Pujut, a district in the town of Miri, is home to many charming residences, one of the town’s popular shopping malls and an iconic landmark – Sarawak Energy’s (SESCO) power centre. Like most urban cities, tucked away in the shadows lie urban poor communities who go unnoticed by many.
These urban poor communities are located along the banks of Sungai Baong (Baong River) and are mostly inaccessible by car. In order to get there, one would have to park at the roadside and take a walk towards the direction of the river before seeing a slum area, known commonly as 'Pujut Corner'. The homes there do not have proper access to water and electricity, but somehow the community survives and makes do with whatever limited resources that they do have.
Local volunteer group giving out food to the households while conducting the survey
It was around this time last year when a group of locals, who were passionate about making a difference in the community, decided to visit Pujut Corner and see how they could help. They bought food like rice, oil and canned items to give to these households, at the same time conducting a survey to find out more about the demographics of the community. Within their capacity, they identified 3 communities consisting of 48 households in the area.
We've always worked with schools in Sabah & Sarawak and it has always been our desire to reach out to more than just schools in East Malaysia. Pujut Corner is special to us because it is the first urban poor community outside of the Klang Valley that we gained access into.
There are a total of 57 school-going age children.
We identified within this community a need for education support because there were a lot of school-going children in the community who were failing in their studies and losing interest, causing drop outs to happen. Whilst the team went to work planning solutions on how we could help them improve their literacy over the long term, we also identified other key needs that we could meet in the immediate term.
Fabian meeting with the canteen operator to share about the Super Sarapan Program
Through our local contacts, we connected with some of the schools in Miri to see if they were open to us bringing in the Super Sarapan program for students from low-income families. One of these schools was SK Pujut Corner--a primary school where a bulk of the Pujut Corner children attend school.
Speaking to a teacher from one of the schools, she shared that some of the children from the Super Sarapan program come from families where their grandparents are the main caregivers. The grandparents do not earn much, hence they are also unable to provide much for the children. Some who do live with their parents however also face financial difficulties at home because their mothers are usually unemployed while their fathers do not have a stable income job.
What a difference a meal makes!
Since we started Super Sarapan in Miri, we have been feeding 170 students a meal in school everyday. Only 2 weeks into the program and the teacher shared with our volunteer how one of her students have been getting full attendance in school. When she asked him why, he said: "Sebab sekolah ada bagi makan" (Because the school provides food).
This is also possible thanks to the generous support given to us by corporates like CIMB Foundation, a group of staff from Shell Malaysia who fundraised for us, and individual donors who give consistently to ensure the children have food the entire school year!
But the story doesn't end here.
There are many students here who come from households that can only afford one school uniform a year. For some, they have to go through the hassle of ensuring their uniforms are cleaned & dried every single day so that they can wear it the next. And for others, they have to make the difficult choice of going to school with a soiled or damp uniform and risk the jeers of their classmates or skip school altogether.
We believe that these children deserve the best and that includes having all that they need to continue accessing the basic rights to education. If that means that they are clothed with brand new uniforms to give them dignity to go to school and focus on what’s important – learning, that’s what we’re committed to giving them.
Shell staff team who fundraised for Super Sarapan in Miri.
With generous contributions by individuals from last year's Christmas campaign, we were able to provide these same students with a back-to-school package, one which includes 2 new school uniforms, a new pair of shoes and socks, and a school bag to help them go to school with confidence.
Our partner Outpost Uniform, a local uniform company, went as far as sending their Miri branch staff in with our volunteers to personally take measurements for every single child, ensuring that the children receive a fitting pair of uniform. From the measurements to the packing and the distribution, their dedication showed when the back-to-school packages came labelled with the child's name. Talk about going the extra mile!
Without the collective care and kindness of our individual donors, canteen operators, teachers, corporate partners, suppliers and volunteers we wouldn't have been able to do what we did for the Pujut Corner children in providing their basic needs this year.
While we're meeting their immediate basic needs, we know that this initiative has positive impact on these students in the long run because it supports their access to basic education - the key to helping them break out of the poverty cycle. And we're committed to continuing with more children. It's our hope that these children will stay in school and thrive within the system.
This Christmas, learn more about how an unconventional gift-exchange can help to transform a child's or family's life trajectory.