Friday 4 April 2014

My randoms thoughts on the gravity-fed water project at Ulu Wak, Pakan, Sarawak from 15th  February to 23rd February 2014 - by YKHon

The Impian Sarawak programme

I was told that this is a 9 day project for volunteers to bring water to the Iban folks at Ruman Panjang at Ulu Wak, Pakan. Of course it is. But for me as a volunteer, it is much more than this. Very much more. For me, it is a programme that allows me to be far from the maddening crowd in cities. Living a simple life for 9 days with no handphones, no internet.

It is a homestay programme with the Iban coomunity, a rare opportunity for me to learn about a culture I know very little. It is a programme for me to be with nature, near to of rivers and forests. And miles of unpaved roads with practically no vehicles. It is a programme for me to meet and to learn from other volunteers of different ages and backgrounds

The Ulu Wak, Pakan water project

I have never heard of Ulu Wak nor Pakan before. Even now, I only know that the town nearest to Pakan is Sarikei and Sarikei is about 85 km from Sibu. Work on the project was carried out jointly by our volunteers and the locals. I enjoyed the gotong-royong atmosphere : talking through the steps and sharing out work as a team.

The main tasks include hauling sand and cement up a 700-metre trek up the dam site, building a mini dam over a flowing water source, connecting the pipes from the dam site to the longhouse and removing trapped air in the pipes for the smooth flow of water. Nothing particularly difficult and teamwork gets everything done before the schedule.

The volunteers 

There are 11 people in the volunteering team - 7 males, 4 females. Notable ones include one ex mechanical engineer AW who happens to be a DIY expert on plumbing and electrical matters. The youngest member AM is in his late teens waiting to go to a university. His wide general knowledge amazes me.

We have a Malay ex-engineer ZM as a volunteer. He adapts very well in our predominantly Chinese team. Some young members spoke really good Bahasa.

My sweet memories of the programme

2 informal cultural nights of Iban dances. Our coordinators in the Rumah Panjang C and RA danced very well. On one occasion 2 of our girls put on full Iban costume and danced. They are very talented. And they looked pretty. Really pretty.

− mandi sungai

− my 2 hour solo walk on the road on our free-and-easy day to enjoy the wild and barren landscape

− our tour of Sibu on the last day and the good food in Sibu town

- the wedding party with non-stop music on our free-and-easy day

- there are no shops in our Rumah Ranjang area. One afternoon a van selling sundries dropped by to sell its goods. An icecream sells for 30sen.


In Malaysia, volunteering is an under-rated activity for personal development and for nation-building. And for me, I am truly thankful that I am given this volunteering opportunity in this Impian Sarawak project. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. And I hope to come back for another one.

Volunteer Albert Wong and YK Hon

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