Rebuilding Stolen Hopes (Part 1)

The story of CAFP post flood aid mission 2015 in Kg Lulut, Gua Musang
It came. It destroyed. It went away. The flood that raged the rural areas of Kelantan along the river banks and continued downstream had left the villages crippled, isolated and devastated. No one had anticipated the annual flooding to become a ruthless tsunami that showed no mercy. Incessant rain in the afternoon had become unstoppable flow of gushing water; and by dusk it overflowed the main river and found its way into the kampong and the low-lying areas where most of the folks live. It was havoc, as the sun went down and the water kept rising, recalled a victim in Kg Lulut, Gua Musang, we filled the sampan with small kids and paddled to the shelter. Nothing much we could save. His eyes filled with empty tears as the future looks so bleak, so far-reaching. The aftermath was unbelievable and beyond anyone’s imagination. Only fate kept many alive. But to rebuild the life of the past 40-50 years that has been completely washed away is utterly hopeless.
CAFP (Cakna Alumni Faris Petra) was formed as a response to that hopelessness. What can we do? There must be something we can do to help this people. With that simple question and that simple aim we set out a task force under CAFP and rolled out our strategies, plans and actions. It took a month to coordinate the workforce, volunteers and financial supports. And then finally, with 130-strong volunteers and nearly 80K in cash and kinds donated by alumnae, friends, family and the public, we set forth to our targeted kampong- Kg Lulut@Kuala Sungai, Gua Musang about 5 hours drive from KL. The drive was normal until we turned off the main road and started our way into the estate; for one hour the car bumped up and down,jolted left and right deep into the darkness. As maneuvering the car to avoid the many potholes and landslides, I couldn’t imagine that there would be a bunch of people living at the end of this terrible road. The first sight of Kg lulut proved that the flood was enormous and damaged most of the community there-the school, the mosque and the houses. We were speechless to say the least but very fortunate to finally be here for the mission. All the preparations have to be materialized and executed within our short stay in Kg Lulut.
As we arrived late that afternoon, most of the equipments and building materials have been shipped there and many more is coming in even though the darkness had started to descend upon us. It was silent and at the same eerie to see that we were slowly enveloped by the night. Electricity and running water had yet to be restored and all of us were running around in the dark trying to do something to help volunteers settled for the night. It was a brief panic as we used to have all these facilities at the flick of a finger and now the stubborn darkness has no reason to go away. The empty rooms at the hostel were cold, dirty and lifeless as I was running from one room to another like a child looking for his lost toys. I heard the water running but when I turned on the tap it was nothing; and a quick enquiry with the plumbers there told me that you better stopped asking questions or we all will never get a wash tonight or tomorrow. I backed off and let them do the job. This does not look good, I told myself; but nothing could be done so be it. One thing I learnt that night was never to underestimate a disaster area, you must come prepared from A-Z. I retreated that night without anticipating anything from this place. Nothing at all . Alhamdulillah ,however, everything just got better and better although many of us had to force ourselves to sleep before the sun comes up again for another busy day. Many volunteers arrived late at night with full load at the back of their 4×4 pick-up trucks. Most of us were there waiting for the morning sun to shine bright on our mission and meet the people of this place. Welcome to Kg Lulut everyone …….

Rebuilding Stolen Hopes (Part 2)

As the sunlight streaming through the orchards, the real strength of the flood was revealed. The muddy debris were all over the place, the stranded cars still remain cold by the roadside, the damaged houses trying to tell the horror side of their stories every time you look at them and the people always forced a smile as we greet; the cold hands and empty looks scratched your heart and begged for empathy. Not a whole lot just a bit of compassion to live by. I looked up to the sky to hold back my tears and asked for my own strength to fulfill this mission. These people will go on living as they were with or without me; let it be my friends and I that will carve a new future for them. Our volunteers started to gather for the day’s event. A bus load of them were from The Youth Academy in Port Dickson. They looked strong, healthy and eager to do the job. I believe in them that today they will deliver their promise to help up; as I do in all young people especially UiTM students that I deal with everyday. Many youngsters have positive outlook in life only if the older generation can hold to their patience and listen to what the youth has to say. The other group from UiTM has yet to arrive as the sun started to heat the ground. TM (our field commander) has started to give instructions and set up the squads according to his targeted areas.

