Welfare ministry reaches out to help elderly wild fern sellers out of poverty trap

Fatimah going through the documents with Rombli and wife Fauziah. Photos by: Apai The Imagemaker

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, June 6: The State Welfare Department wants to help send the youngest son of paku-midin (wild fern) seller Rombli Jusni, whose family is living in poverty, to a boarding school so he can thrive.

The story of Rombli, 63, and wife Fauziah Razak, who have eight children and four grandchildren, caught the attention of the state government after they were discovered living in a small house in poor condition sited on land belonging to a surau at Taman Won, Matang here.

The elderly couple looked for wild fern around Matang and earned about RM30 to RM50 a day depending on their harvest.

Fatimah (squatting down) discussing with a carpenter who is helping to repair the flooring of Rombli’s temporary house.

Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah said they will discuss with the parents if they would allow their youngest son and the only schooling child to be sent to a boarding school.

“He will be placed under the care of an Islamic welfare foundation, Yakin, to enable him to focus on his studies in a more conducive environment. We hope with the motivation, it will help him achieve his ambition and better things in life.

“The child has potential as he is eager to study hard because he wants to have a better future despite the hardships the family is going through at present,” she told reporters today.

Fatimah helping the youngest son pick his school shoes.

As such, she emphasised that the family, community at large as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOS) need to give disadvantaged children the support and appropriate assistance so that they can improve their outcomes and turn their lives around.

Fatimah together with volunteers, NGOs and Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) branch members visited the family at their home where a ‘gotong-royong’ was carried out to clean the temporary house.

Earlier on, the Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) has been engaged to carry out sanitising in and around the house.

“We need to make sure that their living spaces where they also sell paku and midin vegetables are clean and hygienic.

“Even though poor, cleanliness and hygiene cannot be neglected and it can be done on our own,” she emphasised.

Volunteers helping to clean Rombli’s temporary house.

Fatimah also presented the approval letters to the family in which they will be eligible for RM500 monthly child aid and RM300 monthly elderly aid starting from July onwards.

Later, the team also brought the youngest son to buy school supplies including uniform and stationeries at Mydin hypermarket.

Fatimah expressed appreciation to Tupong assemblyman Fazzrudin Abdul Rahman for assisting in obtaining a land lot in Rampangi and providing grants for the building of a new house for the family.

“The house is still under construction which will continue soon as works were stopped due to the Movement Control Order (MCO).”

When completed, it will also have a stall for them to continue selling vegetables.

“With a more comfortable living and work spaces, we hope it will help them generate more sales and income,” she said.

Bomba personnel sanitising the house.

This case had shed light on the urban poverty issue in Sarawak in which Fatimah admitted that even though the poverty rate in the state has decreased, there are still small pockets of urban poor here and there.

“In a community and even nation and state, welfare matters are a shared responsibility and not solely that of the government and Welfare Department.

“If we pool together our minds and resources like what we did today with volunteers, DBKU, Bomba, JKKK and PBB, we can each contribute to the cause and develop a solid foundation of wellbeing in our community.

“Everyone can help according to their abilities. We need to do more than just give money because it involves a lot of other aspects that require focus to resolve the problem in holistic manner,” she added. —DayakDaily