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Goodbye Ahha – An Illustrious Son of the Orang Asli Community

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Ahha and community members posing with the PTA President's Award

The Orang Asli community, especially the Semai tribe, has lost one of their most illustrious sons.

Thirty-eight-year-old Sahak bah Udal or better known as “Ahha” passed away last month due to a lung infection.

Ahha, a Semai lived at Ulu Geroh about 12km up the Titiwangsa Range from Gopeng. As chairman of SEMAI (Friends of Ecotourism and Nature Conservation), he almost single handedly introduced to the world the gentle culture of the Semai community by empowering his entire village to participate in its ecotourism activities.

He also encouraged the community to practice tidy habits to enable tourists to have a comfortable stay. Ulu Geroh now has a visitors’ centre which houses a dormitory and their E-Semai project, a programme for its residents to enable hands-on exposure to ICT.

Ahha receiving the award from Sultan Azlan Shah

Ahha, who had earlier worked in the hotel industry, saw potential in promoting his Semai culture as an eco-tourism product and encouraged its residents to showcase their lifestyles such as mat weaving and their traditional Sewang dance. Other recent activities include herbal garden, insect sanctuary and the teaching of English.

All of these activities introduced reflect a community that cares for its environment and is able to make a living out of it sustainably while preserving a community’s culture and its indigenous knowledge.

Being the main coordinator and facilitator between the NGOs and the community, Ahha had been able to receive funding from various NGOs and corporate organisations, among them MNS, DANIDA and Shell, to carry on their activities.

His efforts also received recognition for the Village of Ulu Geroh when the Perak Tourist Association presented their 2009 President’s Award for being “a proactive community for showcasing their lifestyle and activities.”

Yes, Ahha will be missed by many but his dedication in helping to upgrade the livelihood of his community will be carried on through the ecotourism activities he initiated. For details of the villager’s activities please go to their web page: www.esemai.org.

JAG