Volunteer Experience : Rural Work is Hard Work!

"Pilihanraya apa?" (What election?)
"Undi apa?" (What vote?)
"Saya tidak minat". (I’m not interested)

Last December, I volunteered with ROSE for a new voters registration exercise in Sarikei. ROSE set up a booth at a youth conference, a big gathering of about 1,500 people.


We managed to register 44 new voters in two days, most of which were under the age of 30. Honestly, I expected way more than 44, only to realize that rural work is hard work. This is my first experience in a rural area for voter registration, and the effort needed to secure one new voter is 10 times the effort as in the city. As compared to city folks who thank us for our effort in bringing the voters registration counter to them (so that they need not go to the post office to do it), I struggled with talking to these rural young people (partly due to the Iban language barrier) and had to explain to them what pilihanraya is.

Among the many responses that I got were :

"Pilihanraya apa?" (What election?)
"Undi apa?" (What vote?)
"Saya tidak minat". (I’m not interested)


This just goes to show their (super low) level of political awareness.

I was relating my experience to a friend and she was not surprised at all. On a personal note, I felt a bit sad looking at the dire (political) state people are in, and I was also made to understand that there are far more "unreached" longhouses deep inside. A long way indeed to go for Sarawak.

On a bit of a bright side, we managed to talk to a few who were appreciative of ROSE efforts and were willing to connect with us. One elderly Aunty in particular thanked us for coming all the way to set up this booth, and encouraged us to keep up with the good work; and there was also a young 22-year-old girl from Batang Ai who said she wanted to help out with registering her friends as new voters, hence took 10 forms with her. These were encouraging.


Rural Sarawak is hard work – we need time, manpower and finances to advance political efforts, yet the results might not be that rewarding. But I guess we must not give up, but continue to reach out to them, and pray that the next generation will see the urgency of what needs to be done.

Li Ern and Soo Teck were our ROSE volunteers in Sarikei. Great job guys!

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