Enduring a hard life for their children’s sake

The boat which Selain, Catherine and their family call home.

by Nancy Nais

SARATOK, Jan 14: What could drive parents to pluck their children from their village to live on a dilapidated boat instead?

At one time, Selain Banggai, 38, and his wife Catherine Bunai, 26, lived at Rh Rengan Selambong, Krian.

Now they have resettled, not on a house, but a wooden fishing boat along with four young children and Selain’s elderly mother, berthed at Jelatong wharf along Sungai Krian about 20 metres away from the Saratok market.

Why did Selain choose to bring his family to live in such squalid conditions, when they had decent shelter at his longhouse?


Catherine (left) and her husband moved their family from their longhouse to live on a boat so that their children could get an education.

Catherine who spoke to DayakDaily recently, revealed they left their longhouse, located about 40km away and moved to Saratok town to make sure their children could attend school and at the same time, so she and her husband can seek better jobs opportunities.

“We want to make sure our children go to school and at the same time, both of us can find something to earn a living from. During the day, my husband sells rice and vegetables at the market. In the afternoon, I will work at one of the coffeeshops as a drink maker and waitress,” she said.

Catherine explained that it would be difficult to transport their children on a motorcycle to reach school on time, if they were to continue living at their longhouse.

Two of the couple’s children, Rio Hernandez, 10, and Richard Dom, 8, are currently attending SK Abang Abdul Rahman, located about 500 metres away from their boat house.

Meanwhile, Fiona Gonzalez, 6, attends kindergarten and Elizebeth Santoz, 3, has yet to enter pre-school.

Saratok fire station chief Nazry and his team visiting Catherine and her family on their boat.

Adding to that, Catherine said her husband needs to sell vegetables at the market early in the morning, therefore it is much more convenient to stay in the vicinity.

When asked if she would consider putting her children in boarding school (if any), Catherine who had tears in her eyes, said it is difficult as they do not want to be apart from them.

Catherine’s third child, Fiona, was among the 11 young recipients who were treated to a pre-Chinese New Year gathering for orphans and the underprivileged, and fire safety awareness programme organised by Saratok fire station and DayakDaily recently.

Catherine, her daughters Fiona and Elizebeth, together with Saratok fire station chief Nazry at the recent pre-Chinese New Year gathering and fire safety awareness programme.

Saratok fire station chief PPgB Nazry Mohamat and his team, who took time to visit and check the boat which serves as home to Catherine and her family, also gathered information and explained thoroughly to the family about fire safety and prevention because the family cooks in the boat.

“Although we had to live in such conditions, I believe we made the right decision to move. Who does not want to change their way of life? Which parent does not want to see their children grow up attending school and getting educated?” Catherine asked.

Selain and Catherine hope that all their children will finish secondary school and be successful individuals one day. — DayakDaily