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Who isn’t afraid of failing?!

February 20, 2012
by Alan J. Wiessner

The Wallenda factor is just a normal fear of falling or failing?

“Just in case you haven’t heard, the Wallenda factor refers to the fear of falling or failing. Shortly after Karl Wallenda fell to his death in 1978 (traversing a 75-foot high wire in downtown San Juan, Puerto Rico), his wife, also an aerialist, discussed that fateful San Juan walk, “perhaps his most dangerous.”  She recalled: “All Karl thought about for three straight months prior to it was falling. It was the first time he’d ever thought about that, and it seemed to me that he put all his energies into not falling rather than walking the tightrope.”

Life is like traversing a tight rope.  If you think you need a safety net, it won’t be long before you fall.   Live your life without a safety net, or be prepared to live your life close to the ground.  

Certainly as a business we have operated with a safety net, as dictated by the standards by which we must comply, SSAE16 and PCI compliance, but over the years, we have always sought to be a technolgy leader.  We strive to offer “insanely great” software, to coin the phrase used by Steve Jobs.

Matt Ridley, The Rational Optimist says, “Pessimism is complacency.”   I think I would have to say at times I have exercised pessimism in certain situations.  I can relate it to looking in the mirror each morning and thinking, “I’m not getting any younger or thinner,  for that matter.” 

To see the video - just click on the picture

Last year I spoke of challenges.  This year, our 24th year in business, I believe anything’s possible!  Last year I spoke of good fortunes, we were fortunate enough to have earned another year in business.  I said I was proud of the intellectual property (IP) and talent we had.  This year I am confident our talent pool here is second to none.    Everyone has bought into The Rational Optimist theme, “Everybody is working for everybody else.”  Whereas last year I said opportunities present challenges.

We have faced those challenges.  We have conquered many and we are prepared to conquer the future.   While politicians in Washington scrum over the economy and jobs,  free market goes out and creates 100 mpg cars, even driverless cars. We need to tell our politicians…anything’s possible.  This year we will focus again on making our products easier to use, easier to install and cloud ready.   Inside Integra, we will continue to concentrate on developing and acquiring better tools to do our jobs in a more productive environment.  Last year’s message was, “Attitude is everything.”   

Celebrating twenty-four (24) years in business March 7th, 2012, we will continue  to encourage a positive attitude in the workplace, with our customers, partners and suppliers.  Everybody is working for everybody else (click on the picture to the left for the video) because again…. anything’s possible.  Finally, last year I predicted growth would be our next greatest challenge and we grew significantly.  We remain well positioned to take advantage of those significant gains in 2012 and beyond.     Alan J. Wiessner, President and CEO, Integra Business Systems, Inc.

To see an awesome video - just click on the picture

I’ll leave you with a great although somewhat unsettling video (click on the photo) and when you feel that wave of pessimism coming on, remember anything’s possible, well almost anything…

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then is not an act but a habit.” — Aristotle

To Scan or Not to Scan

February 5, 2011

“To Scan or Not to Scan – Counting the costs of imaging systems – and of not using them” is an article written by Katie Kuehener-Hebert published in ICBA Magazine’s February issue.

As a contributor to the article, Wiessner made the following observations…, “To get a more accurate ROI, community banks should calculate both the hard and soft costs of their current operations and compare those with the costs and savings after investing in an imaging system, vendors advise. “The greatest ROI in deploying an ECM system today is in reducing labor costs by increasing the efficiency of processing and retrieving documents;’ offers Alan Wiessner, chief executive of Integra Business Systems Inc., a document imaging provider in Safety Harbor, Fla.

 “Banks often discount these soft-cost savings because they fail to recognize they can either eliminate or repurpose employees to reduce costs or to increase productivity, which is essential for growth:’ Reducing or  eliminating printing costs provides the best ROI in terms of hard dollars savings, Wiessner says. These costs include faxing, copying and distributing paper, estimated at 6 to 14 cents a page, depending on the printer, fax or copy machine used. “But banks don’t always know the true amount of these costs because of all the shadow copies employees may be making;’ he says. Those are the copies of documents that employees may be making;’ he says. Those are the copies of documents that employees in the branches or other areas of the bank make so they don’t have to take the time to retrieve documents from the bank’s legacy systems in its centralized operations.  Sometimes it can take days, but customers needing information off of those documents won’t tolerate waiting:’ 

By potentially eliminating these shadow costs, the costs of hardware such as multifunction printers or scanners can often be easily justified, Wiessner continues. One example he gives: Desktop scanners can cost less than $1,000 for each branch. ROI should come within 6 to 18 months of implementation of an enterprise content management system, particularly if it’s a Web based system.

How can iDentifi.net give you a Return on Investment (ROI)? 

Contact us at sales@identifi.net. for an indepth study and analysis.

