July 1, 2015, by Susan Lim
After a successful Water4Life campaign in 2014, Dr Ting Kang Nee, head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences, is kicking off another project to empower rural area in the heart of Sarawak called Water4Power. The main objective is to generate hydroelectricity for villages such as Kampung Sapit, but the team also strives to provide education, health and waste management, as well as clean water which is still amiss in these areas. We had the opportunity to sit down with Dr Ting and her dedicated team of student helpers, hailing from different courses across the university, to get to know more about this initiative, to talk about what they plan to achieve with this latest project.
Interview session with Water4Power’s team at UNMC’s Corporate Marketing office.
Q: Hi Dr Ting, what is your role in the team?
Dr Ting: My role in general is to oversee this project and to ensure that we get the right people to make this project successful. In addition to volunteers from UNMC, we are working very closely with Engineers Without Borders Malaysia. They have identified the area of need and approached us for collaboration due to the success of our previous project (Water4Life). I managed to invite a non-profit medical healthcare group based in Kuching called Rural Expeditions Aiding Community Health (REACH) to join us in Water4Power. REACH has been providing healthcare services throughout the Sarawak interior, so by bringing them in, they can help us conduct extensive medical check-up for the villagers, since Kampung Sapit is interior and there is no nearby accessible clinics. One of the things we witnessed during our last project was poor oral hygiene experience by many rural folks . It’s caused by a combination of limited access to dentists and access to florinated water.
I also focus on bringing people in and together with Sanjiv, who helps to get the student volunteers into the team. After two initial meetings, Sanjiv and a few of us went to the village in May for a preliminary site-recce to find out what we will need before bringing everyone in.
Q: What are you looking to achieve with this project?
Dr Ting: This project is sponsored by Cascade, which are award funds raised through Nottingham’s Impact Campaign. Cascade provides grants for high-impact projects with lasting influence on society, as well as creating highly educated, responsible citizens to confront and help solve global problems. So when our students graduate, they’re not only more technically-able, they’re also more aware of the world in need and better equipped to help other people. We want to instill philanthropic motivation in our students. This year, we continue to receive wonderful responses from students to volunteer. Hopefully, in two years’ time we can run bigger projects and get more people involved.
Q: Sanjiv, please share with us the objectives of this project.
Sanjiv: I and three other friends founded an NGO called Engineers Without Borders Malaysia (EWB-M), and we are recognised by Engineers Without Borders International. From an early age, it has been instilled in us to give back to the community. EWB-M identifies communities in need of 5 to 6 of basic needs such as food, water, shelter, education, and health care. Last year, one of the villages we came across lacked clean water, so we collaborated with Dr Ting through the Water4Life project, which turned out to be a great success. Through Water4Power, we hope to provide electricity by building a mini hydro generator. To provide a more comprehensive scope, we will be including education for better health care too.
I worked after completing my undergraduate degree before coming back to pursue my postgraduate studies. While an education lays an important foundation, application and practical experience are even more important. Water4Power is a great avenue to get students out of the classroom and solve problems in the real-life environment.
Q: Hi team, what inspired you to join this project?
Jonathan: My name is Jonathan Chooi, and I’m a 3rd year Biomedical Sciences student. This is a great platform for me to be a better person and learned about fundraising. When I found out about the village using diesel generators which are financially costly, I felt compelled to make things better for them.
During the briefing, volunteers have been divided into teams. I will be in-charge of logistics, which includes scheduling the field trip and ensuring there’s food for everyone. For me, when the generator is powered up, it will be the most joyous moment.
If I were to give a message to fellow students, it would be “Go! Get out there!”
Muhammad: I’m Muhammad Amir Hamizan bin Aminuddin, a final-year student from Chemical Engineering and Environment. What inspired me to join the project is that I often go hiking, so I can relate to the difficulties of how it would be to live without proper and basic infrastructure. While it’s acceptable to be without them for a short 2 to 3 days’ trip, to live in such conditions for 30 or 40 years is unimaginable. Therefore, I decided to make life better for this community. I don’t want to miss out of real-life learning and focus purely on theoretical learning. I want to get my hands dirty. I also think that this experience will improve my outdoor skills in general.
As part of the engineering team for this project, we will be building a dam to direct the water flow into the generator. We have to design the generator before we depart, and my main contribution on-site is trouble-shooting.
I think my message is simple. Studying is not just about getting good grades, and success does not mean getting good grades. You still need to have the skills and be prepared for the real world, so go for opportunities like this.
Christina: My name is Christina Abigail D’Cruz, currently pursuing my MA in TESOL. Dr Ting approached me and asked if I wanted to design some activities for the kids for this Water4Power project, and I thought it would be interesting. Coming from a family which encourages charity, I believe this is a great opportunity, in that it will help to build up my interpersonal and social skills. My family is very supportive of me being part of this initiative. I also think that I will learn a great deal about the East Malaysia’s culture, which is vastly different than ours.
I am part of the Education team, so we will be providing educational materials and sessions for the village. For me, seeing the happy faces of the villagers and children when they have electricity will be the ultimate success.
Such opportunities are rare, so when they strike, go for it! I know that I will always learn something.
TQ: My name’s TQ (Ooi Ting Qian), a second-year student in Pharmacy (MPharm). I was inspired to try something new and leave my comfort zone. I’ve always enjoyed charity projects and there are great lessons to be learned. While my parents are understandably about me going into the jungle, I want to prove to them that I’m an independent and responsible young adult.
Since I’m from the city, experiencing life in deep, rural villages will be completely different than what I’m used to. Similar to what my other teammates have mentioned, putting ourselves in the real world will help us to develop and enhance our problem-solving skills. This is not something you can obtain through studies alone, so this will be a challenge for me.
I’m leading the healthcare team and I’m also part of the education team. As Christina mentioned, the education team will be providing the know-how to the villagers. Hopefully we can inspire the children as well as their parents to develop their knowledge and encourage them to study and gain knowledge. Children are our future, and education is very important.
In terms of healthcare, we want to increase their basic awareness. We also want to apply funds to provide better medical products, medicines and supplements to improve the villagers’ current condition. Lastly, we want to promote a healthier lifestyle so that it becomes sustainable in the long run.
If you believe in our cause, do make a contribution All donations raised at EWB-M’s fund raising page will go towards Water4Power project unless specified. Keep up with the news of this project at Water4Power’s Facebook page.
Kg. Sapit is located ~400m above sea level.
Children from Kampung Sapit doing their homework when it was still light.
Villagers giving a hand in accessing the current dam.
Surveying over the length of the river.
A meeting with the local community at night.
Villagers giving a hand in accessing the current dam
Team surveying the potential new location for a dam to be built to provide the water source for the generation of power from the micro-hydro generator.
Team group photo with some of the villagers before leaving.