Miri – 5 December 2012 – Four John Curtin Leadership Academy (JCLA) student ambassadors of Curtin University Sarawak Malaysia (Curtin Sarawak) recently organised their ‘The Forgotten Smiles’ project at a Penan village in Long Lamam.
‘The Forgotten Smiles’ project is a dental outreach project championed by JCLA ambassadors Esther Ling, 21, who is the project leader and a third-year electrical power engineering student; third-year mechanical engineering student Aaron Leong, 25; second-year chemical engineering students Joyce Wong, 21 and Kristy Nyagang, 21; and third-year chemical engineering student Sarven Shan, 23.
The project is primarily aimed at improving the dental health and hygiene of remote Penan communities in the interior. It also aims to raise public awareness, particularly amongst urban Malaysians, of the plight of the Penans and their access to health services.
According to Ling, although the Penans face many issues that need to be highlighted, she and her team members found out that by narrowing down the issues, they were able to devise a more beneficial approach to help the community at Long Lamam
“The Penan communities have concerns such as electricity supply, healthcare, education and transportation, but it is impossible for us to address all of them given our limited resources. Thus, we chose to focus on dental health and hygiene,” she said.
Ling related that the team conducted a preliminary survey with the Long Lamam community and discovered that the majority could not afford toothbrushes or toothpaste.
She said getting to village was very challenging, involving an 8-hour journey on logging roads, followed by a boat ride. The cost of transportation alone came to almost RM2,000. Furthermore, travelling on the logging roads posed a dangerous risk, particularly during the current monsoon season.
Nevertheless, it was a memorable experience for the team, which is looking forward to planning further projects and activities with the Penans at Long Lemam.
Apart from dental health and hygiene, the team would like to help the community improve its water piping system and possibly organise a music workshop for the village youth if time permits.
To sustain its efforts, the team requires monetary support from interested individuals and organisations.
“We welcome public support for our initiatives. For ‘The Forgotten Smiles’ project, we need funds for transportation, dental supplies including toothbrushes and toothpaste, as well as foodstuffs,” remarked Ling.
For more information on ‘The Forgotten Smiles’ project, e-mail Esther Ling at [email protected] or contact Sarven Shan at 012-349 5828. One can also visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheForgottenSmilesProject.
Information on Curtin Sarawak can be obtained from its website at www.curtin.edu.my. It can also be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CurtinUniversitySarawakMalaysia and on Twitter at twitter.com/CurtinSarawak.