Americans reconnect with Johor foster family

Americans reconnect with Johor foster family
Special bond: Vickers (centre) and Peddicord eating with Ungku Mokhsin and his wife Noor Huda Kumasi at his sister Ungku Hawa’s (left) home in Johor Baru. On the right is the siblings’ stepmother Faridah Maimunah.

JOHOR BARU - Two Americans have reunited with their Malaysian foster family after about 40 years.

Mary Jean Vickers and Jill Peddicord stayed in Johor in the 1970s as part of the American Field Service programme that placed US students in Malaysian homes.

After their almost year-long stay - Vickers came in 1975 and Peddicord in 1978 - with the family, the duo left for home and they lost touch with their Malaysian host after some time.

Thanks to the Internet, Vickers, now 57, and Peddicord, 53, managed to reconnect with their "relatives".

The two women flew into the country and attended the wedding of a foster sister's daughter in Petaling Jaya last Thursday, attired in baju kurung and headscarves. They then came here for a brief visit.

Vickers, from New Hampshire, said when she first received news that she would be sent to Malaysia, she had no clue where the country was located.

"I stayed with my foster parents Ungku Muhammad Datuk Raja Omar and Ungku Salmah Ungku Abdul Majid and their 11 children.

"All of them treated me like I was their own, which made my stay in Johor unforgettable," she told The Star here yesterday.

The foster parents have since passed away.

Vickers, who now resides in Australia with her family, said that it was not until she was traced by Ungku Hafsah that she renewed ties with her Malaysian friends.

"Ungku Hafsah tracked me down after seeing my picture on the Internet," she said.

For Peddicord, from Maryland, she re-acquainted herself with the family via Facebook several years ago.

"When I was in Johor, my foster mother, whom I called Mak, enrolled me at the Sultan Ibrahim Girls School. I eventually found the school's page on Facebook.

"I asked around and got a few replies, which led me to my Malaysian family," she said.

The two women, who are still able to speak Malay, have kept pictures and gifts given to them, including baju kurung.

Both said they fondly remembered the food and the warmth of their Johorean family.

Their foster brother Ungku Mokhsin, 59, hoped they would come more often.

"I took them to my parents' old house in Kebun Teh and we met the neighbours. We also went to their former school," he said.

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