island off Batam is home to 26 families who make do with very little.
Recently, a group of Singaporean and Indonesian youths toiled to make
life a little better for these sea-faring villagers. Photographer JOYCE
LIM was there
Nov 12, 1998
UP TO MARK: Tougher planks were
used to re-build the walkways to make them
CHILDREN can once again swing high up into the sky.
A new community hall has been built.
The school and mosque have fresh coats of paint.
And new walkways link the stilt houses.
These are among the projects recently completed by Operasi Raleigh
Bertam '98, a joint effort by Raleigh International (Singapore) and the
Indonesian Red Cross Society in Batam.
Two batches of about 100 people each, aged 17 to 30, spent a week on
the island, staying in tents.
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL: A child from the village
bathing herself at the spring bath that was rebuilt with the help
of the Operation Raleigh team.
Pulau Bertam, only about the size of Sentosa, is 4 km south-west of
Batam. It had been turned into a resettlement village for Orang Laut
(sea gypsies) 12 years ago.
The chief of the fishermen, Mr Mahadan, 54, said the island's 26
families could not afford to do much as they are quite poor.
Mr Mahadan lives in a stilt house with his mother, wife, five
children and two grandchildren.
BRIGHT AND EARLY: Robi Mahadan,
nine, having lessons in a classroom which has had fresh coats of
paint applied by the volunteers.
Like other families on the island, Mr Mahadan and his family depend
on fishing for their livelihood. He goes to sea at 5 pm and returns
He keeps some of his catch for the family and sells the rest for
30,000 to 50,000 rupiah. ($4.75 to $7.85)
The villagers have no electricity, no clean drinking water or proper
sanitation. They just jump into the sea to bathe.
The wooden planks making up the walkways that link the stilt houses
had rotted over the years. Some collapsed. Some villagers even had to
The community hall had been destroyed in a storm.
But with the help of the Raleigh team, the hall was rebuilt. Safer
walkways were also built using tough wooden planks.
Some volunteers were doctors. In their two weeks on the island, they
ran a temporary clinic for the villagers.
CENTENARIAN:Village chief Mr Mahadan's mother, Madam
Penoh, 107, receiving medical attention from a doctor
"It is a great accomplishment for the volunteers of Operasi Raleigh
Bertam, especially when they see villagers making use of the re-built
facilities, like going to the re-constructed spring to collect water and
bathe,'' said expedition leader Dr Eric Tan Sohn Joo, 30.
The villagers are so happy with the difference that they hope to get
help to build new houses and more cement paths.