From Alor Setar to China on Pedal Power

The recent Bangladeshi migrant worker issue in Malaysia brought an awakening to David Wu, making him think of the similar hardships his grandfather, the late Mr. Ng Poh Kiet, went through coming to Malaya back in the early 1900s as a ten-year-old boy. These migrant workers are no different from our forefathers who arrived here a hundred years or so ago and likely under similar circumstances, he thought.

one of the houses under Projek Wumah (Before)
one of the houses under Projek Wumah (Before)

And so, just shortly after wrapping up Projek Wumah in early April this year, the 49-year-old decided to cycle to his ancestral village of Sin Ning in Taishan in the Southeast of China. Flagging off from the site of his late grandfather’s house in his hometown of Alor Setar, Kedah on his birthday on May 6, Wu gave himself ten weeks to reach Sin Ning, on the way inviting any interested Malaysian to join him in his cycling adventure. For a start, joining him are three buddies: radio personality Patrick Teoh, restaurateur David Chin who is a prostate cancer survivor and Dave Foong, the only experienced cyclist out of the four.

beneficiary of Projek Wumah (After)
beneficiary of Projek Wumah (After)

He explained, “I had very little interest about my heritage during my younger days. China is just another foreign land to me. But the migrant issue has made me think about my roots and where I came from. What could have possibly gone through the mind of that ten-year-old when my grandfather boarded the boat that brought him to Penang? I would really love to find out all of these things and more. I also figured that since my grandfather went through all that hardship just to get here, it would only be fitting that I pay homage by travelling to his birthplace in an equally difficult fashion. The journey to China on a bicycle will also allow me time to reflect on my family’s history. I hope to learn much more about my roots and origins, although the task is made harder because I am Chinese illiterate.

Wu with Hayati Ismail
Wu with Hayati Ismail

“This journey should also serve to reaffirm that home to me is nowhere else but Malaysia. I have always identified myself as a Malaysian first, and home is where the heart lies. No GPS required. Even so, I believe we should also take an interest in learning more about our origins. After all, some of the things I have learnt lately about my family’s history have been extremely fascinating. Quite moving too, actually. When better to do this now when I am still able to? This year also marks the tenth anniversary of my father’s passing and my mother is turning 80 too, so you could say the year holds certain significance for me personally. I also see this endeavour as a gift to my family since ties are becoming thinner, especially with extended family although this is not to be unexpected in this day and age.”

the ‘desperate’ house in Gombak

Behind this personal endeavour lies a deeper message that Wu hopes will inspire more people to step up to help the less fortunate within our various communities. With this, he also hopes to extend the focus from the cycling to his pet project, Projek Wumah. Linking “Cycle to China” with Projek Wumah 2 was the natural thing to do as Wu hopes to help raise money to fund home repairs for those who could do with a leg up around Peninsular Malaysia. Monies raised will benefit families around Peninsular Malaysia just as what Projek Wumah had accomplished for thirteen families in Rantau Panjang, Kelantan.

Wu (right) visiting his uncle (left) to research on his family's history
Wu (right) visiting his uncle (left) to research on his family’s history

“Cycle to China” is also backed by webe community, the community development platform of Malaysia’s latest mobile telco. Wu hopes to put social media to good use in making positive changes to the lives of those less privileged.

“We shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the needy. Let us dig deep and do what we can to give these folk some measure of hope where possible. Sure, the system isn’t perfect and could certainly find room for improvement. Aside from just complaining, why don’t we just do something instead and make things better for others and indeed ourselves too? We need to stop playing the blame game as an excuse for our own inaction. We cannot expect results if we aren’t willing to participate to start with. Don’t stop short at being a mere cheerleader too, or worse, a keyboard warrior. Do something. Anything is better than hot air.

Wu cycling
Wu cycling

“Sure, life can be unfair sometimes. In any society, there will be rich and poor people, and there really isn’t any one that you could blame. Let’s not be judgemental but instead, ask how can we help? What do they need? They are, after all, our fellow Malaysian brothers and sisters,” Wu said.

For Projek Wumah 2, while Wu is busy cycling north, his project partner Hayati Ismail, director of Food Aid Foundation, will identify houses that need repairing. Right now, she has already proposed five houses that are in need of help, with a very serious case in Gombak, Selangor that needs urgent attention. To kick start Projek Wumah 2, Wu will channel surplus funds from Projek Wumah to the new effort.

For Wu, the greatest satisfaction from Projek Wumah lies in the knowledge that the living conditions of thirteen families have been improved, without them knowing the why and how.

“They didn’t need to,” Wu added.

Wu's bicycle nicknamed Dim Sum
Wu’s bicycle nicknamed Dim Sum

“The village folk remain clueless as to where their windfall had come from. I never told them about how the money was raised and from where, except to say it’s a gift from friends all over. No speeches, no thank yous and certainly no goodbyes were needed. And that was exactly how I wanted it to be.”

Follow Wu’s journey on the Cycle To China Facebook page.

Note: An edited version of this article [From Alor Setar to China on Pedal Power] was published on 4th May, 2016 in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.

With love

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