June Rubis, LoyarBurokker.

A heartfelt declaration by June Rubis of what LoyarBurok means to her, and to a lot of us.

Two weeks ago, I reconnected with an old friend whom I haven’t seen in years. What struck me about him was that his outlook to life was different. Somehow or another our conversation meandered from catching up, to the current Selangor crisis, and the Perak constitutional crisis. Maybe this doesn’t seem so odd to you but here we were, two Sarawakians, in Sarawak, talking with much interest of issues happening in West Malaysia. And we weren’t even making snarky comments about orang Malaya (and I say this with much affection).

I took away from this meeting, a sense of feeling really heartened to not only have reconnected with an old friend but also to discover mutual recognition of kindred spirits. I went away, thinking that he has come a long way since I met him, until it struck me, where was I in this meeting of minds? When did I also appear?

For many years, I was a pretty hard-core conservationist until I started to get really frustrated of how certain scenarios tend to play over repeatedly in the arena of conservation. Conservation in Southeast Asia is stuck in a rut, and I knew that we had to start examining different approaches to make significant change.

Yet in order to do so, I had to think out of my bubble, and start recognizing that every issue that we are all fighting for, is interconnected. No issue is an island; no issue stands alone. In the heart of it all, I sensed that the driving issue was social change, ensuring basic human rights for everybody — everything else, including conservation, would then fall into place.

Armed with this new awakening, I felt a bit lost.

I wanted off my island.

And then one day, like Alice falling deep into a rabbit hole, and discovering a groovy world, I found LoyarBurok.

June Rubis, LoyarBurokker.
June Rubis, LoyarBurokker.

I have stumbled into an ‘alternative’ community that provides support and inspiration for the work that I do. For conservationists (or NGO workers/activists/even loyars), we tend to isolate ourselves in professional cliques because often, these are the people that understand what we are going through on a daily basis. These are the people who don’t tell us that we are crazy/strange/different — words that we sometimes hear from people outside our industry (including well-meaning friends).

Yet with this support from our professional peers, comes the danger of complacency of what we do, the ennui of “fighting the good fight”. Work cliques come hand-in-hand with cliche complaints on whether what we are struggling for is actually making a difference.

It is only when we meet like-minded people working for the ultimate goal in different capacities — social justice — that we are reminded of what we do is worthwhile. Whatever we had worked hard, and have sacrificed for, is significant even when we do not, can not see it for ourselves. It takes seeing your work with a new fresh set of eyes, from an outsider looking in, with the same compassion and passion. This invigorates you, encourages you to continue on.

For if someone, even just one person, finds your work inspiring and worthwhile, and you in turn, are inspired by what they do, it is enough to go on.

Working for social justice is a life-long marathon, not a sprint. It is a series of processes that takes you on a difficult, joyous, tearful, amazing life-changing journey.

And it takes a community to guide and support you along the way, while opening your eyes and mind.

LoyarBurok is it.

June is a LoyarBurokker.

In another lifetime, June was a field biologist, searching for orang utans in the wild. She still dreams of living in the forests.

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