During the summer break, My family and I went to Malaysia. We flew to Sabah state, then went to Omadal Island on July 17, 2022 by boat. I have heard stories about Bajau Laut (Sama DiLaut) ancestors who lived in the Coral Triangle (between Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines) for generations but have received no recognition of citizenship from any of these countries. Some of the children that live in Omadal Island are stateless because both of their parents are undocumented. We were there to support Iskul, a community school that offers basic education to these children.
After a forty five minutes boat ride to Omadal Island, we docked and saw the kids from Iskul school were waving at us from the school building! I noticed a bunch of houses made out of wood and metal scrap. The school and houses were built on the sea. The kids were still having class when we came in, and we introduced ourselves to them. After the school was over, we cleaned the school, fixed the tables, and planted new vegetables. When I heard all human waste in toilets there go directly into the sea because there is no sewage system, I was grossed out! My parents explained that sewage solutions are needed to tackle the human waste problem in the island. Later, I went down the ladder to the sea, and the water was up to my knees because it was at low tide. I saw a lot of trash floating around.
The next day, when we went to the school again, the kids were brushing their teeth and dumping the used water into the sea. After brushing, they went back to the school and sat reading. When they were done, My sister did a presentation about “Exploring the world”. The kids had never heard of any place besides Malaysia. My mom gave stickers to the kids whenever they answered a question. They were jumping for joy because they like stickers! When the school dismissed, I went to play in the sea and caught crabs and sea stars. My family was busy labeling every book and putting some new things we brought from home, like a human body model, a globe, world map, legos, and some science kits on the shelves. I feel happy that the kids have something to play with now. After cleaning up, we went down the ladder with the teachers and walked to a stateless house at low tide to buy some sea grapes and shellfish. The sea grapes tasted like seawater, and it tasted better when dipped in spicy sauce! At night we stayed in a villager’s home that had electricity and fed some goats.
On our second and last day at Omadal, We gave a presentation about sea animals, and a presentation about the human body. I spoke about not throwing trash in the ocean and I showed a model of the human body on the other presentation. There was a new stateless kid who came from Tawau, which was three hours away from Omadal! She came because they didn’t allow her in other schools because she was stateless. We took a photo with everyone in the school! The kids waved goodbye when we left Omadal.
You may be wondering how we can further help these children at Iskul? The children can benefit from more medical supplies, books, and toys such as legos and games. We can spread the word about Iskul, so other people can learn about the children and give them supplies and money. Volunteering as a teacher will also help make sure that the children will learn important skills to make a living for themselves. Lastly, your donations will enable Iskul to pay for more food and student activities for the children.
Vince and family volunteered at Pondok Iskul, Omadal for 3 days where they shared their knowledge and culture with Iskul students and the students shared theirs with them. Vince and family helped Iskul in many ways such as bringing educational items, Lego and assisting with our inventory system. Below is a short recap of his experience at Iskul.