by Representative Gene Ward Ph.D. Monday, September 23, 2013
Recently, I returned from his former Peace Corps village in the remote area of North Borneo, near Tawau, Sabah, to prepare for the special legislative session called by Governor Abercrombie.
In the Peace Corps, I served two years in a village comprised of Murut tribesmen whose immediate ancestors were only a couple of generations removed from blow-pipe warriors in the jungles of Borneo.
My colleagues and I built the first school in the village. I served as its headmaster and first grade teacher before handing it over to the government. The school is still in operation today and has expanded greatly.
“I was delighted to see how much the village had changed from being poor and backward in 1967 to now where just about every house has electricity and running water and many villagers own a motorcycle or a car,” Ward said upon his return to Kuala Lumpur where he was visiting with family.
With my wife, Faredah, we were escorted to the Peace Corps village by the office of his legislative counterpart, YB Representative Dato Haji Syed Abas, who represents the Tawau area in the legislature in the capital city of Kota Kinabalu.
I served a second time in the Peace Corps in 2005-2006 when I became the Country Director for East Timor where I supervised the work of 46 volunteers in the poorest country in Southeast Asia.
Before leaving Tawau, I met with members of the Tanjong Rotary Club to plan a possible joint-venture project for the villagers with the Waikiki Rotary Club of which I have been a member since 1983.
“I’m really proud to have been a part of an idea (Peace Corps) that is bigger than one’s self or one’s nation. These villagers started out with literally nothing, but the resettlement scheme provided them a house and 15 acres of oil palm, and the rest is history. It personifies and proves the Peace Corps’ motto, “If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; if you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.”
While traveling, I was kept apprised of the status and public opinion of the possible special session by the numerous emails and phone calls received by my office, most of which were against holding a special session on same-sex marriage. I also participated in the Minority Caucus meeting with Governor Abercrombie via video conferencing (Skype) at the State Capitol discussing the subject.