Midnight Route, Jalan Pudu, 01.30am, Sat.11th September, 2010.

About Me

Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory, Malaysia
The truth, the people, and the adventures of a Reach Out volunteer as he struggles through the obstacles of NGO work with the urban and rural poor of Malaysia. An adventurer who travels a fair bit but who is determined to settle down to a more stable existence. Is easy to keep as a pet as long as he is given regular bars of chocolate and curry puff's. Dislikes deceit and those with ego's, but as a Scotsman, enjoys wearing the Kilt and shocking people with the sight of his legs.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

From The Heart

Sometimes you just need three little letters to make a difference.

Y.E.S. That's all. Just three letters.

I finished the late run with Reach Out and got home bout 4am Sunday. Then it was up in the morning, a full day running about, gardening and the normal household chores. So at 4pm I was tired, looking forward to a long shower, a hot cup of coffee, and a smoke.
And so it happened.
Got all those done and the phone went off.
It was a message from a friend Shyam, who was asking for a boat for relief work in Kedah.
So I called around and couldn't get one so instead asked her if she needed water, food, clothes etc to which she replied in the affirmative.
I then contacted Datin Sury of Reach Out and asked if we could donate some food, etc, from our stock. I got an instant yes.
By 6pm Shyam was preparing to go up north, as was Sury and Enn. So I grabbed Feexa and decided we would all go up to help.
The emergency response kit that I am used to packing was arranged in quick time and by 8pm Sunday night we were on the road having met Sury and Enn at Tescos in Shah Alam to get some extra dry biscuits.
By 1am we had reached the Alor Setar Utara toll and waited for our local contact Mike, who had put out the SOS onto Facebook that Shyam had originally responded to.
Mike and Joanne arrived and were an immediate delight.
Well spoken, down to earth, genuine caring human beings.
Joanne is a little girl with a huge heart and had been fund raising and going into tough flooded areas at night to help those in need. I was humbled by the work her and Mike had been doing and it showed to me great courage and compassion. The true unsung heroes.
After a briefing and due to rising water, safety, and security issues I made the decision with the team that we could not get into the worst affected areas during hours of darkness and would wait till first light but in the meantime we would visit evacuation centres to assess the needs and get local on the ground intelligence.
We visited two different Government schools that were housing evacuees and this lesson was of great importance as we were able to find out which kampungs had been evacuated and this would save us time and allow us to get into areas that had not seen much relief, if any at all.
We then scoured Alor Setar and Kuala Kedah for 7-11 shops where we bought pampers, sanitary towels and baby milk powder that we didn't have and that we learned were in short supply.
From there we had a hearty breakfast of roti canai, and although our guides wanted to park on the road leading into the flooded areas I decided to go and park in a secure area, the best of which, as directed by Mike, was in the Sultan Abdul Halim Stadium.
Two hours sleep in the car saw us awake to an astounding sight!
Hundreds of evacuees were thronging the car park. Conditions there were basic to say the least. Excitement of the morning was certainly trying to use the portaloos. Not fun for the girls!!
I chatted with Sury whilst we waited for Mike to arrive, (he had to leave to attend to his home which was flooding for the second time in 24 hours), about the number of 12 ton army trucks parked beside us. Sury commented that she could drive one and I jokingly said that it would be great if we could get a truck for our run.
The next thing I know, off goes Sury chats with one of the soldiers, and comes back announcing, quite matter of fact, that we had a truck.
Stunned! I was stunned.!
We met the CO and were given a truck and three army personnel to help us.
Having loaded our goodies onto the truck, (and it was full), we set off for outer flooding areas. Most folks here had received some help and so we moved on into deeper water.
The landscape was amazing. Just water as far as we could see. Field and roads a running river. Houses under many feet of dark muddy water. People struggling on foot through the floods in search of help.
We arrived at a kampung area and started to search for people and eventually out they came, through the water to our truck. Teams of us also then went on foot house to house delivering much needed aid. Some of these folks had not received food in 5 days!
We knew of the dangers of holes, rising water, snakes and crocodiles, but not one of the team shirked their duty and all of us got more than a little wet as we ploughed through the sometimes waist high water.
We also found stranded animals that we fed.
And so it was off along kampung roads between what once had been paddy fields and which had turned into lakes with water as far as the eye could see, stopping to deliver food from the lorry and for teams to go out into the floods to deliver again house to house.
Having covered all the main severely flooded areas we still had a few supplies left and returned to Alor Setar where we went out to one of the main evacuation centres, which was housing over 2,000 people and delivered to them our remaining stocks.
By 4pm we had returned to base, changed, and with a heavy heart said goodbye to our friends from the army and to Mike and Joanne.
The journey back to KL was quiet, apart from the constant heavy rain from Alor Setar to Rawang. We met up at Sg Perak for coffee, but as we were all physically and emotionally drained the conversation was subdued.
I will remember many things from this.
I will remember the speed of deployment from my friends in Reach.
I will remember the compassion of Mike and Joanne.
I will remember the immediate yes from the army.
I will remember the way that the folks up there didn't rush us for food, didn't want to come, and how we had to invite those that could make it to come to the lorry.
I will remember their smiles.
I will remember their waving as we passed along the road.
I will remember them wanting to share their food with us.
I will remember how folks on the roadside directed us to those in need, their fellow humans.
I will remember the dogs we fed, who were so hungry but gentle in taking the food from us.
I will remember Shaym feeding a mother and her young pups who got stranded on a dry piece of ground.
I will remember the girl who burst into tears telling us that no one had been to their area and how she thought she and her elderly father had been abandoned and that nobody cared and how grateful she was to us.
I will remember the pride of being the only NGO to have reached certain areas.
I will remember singing, "row row row your boat" as we moved slowly through the floods, and also the rousing chorus of that great Rod Stewart hit from the '70"s, "I am Sailing". What the folks outside must have thought when they heard that coming from the truck I don't know.
I will remember someone asking where I came from and when I told him Scotland, he announced to the crowd that "the army from Scotland has come to save us"!!!
The photographs I have posted on the Reach Out facebook page say more than I ever can.
But most of all I will remember the camaraderie, the sharing of the idea of help to others and the fact that without hesitation Reach and our friends said YES.

You see, YES is all it takes. Such a little three letter word isn't it?

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