Hill of Hope, Kota Kinabalu

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February 29th 2012
Published: April 16th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

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Bukit Harapan

Approximate location, just outside KK. Bukit = hill, although, it's not on a hill.

The Bukit Harapan "gang"The Bukit Harapan "gang"The Bukit Harapan "gang"

All the children and young people at Bukit Harapan.
When planning our trip, we were keen to do something other than pass through the places we visited. Looking for volunteering opportunities abroad can be a daunting prospect. Thankfully, Ben’s mum is still in contact with “Borneo Anne” Keyworth, who set up a children’s home in Kota Kinabalu (the capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah), almost 25 years ago.

Bukit Harapan (Hill of Hope) is home to 44 children and young adults who’ve suffered abandonment, neglect or abuse. Many have physical or mental impairments. But all are loved and cared for by Anne, her daughter Audra with husband Jerry, and their dedicated multi-talented team.

There we arrived, not knowing quite what to expect. Certainly, we didn’t anticipate gaining a whole new family, and extending our stay to well over a month. As soon as we stepped out of the car, however, we had a taste of what was in store. We were immediately surrounded by excited faces and felt little hands tugging at our arms and clothes, eager for us to join their family.

Within a few days we had unwittingly assumed the names Sister Mina and Uncle Ben. It took us a while longer to learn
Performing for the guestsPerforming for the guestsPerforming for the guests

The residents sing a few songs for guests over Chinese New Year (CNY). Brothers Along and Didi on lead vocals.
everyone’s names and discover their unique characters. We had a taste of the peculiarity of celebrity life, with a little fan club often waiting at our door in the morning, and rushing to meet us whenever we returned from outside Bukit Harapan.

Schooling takes place inside and outside of Bukit Harapan, depending on the child’s abilities, and also, their legal status. Sadly, some very capable children are prevented from attending mainstream school because one of their parents entered Malaysia illegally, and failed to correctly register their own marriage or child’s birth.

Unlike the rest of the efficiently run Bukit Harapan, we didn’t have a daily schedule of duties. We busied ourselves by helping in the classroom, playing and creating games with the children and establishing a library/playroom in what had previously been something of a junk room. One bizarre item we unearthed was a guide to conducting business in Finland. Not the most useful donation; it should defintely make everyone think twice when next giving something to the charity shop.

More welcome gifts came with the Chinese New Year, which fell during our visit. More so than in previous years, the daily routine of Bukit Harapan was frequently interrupted by visiting lion dances and the distribution of money-filled red envelopes, called "Ang Pao", from some of Sabah’s large Chinese community. We also accompanied the residents on trips to benefactors’ new year parties, with more lion dances, some dragon dances, occasional people dances, and lots of beer and food. Amazingly the Chinese manage to make the celebrations last 15 days. We were a little weary of lion dances by the end.

Even without these welcome distractions, there is always fun and laughter at Bukit Harapan. So when the time eventually came to leave, it was not without a heavy heart and teary eyes. We were sad to be leaving a place we had quickly begun to think of as our home. Away from our friends, particularly the help and companionship of Audra and Jerry, we’d have to fend for ourselves again as we hit the road once more. This trip was not about the destination but the people who made it a life changing experience.

Additional photos below
Photos: 41, Displayed: 24



Chinga = lion. Some of the boys would shout “chinga” when they knew one was on its way to Bukit Harapan. Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon and finishes with the Full moon 15 days later.
Nigar and Didi lighting sparklers.Nigar and Didi lighting sparklers.
Nigar and Didi lighting sparklers.

Fireworks are another feature of CNY.
Making hats and crowns.Making hats and crowns.
Making hats and crowns.

Norshahkilla helps Ben with his.
A night out at the ‘Yacht Club’.A night out at the ‘Yacht Club’.
A night out at the ‘Yacht Club’.

We didn’t see any yachts, but did see a lion dance and a serpent dance!
Home-made fairy wingsHome-made fairy wings
Home-made fairy wings

An afternoon’s activity

Happy thoughts. Sometimes it was difficult to communicate, but, of course, facial expressions tell a lot.
Didi, Josuah, Casley and Along making waves.Didi, Josuah, Casley and Along making waves.
Didi, Josuah, Casley and Along making waves.

Providing welcome relief from the heat of another hot Sabah day.
Lion at Bukit HarapanLion at Bukit Harapan
Lion at Bukit Harapan

Always very popular with the residents.
Lion danceLion dance
Lion dance

One of many lion dances that we witnessed during the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Jerry and Audra playing with the children.Jerry and Audra playing with the children.
Jerry and Audra playing with the children.

Bukit Harapan’s lovely playground.
Residents helping each other.Residents helping each other.
Residents helping each other.

That's Antau, Norshahkilla and Hamid.

20th April 2012

Looks great guys. You're sucking the marrow out of life, as Dom would say! Hope you're still enjoying it. I'm coming home next Wednesday, doesn't time fly. Looking forward to catching up whenever you're home. Lots of love, Gxx
21st July 2012

Hi guys
Hi Ben and Mina, I don't know if you guys still remember me or not. I am ann (they called me annabel), the girl who always come and visit Bukit Harapan. We did meet a few times :) I was in a difficult situation back then and Bukit Harapan is the place where I could find some peace (just by looking at the kids faces..) Btw, I posted some your photos on my facebook wall, hope u guys don't mind (with credit to your website of course). Really, these kids change my life :)
19th November 2012

hi, we're from KOPIDS interested about BUKIT HARAPAN (Hill of Hope). can you give us the bukit harapan contact number, please...thanks...
21st January 2014

Hi there, Many apologies for delaying so long to get back to you. We did not receive a email alert for your message. Bukit Harapan is still in need for help of all ways so please do get in touch with them. Their website is http://bukitharapan.org/ Best wishes and again so so sorry it took forever to response. B&A

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