Stories of the poor

Orang Asli

Climate change, poverty, a lack of education, having no access to clean water, malnutrition and poor healthcare are among the causes of suffering for the Orang Asli. What can you do to help?

– Aman’s story

1. See

Observe the facts, know the reality.

2. Judge

Use social analysis and moral values to make judgement about the facts.

3. Act

Plan a realistic and effective strategy to action.

1st Step:


Injustices and poverty among the marginalised Orang Asli community.

I have always heard or read about the difficulties Orang Asli face in the news but have never seen it with my own eyes. The opportunity came one day when I volunteered in a medical camp together with the Perak Deanery Orang Asli Apostolate called Sahabat Orang Asli to help the indigenous people staying in a few villages in Perak.

The journey from the main road to the Orang Asli villages took about an hour of driving on a narrow muddy track, full of ruts and potholes. Our car engine was straining while going up the steep hill. Finally at the end of the rough terrain, we arrived at a small, but beautiful and tranquil village in the jungle.

The village consisted of a community centre, less than 20 houses and only one common toilet. All the buildings were made of bamboo and wood, and had thatched roofs covered with grass and leaves. I also saw some men building extensions or repairing their houses. The village had no electricity but a few small solar panels, just enough to power up night lamps and charge mobile devices.

According to the Ketua Kampung, some NGOs came to pave a road for them but it was not of good quality and was not durable. The common toilet, which was supplied with untreated water from a hill source, was also built by the NGO but it was not regularly maintained or repaired.

While the medical team was setting up to receive patients, the Ketua Kampung named Aman, insisted on showing me around his village. This village has about 104 inhabitants, 60% of whom are teenagers and children. Aman told me they had to stop schooling after the whole community was forced to leave their previous location and move deeper into the jungle to this new place some years ago to minimise their contact with the outside world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The adults earn meagre wages working in the nearby rubber or palm oil plantations. They also collect jungle produce to sell occasionally. They prefer to live in the jungle and build their own makeshift houses. There is no nearby school or government clinic, and that is why the Church has decided to provide them with medical care and food rations on a regular basis.

Aman, being the oldest in the village, understands the importance of education for the children. “I have visited many Orang Asli villages and most of the places are well equipped with electricity, clean water, brick and mortar houses, proper roads and schools for the children but our village is completely marginalized,” he said. “I hope our children can have access to proper education and get jobs in future, but right now, they are just idling in the village. Every day, I worry about their future.” He introduced me to his granddaughters. One of the girls told me they would like to study but the current situation makes it impossible for them. “I want to go to work, if I can,” she said.

Many of the rural Orang Asli communities are struggling. Climate change, poverty, a lack of education, having no access to clean water, malnutrition and poor healthcare are among the main causes of suffering among the Orang Asli. Furthermore, their lands are often arbitrarily taken away for plantations, logging and mining, leaving them to fend for themselves, cut off from the resources of the jungle on which they had previously depended for their survival.

Deforestation and overdevelopment have also caused irreparable damage to their natural environment and ecosystem, and devastated the lives of the Orang Asli. Their sources of income, food, nutrition and source of medicine from wild herbs have been destroyed. Arising from the loss of jungle areas, wild animals venture into their settlements, in search of food.

There are many Orang Asli who are Christians, but they cannot go to church or practise their faith. There are many who do not receive proper medical care; many who cannot read and write; there are also many young girls who are taken advantage of by unscrupulous timber loggers or foreign workers. Suitable, practical and sustainable economic activities must be introduced to help them generate regular income for their needs.

As a Church, we can pray, reach out to the Orang Asli and help to improve the quality of their lives. Remember Christ’s words: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did it to Me.” – Matthew 25:40

Climate change hurts the poor the most. Damage to the environment is damage to the poor.

2nd Step: Judge


3rd Step: Act

Kempen Kasih


Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy. 


O Divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

To be understood, as to understand;

For it is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal life.


Make us worthy Lord, to serve those people throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger. Give them through our hands, this day, their daily bread, and by our understanding love, give them peace and joy.

I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve Him among the poorest of the poor. It was an order.

When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.

You and I, we are Church, no? We have to share with our people. Suffering today is  because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing. 

Jesus made it very clear. Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me. Give a glass of water, you give it to me. Receive a little child, you receive me. 

Lord God, You came to give honour to the least, those forgotten, overlooked and misjudged.

You came to give first place to the last, those left behind, misunderstood and undervalued.

You came to give a warm welcome to the lost, those who are orphaned, abandoned and destitute.

Help us to be your ears to listen to their cries. Help us to be your voice speaking out love and acceptance.

Help us to be your feet walking beside those in need.

Help us to be your hands to clothe, feed and shelter them.

You came for the least, the lost and last of this world.

Lord, hear our prayer.


Lord, may justice flow like a river

Reaching barren lands and sun scorched deserts

Where people feel forgotten and hopeless

Let your water of life

Comfort them

Where children lie abandoned or abused

Let your water of life

Protect them

Where communities suffer at the hands of prejudice

Let your water of life Shield them

Lord, we ask for a mighty downpour from Heaven

May your sons and daughters hear your voice

May we live as you lead us to live

Go as you bid us to go

Serve as you inspire us to serve

Give as you teach us to give

Until the earth is covered with the glory of God

As the waters cover the sea


Dear Father of all, Help us to see the world through your eyes, without dividing lines, To see just land and water, mountains, trees and skies. Help us to lay aside our class and skin, our background and race, To know our shared humanity, to see a brother or sister in every face. Help us to wear forgiveness, to lay down our pride and pain, To seek first to understand, Lord may peace and reconciliation reign. Help us to feel your compassion so we can freely forgive. May we weave new threads of grace and cause seeds of hope to live. Help us to play our own small part, with acts of kindness and of care. May we arise as your children and seek out what is just and fair. Cause us to make new bonds of trust with neighbours near and far, And so to fashion a world where peace comes to Earth in this hour.

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.

You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.

Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth. Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light.

We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.

Give Alms

  1. Sahabat Orang Asli is a ministry who serves the Orang Asli, you are encouraged to contact them to find out more about their mission and learn how you can help.
  2. Before you plan any project, try to gather as much information as possible about the needs and struggles of the community that you plan to assist. If possible, make a visit first and talk to the Ketua Kampung to find out their needs before making the outreach activity.
  3. Discuss and plan the project with your group and parish priest. Try to animate the whole parish community to get involved in your project. Consider inviting your parish priest to give a special homily about the problems of the orang asli.
  4. Remember to get their consent before taking any photos of the Orang Asli and do not freely circulate the photos of this vulnerable community. Use the photos wisely for your project only.
  5. Build bridges with the community you visit. Lent is only a starting point. Continue to serve after Lent.
  6. Continue to follow up with them and work with other NGOs to uplift the lives of the Orang Asli community.


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