The feeling of grief and loneliness among parents when a child leaves home is common.
One method to alleviate the feeling is to be inclusive in a community, which is one of the visions and missions of the Belait Senior Citizens Activity Centre (PKWE Belait).
Formerly known as Pusat Masyarakat Bestari (PMB), the centre for senior citizens used to operate on a limited basis in 2018 at the Kampong Pandan Library, before the centre had its own building. That was when PKWE Belait was formally established, which was a collaborative effort with a donation by Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd (BSP), who handed over the building and renovated the compound. The furniture and equipment were supplied by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) through the Community Development Department (JAPEM).
Since the opening in February 2020 by Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin, the centre continued to operate despite the setback by the global pandemic.
With the nation slowly emerging and moving towards an early endemic phase, I met up with the centre’s members to learn how they had coped with the global pandemic.
Administrative Manager of the PKWE Belait K Salim bin Abdul Karim, who goes by the name of Salimo, said the centre used to have a lot of activities prior to the pandemic.
He said the centre aims to keep the elderly busy, because otherwise it can have a negative impact on one’s mentality.
“The elderly people might say ‘no one is looking after me, there’s no one to talk to’. So it’s our aim to see that these people come to the centre.” Salimo said when they first started, the centre had only 23 members. The centre now comprises 115 members, though he lamented that many are not active due to the global pandemic as well as transportation problems.
Salimo said since activities were halted to curb the spread of the virus, the centre faced another challenge; tending the centre. As day-to-day operations were kept to a minimum, only key committee members were present to watch over the centre and keeping the facilities properly maintained.
When the Early Endemic Phase started, Salimo said the centre slowly began to hold activities, including cooking, sewing and knitting classes, as well as religious activities such as Tahlil and Surah Yaasiin recitation.
Head of the Cooking Class at the centre Hajah Zaliha binti Haji Sahari said activities are carried out nearly every day from Monday to Thursday as well as on Saturday.
“On Monday, we have cooking and sewing classes which include knitting baskets and crochet. On Tuesday, we have the sewing school clothing project for students. On Wednesday, we have tazkirah to learn more about the Islamic faith. On Thursday, we have Tahlil and Surah Yaasiin recitation; and Saturday is when we are free to conduct other activities,” said Hajah Zaliha.
These activities help establish closer relations between the senior citizens.
“It helps to fill our time, as well as expand and develop our knowledge. Even though we are in our senior years, we are still learning new things and have gained new skills from each other,” she said.
Even with the centre’s closure is in line with the Ministry of Health guidelines during the pandemic, the members continued their activities at home so their routines were
not broken. In looking forward to the future, Salimo advises, especially people who are starting to retire, to not simply stay at home and do nothing.
He noted the importance of aid from authorities, especially transportation so that the members will be able to travel to the centre.
He also praised the support given by BSP for providing the building for the senior citizens to spend time with other like-minded people.