GUA MUSANG - The first of 15 houses for the orang asli affected by the December floods was completed in four days.
The construction of the wooden house donated by Star Foundation in Aring 10 started last Tuesday and was completed by Friday.
Insaf Malaysia built the first house for the Batek tribe at Kampung Kuala Koh in Gua Musang, Kelantan.
"We built the house on higher ground as the orang asli do not want it at the foot of the hill," said Insaf Malaysia president and founder Ishak Abdul Kadir.
The house with two rooms, a living area, dining corner and verandah, was one of two houses donated by Star Foundation. Another house will be built in two weeks' time.
The foundation, a charitable arm of Star Publications (M) Bhd, has contributed RM50,000 (S$18,525) for the houses, in addition to the eight homes built last year under The Star's Do Good Volunteer programme, an initiative to promote volunteerism and raise awareness on worthy causes.
Ishak said when they first started to build these houses six years ago, the orang asli had expressed preference for wooden houses.
"They want the stilts three feet above ground so that their chickens and pets can be shaded from the sun and rain and the cooking area and toilet be placed away from the house," he said.
Besides Star Foundation, the Berjaya Group also pledged two houses two months ago, while residents of Bukit Antarabangsa had given RM12,500.
Ishak said he wanted to build 15 houses for the Kuala Koh orang asli families and needed sponsors for another 11 houses.
Village head Hamdan, 50, said life was difficult for them as they had to move further into the jungle to look for food, wood and rattan without guarantee that they would end up with any after a week.
Three months after the flood, The Star had reported that the orang asli were still living in makeshift shelters.
Today, some five months after, many are still living in makeshift shelters although houses are gradually being built by the Government and NGOs.
Village committee member Mamat, 40, said all 73 houses in their village were swept away by flood and only 15 families had remained.
Living in makeshift shelters for months had exposed many orang asli to environmental dangers.
Hanisah, 50, said the Taman Negara National Park had elephants, bears and wild boars but she chose not to think of the dangers as there was nothing she could do.
"The rain woke me up last. I could not sleep because the floor was completely wet," she said.
Recipient of the house donated by Star Foundation Rahman Panjang, 38, said orang asli appreciated wooden houses as they were cooler to live in.
Insaf still needs more sponsorship and volunteers to build another 11 houses under the project.