An hour and a half from Sarawak’s capital, Kuching, lies a settlement with a gravel dirt path riddled with potholes. Kampung Sion is characterised by houses built like patchwork; using brick, wood or other materials that could put a roof over the residents’ heads.
In one of those houses lives Paulina Sari, 35, affectionately known as Puan Aida, along with her husband Ricky and sons, Carlos, 13 and Raphael, 12. In addition to water scarcity, there is also no electricity in the village, and Paulina used to walk half an hour to the nearest town, Tapah, to charge her mobile phone at a rate of RM1 per hour.
In the past, I walked to Tapah to pump water but we don’t have to do that anymore. Now, we have a water filter. I also had to walk to a store in Tapah to charge my mobile phone, RM1 per hour but now everything is at home. - Paulina Sari
Access to water and electricity are no longer on top of her list because Paulina and other villagers in Kampung Sion were assisted by the Communities Unite for Pure-water (CUP) programme - a project undertaken by Global Peace Foundation under Malaysia’s Social Outcome Fund. Funded by YTL Power, the programme provided solar panels to the residents of Kampung Sion.
Paulina is now able to concentrate on working and saving up for her children. As a mother, she dreams of seeing her boys wear a mortar board and graduating from university. She longs to one day display their graduation photos in her living room.
However, there’s a wishful undertone when speaking with Paulina. The reality is that she has overstayed in Malaysia as an Indonesian immigrant, and her sons can’t venture out of their tiny world due to their stateless status despite her husband being Malaysian.
Although it hasn’t been easy to obtain citizenship for her children, Paulina remains hopeful that Carlos and Raphael will be recognised as Malaysians and be granted their right to education. If her dream comes to fruition, her sons will be a step closer to pursuing their dreams. Carlos wants to be in the army. Raphael wants to work in immigration. They have high ambitions. It fills me with pride to see them harbour such dreams.
- Paulina Sari
Paulina has ambitions too. She wants to become the next kampung chief and be a catalyst of change to further develop her village - the only village she has called home. If I have an IC and become a citizen here, I would like to develop this kampung. I want to be the kampung chief and fix the road. I have a strong determination to see better days.
- Paulina Sari
Paulina never imagined seeing her children speak English or count, years ago. In spite of their poverty and plight, her boys have made her prouder by the day, and a mother’s love can move mountains. I pray and hope all my wishes for the boys will come true.
- Paulina Sari
The Learn From Home initiative has given Carlos and Raphael the chance to take part in the learning and education that every Malaysian child is entitled to. To Paulina, since her encounter with YTL Foundation in 2018, her life has never been the same - and in her words, “it can only get better from here”. Making Education Accessible for the Stateless in Sarawak" written by Wiki Impact
1. Malaysiakini.(2016). ‘290,437 stateless children in Malaysia. Link.
2. United Nations Human Rights Office Of The High Commissioner (2019). Statement by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, on his visit to Malaysia, 13-23 August 2019. Link