• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 01
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Growing up at Nanga Kumpang

Jenny grew up on this tiny island. That is, it seemed like an island because everyone travelled by boat. There were no roads and cars; just rivers and boats. In fact, Jenny was born on a longboat on the Batang Lupar River. Her mother had been on her way from Nanga Kumpang longhouse to the clinic at Engkilili but Jenny had arrived earlier than expected. It was lucky that her mother had been accompanied by her parents and her sister who was a nurse. It must have been quite a shock for the boatman, though. For the record, Jenny’s birth certificate states that she was born at the Engkilili Healthcare Clinic, but her family knows this is not true.

And it’s not entirely untrue that Jenny grew up on a tiny island. She grew up at Nanga Kumpang longhouse and went to boarding schools at Lubok Antu and later, in Miri and Labuan. Lubok Antu and Miri are located in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo while Labuan is a Malaysian federal territory on a tiny island off the west coast of Borneo. Although Borneo is the third largest island in the world, it is relatively underdeveloped. It is the fabled island of white rajahs, oil-rich Sultans, pygmy elephants, hornbills, orangutans, and sea turtles that return annually to lay their eggs on outlying islands. When Jenny left to further her studies at University Malaysia Terengganu, fellow citizens in Peninsular Malaysia asked if she had paddled a boat across the South China Sea to reach “Malaysian” shores or if she lived in trees like the orangutans. So, maybe we could say that Jenny grew up on a tiny island; tiny in terms of how her own fellow Malaysians viewed her birthplace.

Jenny’s best story about growing up on a tiny island is starting a hiking club in both her primary and secondary schools. Children in remote parts of Malaysia attend boarding schools as their homes are too far in the interior for them to travel to school daily. So, if she couldn’t go home, Jenny decided she would start her favourite pastime at school.


Growing up at Nanga Kumpang

Since the age of three, Jenny had walked all the way from her longhouse through the forest to visit her grandparents who lived at the neighbouring longhouse Kumpang Langgir. It was a full day’s trek through the forest, but Jenny never felt afraid because her mother was with her, leading the way. At school, Jenny started a Hiking Club and organized camping trips to waterfalls near Lubok Antu and Lambir Hills National Park near Miri. Today, Jenny is on the enforcement team of a conservation organization and she travels in the forests of Sarawak, ensuring that traps are destroyed and poachers are caught. Growing up on that tiny island, trekking and camping in forests, have given Jenny skills that prepared her well for this important job. What spurs her on? The sight of an orangutan’s skull or its body with its hands cut off. Knowing there’s a solution for this.