An experience in the plantations of Beluran

The four of us, EJ, Amy, Poh Choo and I traveled about 6 hours from Likas to Kampung Bambangan, Beluran. The place was deep in the palm oil plantations.

Although they were told that the program was for teens from 15-18 years old, more than 50 participants – children and mothers came to listen in during our sessions. Jell (coordinator from Sandakan) had to run an impromptu program for the children while the mothers looked for vegetables and cooked for us and the participants. Some even stayed overnight in the church so that they could prepare breakfast for us the next morning. We were touched.

The program we ran was the 'Keeping Me Safe’ Program aimed to educate youths on their rights and how to protect themselves.

What hurt me the most was the fact that the migrants were not able to go to school. I was talking to one Indonesian mother who said that her son Safri used to attend school in St. Mark, Lahad Datu. I guess that was the time when migrants were still allowed to go to regular school, but now they are not allowed to. So he works in the plantation. Her daughter aged 8-9 years old does not go to school either. I could not hold back the tears that was forming in my eyes. We have local youths who have the chance to go to school but decide to stop, and here we have migrant youths / children who want to go to school but cannot.

As for us in YouthPREP Centre, we continue to raise awareness among the youths on the plight of the migrants and our responsibility as fellow human beings to take care of each other, irrespective of our background, language or skin colour. After all, we are made in the same image and likeness of God.

By Anne Baltazar, Senior Program Officer