PUTATAN, Jan 16, 2019: With all her belongings up in ashes, Marlina Marlan, 59, wonders how she would be able to put food on the table and feed her family in the coming days ahead.
She says that it is hard for her to think since everything she had — all her savings and belongings are all gone in the fire that destroyed 55 houses and rendered more than 300 people homeless on January 11, 2019 at Kampung Pasir Putih, Putatan.
Fortunately, her family was spared and no one was hurt in the fire, except for several of her pet cats that she believed perished.
When asked what she felt would be able to help her get back on her feet, she thought of her sewing machine and her brand new oven, which she said was still in its box. She sighs and took a deep breath. “If I was able to salvage them, I would be able to do something to generate an income,” she says.
She explains that she often baked biscuits and sold them at the market, and she also takes orders from people to make “baju Raya”, which either refers to the traditional “Baju Kebaya” or “Baju Kurung”, but she did not elaborate further.
She continues to tell that she wasn’t home during the fire and was out visiting a sick relative. Those home included her husband and her sons, while her grandchildren were on their way to school. Coincidentally, one of her grandchildren, Mohazim Putra Mohd Hisham, 9, realised he has forgotten something and went back home to get it. It was him who saw the smoke starting to form at one of the nearby houses and he quickly helped his grandfather out of the house and alerted everyone else. One of Marlina’s son commented that he was asleep when he heard the shouts, having just finished his night shifts.
Marlina says that her grandson’s quick action has saved the lives of three people in the family who were unaware of the fire and were at the house sleeping.
Mohazim says that he has lost all his school books and school uniforms in the fire, but also adds that he has received a new bag and several new school uniforms while at the temporary shelter at the Kg Pasir Putih multipurpose hall. Unlike the adults, Mohazim doesn’t seem to mind living at the hall as he has his friends whom he can play with the entire day and night. He mentions however that he is sad because he lost his cats, Oning and Miming. “We have one cat left.”
Marlina also says that all the affected house owners have been promised a new house by the village head. However, she is unaware when this will materialise.
Her take on what caused the fire to swiftly ravaged the houses at her community:
She attributes the swift spread of the fire on January 11, 2019 to the indiscriminate dumping of wastes by some of the residents who run small business operations at the market. Aside from that, she also blames the close proximity of houses built.
“Those who saw the fire spreading thought there were spirits lurking as the fire disappeared and reappeared as if there was magic at play,” she says.
What’s next for her:
She says she will probably move to Kinarut to stay with one of her children. However, subsequent visit to the shelter showed that Marlina still stayed at there.
People who came to help Marlina
They say that the pen is mightier than the sword, and I guess this to be true for Marlina’s case. Her story was published on January 15, and on that same day, businesswoman and philanthropist, Eliza Goh came forward and said she would like to donate an oven and sewing machine to Marlina.
Eliza has helped numerous individuals in the past and believes in getting people who have fallen back on their feet. She says that the joy of seeing the people she helped “living again” is all that she needs to keep doing good.
On January 16, Eliza presented the oven and sewing machine to Marlina. Initially, she requested anonymity, but I believe that one cannot and should not hide a candle under a bowl. The good work must be spread so that others will be inspired to do good to anyone, irrespective of creed and belief.
An on January 21, two more people came forward to help. They are Changgih Designs co-founder, Allen Dawson and Gaya Street Singer branch manager, Gomez Sim. Allen donated an edging machine while Gomez donated a heavy duty Singer sewing machine.
Allen says that he rarely reads the newspaper, but on that day, his car needed to be repaired and he accidentally read about Marlina’s story.
“I saw the article about someone in distress and in need of a sewing machine,” he says.
He felt the need to help and reached out to the writer of the article (which is me), spoke of his intention to help and introduced his company which is involved in the sewing industry and the rest, as they say, is history.
“I thought that if she has a sewing machine, she could get back on her feet and get paid for her work.”
Marlina when accepting the donations said she felt sad because she won’t be able to repay them for their help.