The equipments were all ready to be wheeled out into the field. I would say the operation started well and it seemed everyone knows the task to be carried out. Today the volunteers will wear orange t-shirt with mask, gloves and boots; a proper outfit for the disaster area. One group will do the repair job and another group will do the cleaning. The locals seemed to open up their houses and let these volunteers went in and helped them wash the muddy dishes, pots and pans. It was an endless task as the muddy stains just never seem to go away. If you were in their position you would give a hopeless stare as well to all the dirty dishes; the energy has just gone and washed away with the flood water. No one will never understand this until you sit down and try to scrub away the pots and pans. Our volunteers have done that meticulously while putting a little smile on their hard stone faces. We can never estimate the degree of trauma that these people have gone through but being there with friendly faces and generous gestures will give them some ideas that there are people out there that will drop everything, travelled for hundreds of kilometers just to come and see how they are doing. The repair team had done excellent jobs as well; putting up better shelter for the family and amended whatever needed for the houses. The operations were done professionally by our experts and the outcome has been tremendously awesome. No one expected a delivery of woods, planks and the rest of building materials to arrive at 3 in the morning, or the running water to be available within a few hours; but CAFP team has proved that to be true. The coordination in the field runs like a clockwork and we have delivered beyond our own expectation. Bravo CAFP!

 
As the day was heated up, the dust terribly made the air thick and sticky. It’s time to break for lunch. F&B were provided by Nanoe, our alumni as well, who owns a famous restaurant in Pasir Mas (Kamal Restoren) and the meals have been fabulously delicious. So even though we were in the middle of a disaster area, we were served well with Kelantan famous dishes like tuna curry(gulai lemak ikan ayo) and Nanoe’s signature dish – beef kerutub. There were chicken BBQ as well served with rice and bread. So the meals were superb; just another reason to come back and do this again sometime soon. In the afternoon, the operations continued in a more relaxed and joyful manner as everyone started to feel good with one another and know each other better. A group of CAFP team made an excursion to the nearby village to assess the damage and lend some kind of help. A short boat ride down stream took them to a small village of Kg. Bujang. The devastation was similar all over and four of the houses really need help. Has anyone ever go there to look at the place? I asked in dismay. Nope they were left with little help, neglected and isolated. The real horror of the big flood has started to unfold as we graced the ground of Kg Lulut and its vicinity like Kg Bujang,Kg. Jeram Landak, Kg Serasa and Kg Mela. The team came back with a report and would assess for our future mission. The afternoon operations ended about 5pm and everyone just hung around chatting with the folks of Kg Lulut; a relationship blossomed and feelings mutually exchanged. The repair team, however, continued deep into the night.That night we held a feast for everyone in Kg Lulut. Many turned up and enjoyed a movie at the side. A talk by Zaid Mohamad followed suit entitled “ Perjuangan Yang perlu Diteruskan”. We gave out a hamper of everything to each household and they seemed to be satisfied with the gift. The night ended with a fireworks show that exclaimed our presence there and the mission we set to accomplish.

