Over the last several years Friends of Malaysia has fostered a number of service projects in Malaysia to continue the commitment. It is nearly 46 years since the first Peace Corps Volunteer landed on a hot muggy afternoon in Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu) North Borneo, (Sabah) yet many of us still see the need to support Malaysia's efforts to grow and resolve disparities throughout the country. With all of the changes, and progress, that have come to Malaysia there have also been continuing problems of poverty, dislocation and limited opportunities for some. In addition with people living longer lives and changing dietary habits some diseases have become more prevalent. We as an association of returned volunteers have set as one of our goals to continue to assist NGO's, educational institutions and voluntary groups to achieve a higher quality of life for our friends and families in Malaysia.
One of the great ironies of the computer revolution is that many of the components “inside the box” are made in Malaysia. Malaysia has become a media center for programmers and content developers in and around Kuala Lumpur. Yet many schools in Malaysia, especially in rural areas, do not have access to computers or people trained in their use. Early on in the “computer revolution” FoM stepped in to provide computers to a school in rural Sabah. A small but important step in bringing a rural community closer to the electronic frontier.
In the early nineties electric power had reached the larger and intermediate cities and towns across Malaysia but many rural villages, long-houses, were without electricity. The Borneo Project(http://www.borneoproject.org/) set out to provide small hydro electric power generating plants to kampongs in Sabah and Sarawak. FoM provided the financial capital to establish one of these generating plants and wire a long-house deep in the interior of Sabah, approximately $US3,000. Training was provided to help the locals maintain the plant and install the electric wiring to allow each house to have limited access to electricity. Much effort went into creating a local steering committee to allocate power, maintain the plant and collect revenues to cover the cost of operation.
Approximately ten years ago we began to read about the increasing awareness and incidence of breast cancer amongst Malaysian women. Coincidentally two of our members died of breast cancer and that made the issue personal. We sought out a reliable partner in Malaysia who helped us identify an appropriate project to support. During the last three years we have provided nearly $US4,000 in funds to provide nurse training and training devices to assist women in examining their and encouraging them to get early diagnosis and treatment. One in twenty Malaysian women are diagnosed with breast cancer and the number of women that go untreated and undetected is thought to be much higher especially in rural areas. We have sought to provide assistance in rural areas. We also contributed $US200 to the Malaysia Cancer Society.
In the US we co-sponsored a Reading Program for International Children’s Book Day featuring Malaysian Children’s Favorite Stories. Books about Malaysia were read in several 3,300 schools in 30 states across the country. Children had the opportunity to ask more than 40 returned Peace Corps volunteers about the country and their experiences in Malaysia. We also contributed to the World Wide Schools program developed by the National Association of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. (http://www.rpcv.org/)
Over the last fifteen years the FoM have contributed nearly $US 13,000 to these various projects. We are currently exploring additional projects to support in rural Malaysia and utilize our resources wisely as a commitment to our donors and members to the people of Malaysia..
If you have any suggestions or ideas please contact us at: ThaineAllison@gmail.com
(this article was first written in 2009 and has been updated since then)