The Mandate to Go Paperless

June 30, 2012

Posted under “Thought Leaders” on the cbanc website  cbancnetwork.com

According to IDC (International Data Corp) – between now and 2020…  there will be 44X the growth in information BUT… only 1.4X growth in IT professionals.  For example, according to MBA Online there are 294 billion emails sent every day.  To give you an idea of the impact it would take the US Postal Service two (2) years to process that many pieces of mail.  Every day 172 million people visit Facebook, 2 million Blog posts are written (guilty as charged), enough posts to fill Time Magazine for 770 million years!

So why are we waiting to manage and store all this information?  According to an AIIM, the leading trade association in a Enterprise Content Management (ECM) survey, “the problem is we don’t think we have a problem!” The number one answer to the survey is “management is still dragging their feet;” followed by “people still want to hold onto their paper.”  Finally, “people still think they need a wet signature (signature on paper)” …and so on.

Yet AIIM also asked the following question, “How much more productive do you think your organization would be…with ECM?”  The median answer is “at least 33% more productive.”  So where is Enterprise Content Management (ECM) headed?  We see the traditional ECM model moving from document centric to people centric, open and collaborative, community oriented and so on…  A focus on the customer, rather than on products, is a critical ingredient for financial institutions to maintain and grow their business with their customers. 

ECM is an effective approach to helping financial institutions manage the information, the content necessary to achieve a customer-centric focus.  As business and consumer customers become empowered by social media and pervasive communications, they are starting to realize they have choices for their financial services. These trends are reshaping the financial industry and are putting financial institutions into a more competitive atmosphere than before.

Technology innovations today and into the future have been turned up-side-down! It used to be business drove innovation, today people do.  So how do you manage the information tsunami so your customers don’t end up knowing more about your products and services than you do?  That is the imperative for going paperless and more.

We have moved from an era of the PC, to the internet and today the cloud.  Each subsequent move has happened more rapidly.  You can see how things were processed from the document, to the web page and today it’s an interaction.  Consider the best known companies.  Look how over time we have moved the cheese from IBM to Microsoft and now to Facebook.  Content has moved from microfiche to image, to document, to content to social business systems?  We see financial institutions moving from the PC to the web and mobile devices, but not nearly as quickly as their customers and the growth in the devices themselves.  What’s next?  Go paperless.

What are 2 or 3 greatest misperceptions associated with implementing doc imaging?

Centralized scanning (capture) is NOT the only way to control the document imaging capture and workflow.  Scanners become increasingly powerful and inexpensive.  Scanners for less than $1,000 include features such as duplex and color document capture.  Software as a Service (SaaS) and in-house web-server based ECM applications offer  click-once deployment, employ barcode recognition, forms recognition and e-signature technologies which allow for a more automated and accurate method of capture.  Centralized capture out!  Distributed capture in!

Your ECM implementation happens overnight.  False!  Technologies such as report archive and a basic backfile scanning application, like signature cards may be in place in weeks, but careful planning and best practices while employing ECM applications for all new account and loan products, HR, accounting, Accounts Payable and so on take time and teamwork.

You’re going to go “completely” paperless.  False!  There are going to be documents you have to keep, such as a mortgage and a deed.  Your lawyer must decide.

How long is a ‘typical’ timeline to get a doc imaging system up and running?

If the ECM vendor provides “templates” for the applications the customer wishes to implement and best practices guidelines during the pre-implementation stage and during implementation a “typical” document imaging implementation timeline will be 30-90 days.  If the customer is exceptionally well organized in terms of defining their applications and indexes it can be 30-45 days.  The customer must provide good feedback and be fully engaged.

Who is best suited to serve as the project owner for implementation: IT, the business line being imaged, or some other area?

The IT department or IT consultant needs to be involved as well as the business line managers of the department or organization being implemented but the ECM project owner should be a person that has project management skills.  They might not have all the answers but have the ability to get the answers and keep the project on track internally and be an advocate to promote the system throughout the organization.

Besides loan origination, what are 3 other areas that should be considered for doc imaging?

Deposits, Operations, Legal, HR, AP, Vendor Management, Facilities Management Wire transfer and more…

Are there any business lines or areas that are NOT good candidates for doc imaging? Why?

There are areas that will be more challenging than others.  If you are new to ECM, pick an area of the institution where there is a quick ROI like new account signature cards, new account documents, consumer loans, HR then make your way to more challenging are such as commercial mortgages.  The primary concern will always be the same best practices and teamwork.

What recommendations can be made to minimize staff keeping ‘ghost files’?

If you cannot access the content, image files, documents and reports easily and quickly from anywhere across the organization, you will most likely have people keeping ghost files.  This means stop the flow by capturing documents at their originating point within your organization and conquering the backfile as well.  A scanning service is a good way to get that done.  It is usually easy though for the bank themselves to go back and scan in all the old signature cards.  This is a good way to be successful right off the bat.  It has a good impact on the customer and the staff.