Rebuilding Stolen Hopes (Part 3)

The misty Sg. Lebir
We woke up early the next day to freshen up at the nearby mosque. The morning was cold and misty. The mosque was empty only a handful of the locals attended the fajr prayers. The faith is not everything here , I guess, a practice for the olds and the others. As we walked through the kampong, the cold  morning remained silent and quiet. I crossed my arms and squeezed my chest to escape the cold but the morning took me back to the time of my childhood. This would be the moment I prepared to go to school with my short pants and heavy bag; the cold morning gripped my legs and knees. I would sit shivering for a while until I got the heat back. The breeze of yesteryears blew again that morning making me realized that the only way to escape from those difficult times is to hang on to the hopes and dreams. And here in this kampong those two have been shattered to pieces or stolen away. We walked towards the river of Kg Lulut. As the river flowed quietly; people were going and coming ashore from God knows where. From the distance a couple of slow boats approaching the river bank; emerging from the misty river with full load of people. OMG! They are school children coming for the session today. I was stunned and disbelieved.
all boats handled by the mothers…
scaling up the riverbank …….
can the boy compete fairly with the city kids?
yes this is  my life…do you have problem with it?!
 After 58 years of independence we still have kids coming to school by a sampan. One by one the kids crawled up the riverbank with school bag and all. Today is the first day of school  for the little one, the mother told us. They started the journey at 6.30 am and arrived here at 7.30 am just in time for the school bell. For a one-hour boat ride, I just could not imagine the discomfort that these kids had to endure. And we talk about a fair platform to measure performance; is this fair?  I was raged and sad at the same time; but again what else can we do except for continued doa and prayers for their strength and success. Looking at those kids as they scale the riverbank up to the pathway leading to their school, I could not hold my tears back, so heartbreaking. This is their life; either, before the flood or after the flood. Like the river itself that flows continuously disregard of what has happened.
Pupils of SK Kg Lulut@Kuala Sungai: the first day of school (1 Feb 2015)
The school session started with an assembly of small attendees and a handful of fresh looking teachers. The school environment, I must say, still remains its integrity as an entity to provide education for the future generations. That school in Kg Lulut is no exception although the flood has left them with muddy walls  and dirty floors.
We left Kg. Lulut later that morning with heavy hearts and swollen eyes. This is not my kampong but for the last two days it has become part of me and a big part of CAFP. We promised to come back and do a lot more for this kampong but the future always remain uncertain. Until then may the Almighty protect this place from further destructions and help us to rebuild the stolen hopes and shattered dreams.

 

So long, people!

Rebuilding Stolen Hopes (Part 4)


The Heroes Among Us : Cuci-cuci Squad 

 


The pots and pans were cleaned piece by piece as Kak Na talked to the volunteers from Akademi Belia Negara Port Dickson

When was the last time you clean the dirty dishes or stained pots and pans? Well these folks like the job so much they came all the way from PD or KL just to scrub the stubborn mud off. It was a dirty job but some has to do it. After a month from the big flood, the utensils in these households remain unwashed. Cuci-cuci has been our primary goal for this mission as the aftermath of the flood would leave unimaginable volume of garbage and the things that remained in the house or around it would be dirty and mud-stained. We salute our volunteers’ commitment to spend time and do this unglamorous task, without these highly motivated folks the mission of CAFP to Kg Kuala Sungai may not be accomplished. Besides cleaning, the squad also spent time to know the family better and listened to the horror tales of the big yellow flood. How they finally agreed to evacuate and left all the belongings to the rage of flood waters. And how they were stuck in the shelter for days without proper food and supplies. We may never replace their memories but the presence of this squad may help them to reconcile with the reality.

Cameron(Scotland) and Callum (England) , exchange students staying with family Abg Mae & Kak Az joined in as well.

 

The squad being briefed by TM (our field commander)

 

eager to start as the morning started to heat up

 

Life goes on. Indeed, life in Kuala Sungai has been back to normal with the help of many NGOs like these squad members. After a good whole of cleaning, the task still seemed impossible to complete. The stubborn mud that has now become hardening clay would remain there as a witness that once the water had reached this part of the village; the time when all hell broke loose. The people seemed to be receptive of this squad and glad to know that someone do care and really came down here to help. May this small effort will bring a little smile and promising hope so that their future looks dry and bright after all.
The spades and cangkul : tagged and ready to go
The wheel barrows from JPM
The waterjets : importat piece of equipment to shoot the stubborn mud
The cleaning accessories ready to be wheeled out