Pertubuhan Wanita Prihatin Perak (PWPP) organised its 6th freemarket yesterday. The first one was held in March this year at Chenderong near Batu Gajah. The second one in April at Kg Changkat Tin, Tg Tualang. The third in May at Kg Suak Petai, Manong. The fourth in June at Ashby Flats, Ipoh. The fifth in August at Manjung. This time, for the first time ever, we ventured deep into Orang Asli settlements, in Kg Ulu Geroh, Gopeng.
I've actually been to the place twice before, the first in 2011 for an awareness campaign. During that time, there was a part where we had to drive off-road before getting back onto the tarred road, and so we were advised to go in a 4 wheel drive. That was my first time ever driving a manual 4WD (it was a Pajero) and it turned out I was the only female driver. The second time I went to the very same kampung, it was for a trekking trip to see the rafflesia. The tour operators drove us there.
Having been there twice, I kind of knew what to expect. When a few PWPP committee members went to recce the place and to discuss with the head of the community about our freemarket project, I didn't worry at all about driving there in my faithful old Kenari. We finally fixed the date for 4th September, asked their tok batin for the number of families staying in the community so we could prepare the necessary amount of food items to bring along.
So on the morning of 4th September 2016, we met up near the Gopeng roundabout, before we went in convoy to the Orang Asli settlement. The drive took between 20 to 30 minutes.
Also joining us were staff of Klinik Kesihatan Gopeng, who provided free medical check-up (plus papsmear).
Despite the worries of a few members of the organisation about going deep into Orang Asli settlement with the different culture etc, things went really well. In fact, the Orang Asli people there were obviously more disciplined and well-mannered when it came to taking the free items we brought along with us, compared to the supposedly more "civilized" areas we went to before. Nobody even attempted to try get something while we were setting things up despite us working in open spaces, and even when we told them that they could start choosing the items, they didn't rush to grab the things. In fact, they asked first if they had to pay, and when we said everything was free, they asked if they were only entitled to one item each. And the best part was, we received more "terima kasih" here in the Orang Asli community, compared to the other places we've been to before. So seriously, if you think the Orang Asli people are less civilized, think again.
Overall, it was a wonderful experience. For an adventure and nature loving person like me, this is the kind of place I'd go to whenever I need a break from work. (In fact after the freemarket was over, I did go to the nearby Ulu Geruntum waterfalls for a short while, that was the place where I did waterfall abseiling slightly over 4 years ago.) I'm pretty sure the other volunteers too enjoyed the experience of organising a freemarket for the Orang Asli community. Beautiful place. Calming rivers. Lovely people.