Wildar, one of the young boys in the community, starts his day at 5am. His family gather to have breakfast together. He first gets dressed in his slightly baggy white short-sleeved shirt. At 8 years old, in Standard Two (school year), class starts at 7am for him. The hours are spent learning an assortment of Malay, maths, art, English and PE, but Wildar’s interests lie in the last two. The work he finds hard; there is no homework. He finishes for the day at 1pm.
Like most of the children, he appears at ease, spending lazy afternoons in front of a boxed TV with his siblings. Sat witnessing this, you don’t see much difference between them and the curious folk going around asking questions.
Once the sweltering heat of the day has passed, the kids of Kampung Mempakad flock the roads, bouncing in any and all directions. Among them is Winda, wearing her petalled pink dress and cheeky grin. Her knowing eyes surpass her five years of age. With her is Leleh, in his striped football jersey. They are two of seven, in a house with three alternating bedrooms. However currently, they are two of too many to count.
The children climb small trees and piled up water pipes, and surround us newcomers excitedly. Even when they are not allowed to join in the “adult” games of volleyball, they sit and watch, or manage to find some other form of temporary entertainment. Either way they are still involved. Their presence an indicator of the light-hearted mood of the evening.
Their dreams range from doctor to police officer. The childhood feature of limitless possibility is not exempt here, and they reflect this in most actions. Pull a funny face and you get a chuckle. Chase after them and you’re consumed with both shortness of breath and endless glee.
Mempakad is special for more than one reason. Roughly 48 houses; it is not a big place, but it is a warm place. Strangers wave with smiling faces, and children run up to you with spirit in every step. Their energy is infectious, carrying within it the welcoming nature of a community that make you feel like you are home.
Words by volunteer Mariam.
Photography by Photographer Daniel Buttifant.