Supriano, an Orang Asli (Aborigines of Malaysia) was disorientated when she came in to my church office. She is only 10 year-old and has never been to Kuala Lumpur. She has never seen so many cars and tall buildings in her life. I was equally disoriented as I was lost in the jungle where there seems to be no sign post. Just as I was terrified by the ‘roads’ which nearly wrecked Kok Wai’s 4-wheel drive, Supriano was awed by the modern technology.
We were on a rescue mission in the morning to a remote village in the interior jungle. Kok Wai’s jeep skidded and bumped on the protruding rock. When I saw Supriano, I could see in her face a bright aborigines girl. What surprises me was that she could speak fluent Mandarin! Later I learnt that she is attending a Chinese school in a Chinese village. My two children, Sarah and Sam can’t even speak Mandarin although they are of Chinese descent. Supriano has been looking after her infant brother (4 month-old) who is abandoned by his parents. He has no name, no birth certificate, and no identity. Supriano scavenged milk from women folks of her kind. What she got was not enough to feed her brother. So she fed him with coffee and tea. The infant was reduced to only bone and skin. The infant’s father is an Indonesian and his mother is an Orang Asli. I decided to give him a name. The word ‘Suparman’ floated in my mind. I have an Indonesian friend whose name is Suparman. It sounded like Superman. Indeed Suparman is a Superman as weighing 2.1 kg yet he survived under harsh condition imposed upon him. Though he goes down in history as the most malnourished infant in Malaysia, he also sets the record as the fittest infant. Drenched in rain water, bitten by mosquitoes, burned by cigarette butts, Suparman rejected and discarded by his biological parents but was superintended by his Maker. The pediatrician who examined him remarked that she has never seen such a malnourished baby in Malaysia. In her clinic many mothers were waiting for their turns to take their babies for round of examination. The babies were safe in the arms of their mothers, well fed and looking heavy and healthy. What a contrast.
Supriano absented herself from school for several months. There was a divine call to save a feeble life. She fiercely protected her brother from hunger and thirst in the jungle. She was ostracized by her mother and grandfather. She detested their cruelty. I could see that in her eyes. Without knowledge of health care, hygiene, feeding infant, Supriano has an innate instinct to care for her brother.
It was a long day, a tiring journey running from one clinic to another, from one town to the other and finally Suparman is temporary fostered by a Sabahan pastor whose wife is an Orang Asli. Supriano followed Sarah and I home for a few days.
Constance, my wife spent 3 days teaching her Maths and found her to be intelligent. Sarah is like a big sister to her and showers her with affection. Supriano was clutching the two beautiful sling- on bags that Sarah gave her. Her smile exudes happiness of having found the gems of her life. Supriano will remember Sarah for a long long time. We discovered that Supriano delights to go to the wash room. She often remained there for a long time. Inside the wash room is a big mirror. Constance had bought her a few blouses and she looks pretty. Perhaps she has never seen herself in full portrait before in the mirror. We don’t mind to adopt her but its not possible.
Constance told Supriano to come again and stay with us during the school holidays. We have invited her and her friends to come and Constance will conduct some tuition for them. We believe that Supriano would one day go to Harvard or Oxford, Cambridge University if given the opportunity. She has the intelligence endowed by her Creator who gives freely and equally. It’s the political environment and educational policy that limits them from achieving their full potential.
I am so proud of Kok Wai, Sue May, Jocelyn and the Orang Asli team of CDPC. Their compassion, dedication, and sacrifices have gone a long way to help Orang Asli children to be as educated as any bright Malaysian children in the main stream society.
Change one life, one at a time. Supriano has shown us the way.