Caring duo on a charity mission

A boy gets his face painted.

APART from focusing on the works of local handicraft makers, two 30-year-old bosom friends Flora Wong and Eleanor Sinta from Miri are hoping to educate the public on loving the environment through charitable collaborations.

Flora, a handicrafter, had invited some local craft-makers to join their new market – Artsy Fartsy Market (AFM) – at the Piasau Nature Reserve (PNR) last Nov 30 to raise awareness of their cause and to showcase local products.

Due to the overwhelming response, a second AFM was held – this time for two days (Feb 15-16) at the same venue. It coincided with the launching of PNR’s Love Hornbills Day by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

(From left) Assistant Minister of Urban Development and Resources and SFC chairman Datu Len Talif Salleh, Abang Johari, Flora, Eleanor, and Minister of Transport Datuk Lee Kim Shin.

AFM is a place for all and there is no better way to spend the weekend than getting to shop there and letting the kids have some fun educational activities – all in one place.

During the first AFM, a full day’s programme with an environmental theme was organised for the kids while their parents went shopping.

The activities included storytelling (in English, Bahasa Malaysia, and Mandarin) on environmental cleanliness, organised by Pustaka Negeri Sarawak Miri, recycle bin colouring sessions, 5R (refuse, reduce, repair, recycle, reuse), kids crafts, and newspapers folding project in support of the ‘Say No to Plastic Bag’ campaign.

Apart from the library, PNR park warden Louis Velda also gave a talk on wildlife, while Mariana Michael from Sarawak Shell Berhad spoke about the environment.

Besides the indoor activities, the children and parents got to see a balloon twisting and magic show by Dedeq the clown; listen to live music by Christine Chai, Natalie Ku, Kuet Xin Ee, and Marcus Tan from Sonata Academy Miri; and enjoy the renditions of Soccer Rockers Junior and a sape performance by Jevin & Syl.

A total of 34 local vendors took part in the first AFM, selling food and various arts and crafts, including a live caricature by Fio Kab Arts, while the second market saw 62 vendors participating.

Hamidah Yaakub Welfare Complex residents show their batik paintings.

Two new sections

According to Flora and Eleanor, the latest AFM has two new sections – a chill-out hangout and a hot food area called ‘Lai, Lepak’ – with one café for each market.

“The purpose was to let the locals explore and enjoy the different coffees and hot drinks on offer. For this latest market, we featured Slone Café, a hidden gem in Miri City. We wanted to give this opportunity to the different cafes in each of the markets.

“We also promoted sustainability on the second two-day market. We had a recycle/upcycle (creative reuse) zone for vendors, selling upcycle clothing, second-hand goods, and single-use recycled straws or containers,” Eleanor said, adding that the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) was impressed by AFM’s collaboration with PNR and its concept of charity involvement as a community outreach programme.

Proceeds from the sales of jute bags go to the welfare homes.

Other activities during the second AFM were educational talks, including reading milestones and learning habits, for parents and caregivers by Supa Readers, a basket and mat weaving workshop by Vienetta Craft, a Hornbill Talk by Dr Pilai Poonswad, and a Hornbill Walk to see hornbills during the nesting season led by Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Sebastian Ting.

Educational outings were also organised by the Piasau Camp Miri Nature Park Society on day one and by Musa Musbah from the Malaysian Nature Society Miri, and Louis on the second day.

There were also music and dance performances on both days, including those by Sonata Music Academy, T-Home, and The Arts School, Xiao Dou Ya.

Over 80 children from these four music and art schools performed songs and dances of different cultures and languages – K-pop, Chinese, Indian, traditional native, and Malay.

Among the other performers were the Sape Movement, Aaron Wong (singing), and Ivan Ong (modern dance).

Hand-made items sold at the AFM.

Two charities

The latest market also involved residents from two welfare homes – the Miri Methodist Children’s Home and the Hamidah Yakub Welfare Complex.

The children were invited to join the market’s fun programmes – to feel loved and enjoy themselves, which they don’t get to do very often.

Many vendors and volunteers contributed by offering free activities such as batik painting and baking cookies; ushering the children from activity to activity.

AFM is also raising funds for the two charities by selling limited edition AFM jute bags at RM50 each. The money collected will be used to buy daily necessities for the children.

Wooden crafts sold at the AFM.

Sales of the jute bags and monetary donations are on-going. Those interested in buying the jute bags or making a donation can contact AFM.

According to Flora, Speed Fitness Studio also dedicated two fitness classes with proceeds from ticket sales to be donated to AFM’s charitable causes.

She said apart from showcasing their products, the objective was to bring handicraft makers in Miri together as a community to raise awareness of rainforest and wildlife.

“We chose PNR because we wanted to try a different concept than just selling things. Being passionate about charity works and arts, we decided to combine the two and PNR is the best place to do it. The public could learn about conserving the environment, the hornbills and shop for local products as well.

“Our goals were to raise awareness of conserving our protected hornbills and the needs of the two orphanages. Both these goals are achieved.

“Overall, it was a great event with a relatively good turnout despite the Covid-19 scare,” Flora said.

Despite having no financial backing, Flora and Eleanor hope to organise the same market every three to four months to contribute to the conservation of PNR as the Pied Hornbill Oriental nesting habitat and a sanctuary for other wildlife in the area.