course, for this to happen, they will need a certain amount of funds before they can proceed with their plans. So far, one of the ways that they have been raising funds is by selling handicraft made by the ladies from the Kayan and Kenyah community, and they have been doing this for some time already on pitchIN.
One of the side objectives of this organisation is to provide the people of Baram with job opportunities. By selling the handicraft made by the women, the DTLJ Education Trust is inadvertently acting as the middle person, helping the ladies to sell what they make. Another side objective that this organization achieves is the preservation of their culture through the promoting of it.
What have they done so far?
Despite being only four months old, the DTLJ Education Trust has spearheaded several activities already. They have used the crowdfunding platform, pitchIN to source for fundings, and they have rewarded pledges with items crafted by the Kenyah and Kayan community. Through pitchIN, they were able to raise enough to sustain them for subsequent events such as their performances and selling of handicrafts at the Pink Wigathon Charity Run and KLIA2 in September, 2015. The sape team of five were led by Matthew Ngau, world renowned heritage sape player, and they were joined by Alena Ose Murang, a former student of Matthew who has started teaching sape lessons in KL.
Part of the crew performing at KLIA2. The performance included the traditional warrior and hornbill feather dance, sape, jatung utang and singing.
What are their future plans?
Their last fundraising event of 2015 will be held at the Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival (KLEFF) this 17th and 18th of October. Alongside the selling of handicrafts such as artwork and jewellery, there will be sagak (traditional dance) and exquisite sape playing as well as workshops for these traditional arts.
In 2016, they will kick off WHEE! Baram, a rural community development programme involving youths aimed at strengthening English and IT usage of the rural children and folks. This will have a positive effect on the economy of the villages in the rural areas, as proficiency in English can help them carry out activities like running homestays and giving tours. Besides that, they are looking at rewards in terms of monetary incentives for school children who are attending tertiary education in 2017. They also intend to start free tuition for school children, as well as free sape and crafts workshops for the youths in the community.
Their ultimate dream is to build the DTLJ School of Arts and Performance. This is a long-term goal, and they acknowledge that while it will take them many years, starting the Education Trust is already a baby step towards their goal.
You can show your support for this initiative by volunteering with them, purchasing their handicrafts or giving monetary support.