Whenever I needed to take a break from my voluntary work, usually I’d organise an adventure trip somewhere with my adventure loving gal-friends. White water rafting… caving… hiking… and the likes. Or sometimes I’d just grab a promotional low-fare air ticket and travel somewhere.
After rounds of back-to-school shopping in December, I felt I needed another break. But my next planned trip is in early Feb. Nothing earlier.
Then suddenly one of the worst floods hit Malaysia, particularly the east coast, seeing homes destroyed, and people struggling to get back on their feet. For those who did not lose their homes, cleaning up the mess in a house full of mud is no easy task.
It then dawned on me that maybe my adventure-loving friends may want to help and clean one or two houses. So I asked, and the next thing I got were positive responses. Immediately I started organising things. This was going to be another voluntary work (nothing to do with my usual voluntary work though) AND at the same time an adventure for us since none of us had done anything like this before. Adventure and voluntary work combined. A perfect kind of break for me!
First, to choose a place. The floods in Kelantan was more devastating, however the road conditions are bad and we’d take longer to get there. We’re just a group of ladies and none of us had a four wheel drive. In the end we opted to go to Temerloh, which was also badly affected, but more easily accessible via the highway, although when the plan was first thought out, part of the highway was still closed to all vehicles. We figured that by the time we planned to go (that was from 10th to 11th January), the flood water would recede and the highway would be opened.
Meanwhile, the planning and preparations continued. I got a friend in Pahang to scout around for a house to clean. My target was to clean the house of either a single mother or an elderly person. We weren’t targeting many homes as we knew we had limitations in terms of manpower (or should I say womanpower?) and time. We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone, right?
Since we were going ourselves, we thought we might as well bring some necessities for the flood victims. So next thing was to ask for contributions in cash and in kind. Transportation too needed to be arranged. How would we be going? Whose car?
Preparations went quite well. The friend in Pahang did our homework for us. Other than identifying a house for us to clean, she also informed us of the necessities most sought after at this time… blankets, comforters, pillows etc. She even got us free accommodation for the night at her brother’s quarters. Despite doing things on a small scale, we still managed to get close to RM10K in contributions. Malaysians in general are such kind-hearted people!
Monday, 10th January 2015: 7 of us made a move in 3 vehicles… one MPV, one SUV and one sedan. All 3 full of stuff either to be used to clean the house identified, or to be distributed to affected kampong-folks. Another lady with her 3 children joined in another car; although they were just going for a day trip and not staying overnight.
Our first destination was the quarters where we were spending the night. That would be our “base” in Temerloh. Met up with Jehan from MNS Pahang who was on a “Back-to-school” voucher distribution mission and passed her 50 school bags we had bought in KL so she could distribute them together with the vouchers.
After unloading things from our vehicles, leaving only the items needed for our cleaning mission, we headed off to the house identified. The house belonged to Pakcik J, a 70 year old man without children, staying all by himself. When we arrived, a group of guys (volunteers from another group) were just done clearing the mud from inside Pakcik J’s house. Phew! We were spared from having to carry out one of the toughest work in the mission! All we had to do then was to clean the house.
However, we weren’t THAT lucky. Apparently there was a burst pipe somewhere and so there was no water supply at Pakcik J’s house. Thankfully however, the day before I had asked my Pahang contact to buy a water tank big enough to store some water. So although we would have preferred to use a water-jet (which we did bring along with us), we had no choice but to use pails of water to wash the walls and floor of Pakcik’s house
Given the limited source of water, I think we did considerably well, although we weren’t quite satisfied with the results. We told Pakcik’s younger sister (who’d be there almost every day to cook) to call us if there was water supply the next morning.
Since there wasn’t much we could do at Pakcik’s house on day 1, by noon we headed back to our base to sort out items to be distributed to flood victims. By 2pm, we were on the move again. Again, we had to depend on our Pahang contact to show us the way. The first house we visited was the home of a single mother with 7 children – all still studying. This was one family which would need help even without the flood. Next, we went to distribute the items we brought to flood victims in badly affected kampongs. The occupants of all the houses visited were all happy to get the comforters, travel mattresses, pillows and blankets we offered them. According to them, nobody has yet to offer them those items. Ever since they returned home, most of them had been sleeping on mats.
Distribution of the items ended our activities for day 1. We headed back to our base to get a good rest, anticipating that we would continue cleaning up Pakcik J’s house the next day.
As anticipated, Pakcik J’s sister called us the next morning to inform us that water supply was back. So off we went, to complete our initial mission. Although there was no electricity, someone came with a water pump generator set, complete with a jet spray. That would definitely make it much easier to clean the walls and floor of the Pakcik’s house.
However, because of the roof high floods that took place earlier, there was mud so thick all around Pakcik’s house. If we were to spray lots of water to clean the inside of the house, where would the water flow? Even the hole in the bathroom where water was supposed to flow out, was fully covered by soil and mud from the outside. The solution? We had to come-up with a make-shift drainage system first…
With the jet spray, it was so much easier to wash the inside of the house. The walls which were brownish when we came, turned white after being sprayed. We even used detergents to clean the house. Someone even commented that the house was even cleaner that it was before the floods.
We were done by around 1 pm. Cleared our things, said our goodbyes (Pakcik’s sister who was there again to cook for us, hugged us all even though we were dirty and smelly) and headed back to our base to shower and got ready to head home.
We left Temerloh by about 4 pm. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.