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Kampung In Focus Same country, different world

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Same country, different world PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 December 2009 00:24

The SABM Special Events group revisits the Jinjang Utara transit homes. A first person account by Ruth, who recently joined the team


Giunavathi: The strength of a woman – laughter despite fears.

It was my first visit to Jinjang Utara that bright Saturday morning on Nov 7, but the others in my team had been there before. It was obvious they were fondly remembered.

We were enthusiastically ushered into the tiny dwelling that is home to a couple, Thamotharan and Giunavathi, who regard themselves as the parents of 15 children. This is despite their having lost four of them – three miscarriages and a premature birth that sadly ended in death the same day itself.

It was evident they loved their children, but I could not help but wonder why they chose to have that many.

The youngest of the children, Uwaraani Thamotharan, is a very recent addition, born prematurely on Oct 23, 2009. She has yet to be discharged from the KL General Hospital as she is very much underweight.


At birth, she weighed a mere 1kg. Her weight subsequently dropped and caused the parents some anxiety but the latest news is that Uwaraani has since then gained more than a kilo. The doctors have said she can go home when her weight stabilises at 1.8kg.

Thamotharan and Giunavathi were visibly anxious about her situation when we visited them but in no way did that interfere with the hospitality they showed us. It was clear they did not expect any assistance but just knowing we cared made a huge difference.


One of Thamo's boys, Loga, brought us to a playground where a church group had just finished conducting activities for children in that area. We talked to some of the teachers and were impressed that the church had been running this programme for over 10 years.

I privately wondered if this programme had yielded any results. Little did I know I would get my answer soon.

As we chatted, one of the teachers pointed to someone some distance away and said: "There's the leader. Why don't you talk to her?"

I strained my eyes to see the woman leader as she drew nearer. Curiosity turned to disbelief for she turned out to be a mere 17-year-old put in charge of the children’s ministry!


Jeevitha: Passionate about paving the way forward.

Jeevitha is shy and unassuming, and obviously embarrassed by the attention she was getting. It is so clear that she is driven by a passion for the children.

"My life was touched by this programme when I was young," Jeevitha admitted when asked what motivated her. "Now it's my turn to pass it on."

When asked how she had benefited specifically from the programme, she revealed that she used to be impatient and had a temper but now she is able to control it. In taking on a leadership role, she  developed patience when dealing with the children. Her character, through the programme, had undergone a transformation, she said.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” we wanted to know. She hesitated slightly, probably wondering if we were expecting an answer along the lines of a 'noble' profession like ‘doctor’ or ‘nurse’ or ‘teacher’.

When pressed, she shyly said she wanted to be an interior designer. As I observed her, I knew that with her determination and passion, Jeevitha could be anything she wanted to be and a great one at that.

Oh yes, that programme had certainly yielded some results - some truly amazing ones. I was humbled by the answer.


Neighbours exchanging news.

We moved along and met Kak Leha and Gan Poh Poh, two good friends who thoroughly enjoy each other’s company. We engaged them in some friendly banter but they suddenly became serious and suggested we visit a neighbour who was in dire straits.

"We don't really need anything at the moment," Leha and Poh Poh said, "but perhaps you should check up on Saras."

We discovered Saras had been staying there for the past 18 years. She was finding it extremely hard making ends meet after the death of her husband due to liver failure on Aug 15.


Saras and her son: Every day brings a new set of challenges.

Widowed at 48 and suffering from a serious case of asthma, Saras seemed at a loss as to how to provide for herself and Joshua, her 14-year-old son. Her electricity supply had been cut off and merely standing at her doorstep, we felt her house was like a furnace under the burning sun.

I wondered how she coped.

She shared with us that she now faced financial difficulties since the death of her husband. When asked how much she would need to see her through a month, she said she needed over RM100.00 to pay for the electricity (RM30), water (RM30) and the house rental (RM45).

When asked about relatives, Saras’ eyes filled with tears as she said brokenly: “I don’t know why my parents don’t like me.” She began to relate some of her past but then stopped abruptly because it was too much for her.

We proceeded to ask about her son. She informed us, almost apologetically, that he still needed a school bag, school uniform and a pair of shoes (size 6).

We said we would try to see what could be done to help her but we could make no promises. She was still grateful.

As our car left the area and the transit houses disappeared from our view, I knew I had the option of going home to my comforts and casting aside what I had witnessed. But I couldn’t.

It is the stark reality that in a country so abundant with opportunities, there are real needs.




We have much to learn and to reconcile. SABM will be hosting a special forum on United Nations Year of Reconciliation on Saturday, Dec 5. Among the topics discussed will be urban poverty. You can view the details here. Do come.

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