I recently did a survey and analysis at a multi-billion financial institution and I expressly advised them they would never catch up with their backfile if they didn’t capture their documents at the source (branch) or in the field and utilize e-signature and auto-indexing methods whenever possible.  Centralized capture is out!  Distributed capture is in!  Managing social business content lags far behind, but we are storing more content from more and more channels of communication.

Can some docs be destroyed immediately after imaging? Any docs that can NOT be destroyed?

This list is extensive and requires the advice from the financial institutions legal counsel.  As a general rule, keep everything seven years. Keep the Mortgage, Release of Mortgage and Note permanently.

For more information or an ROI analysis of your needs to go paperless contact sales@identifi,net or visit our website www.identifi.net

Living without Legacy – iDentifi.net – Part II

July 27, 2011

There’s a great series on the History Channel, called “Life After People”. The series explores what happens to our cities, buildings and bridges without people to maintain them. In just days, our very infrastructure we take for granted, our tunnels and subways will become flooded. Transportation will cease. Power will be cut. Our planet begins to look like this (click on thumbnail).

Some things increase in value with age, like a Monet or nice Cabernet.  Not so legacy software.  To run a software application in a SaaS environment you have to deploy the latest web technology.

How do you deploy over 2,000 scan stations, 9,000 signature pads and a combined total of over 12,000 eSign, Scan and Document retrieval stations across the country for a single customer in less than one month?  The answer is called iDentifi.net.  iDentifi.net is an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) suite of web-based software built on the Microsoft .Net latest architecture.

iDentifi.net can run efficiently in a Software as a Service (SaaS) environment.  Our competitors are running client-server applications, let’s just call it what it is “legacy” software.  To learn more about “legacy” software follow the link to read my last post – Living without Legacy http://wp.me/p1mJAs-m1

When evaluating ECM software, especially when it’s time to choose your core banking or credit union software, a 30 minute PowerPoint presentation or a brief demo showing integration with the core solution shouldn’t be enough to go with the “core” vendor’s company “owned” ECM software.

“It can be a giant step backward.  Take a harder look.”

Even when the core vendor’s ancillary product is recommended by your consultant.  Consultants most times go with the core vendor’s recommendation on ancillary products. How do I know?  None of the bank and credit union consultants have ever contacted Integra to evaluate iDentifi.net.

Besides the efficient and the low cost of deployment, what other reasons do you have to select a SaaS environment for ECM?  Number one on everyone’s list should be…  pay as you go.

No large upfront capital investment.  Rather than pay for IT infrastructure, that can soon become obsolete, operating software and services, either in-house or outside IT consulting, you can rely on a SaaS provider to supply everything you
need to run your ECM application.

The buzz is all about cloud computing.  There’s bound to be some confusion between cloud computing and SaaS.  SaaS is software application(s) running either in a private network infrastructure or a commercial network infrastructure.  Our iDentifi.net can run on either infrastructure or in-house on your network.

When I talk about savings on infrastructure by going SaaS, I’m talking about avoiding the investment in Server(s); Operating System (OS); Database (SQL); archival – secure document storage and access, encryption, reliable redundancy, backup and regulatory compliance. These cost all become the burden of the ECM provider in a SaaS environment.

When I talk about the savings you gain by choosing the latest web-based technology, I’m referring to our Smart Client” deployment via ClickOnce for applications that need to touch the PC, like iDentifi.eSign and iDentifi.Scan
software because they are tied to a signature pad and/or document scanner.  Clients automatically update themselves from the server.  Client configuration is centrally managed to speed up deployment. Multiple customers can be hosted on a single server.  Centralized management of licenses, users, groups and security are managed through iDentifi.Core.  All less time your IT folks need to invest as opposed to a legacy ECM product.

Follow the link for a Company and Product overview – http://www.slideboom.com/presentations/277770/iDentifi.Net-4.0-ECM-Product-Suite-and-20.10-Company-Overview

iDentifi.net customers live without legacy.  To us ECM is not our ancillary, it’s our occupation.

Living without Legacy – iDentifi.net

April 5, 2011

There’s a great series on the History Channel, called “Life After People”.  The series explores what happens to our cities, buildings and bridges without people to maintain them.  In just days, our very infrastructure we take for granted, our tunnels and subways will become flooded.  Transportation will cease.  Power will be cut.  Our planet begins to look like this (click on thumbnails).

Here is a trailer to the series.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8aLKHShv9o

Most of our competitor’s Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions, a.k.a., document imaging or COLD, are considered ancillary (secondary) products.  What happens when your provider’s resources are pulled from ECM product development to concentrate their resources on their core competency?

There’s a series is in the works, it’s called “Living without Legacy”.  It’s about living with an erosion in talent; living with meager or no updates; living with Band-Aid fixes (patches).

Without people maintaining the Golden Gate Bridge would be underwater in just a few short years.

Moore’s Law, named after the founder of Intel is about the trends in technology and innovation.  While Moore’s Law (click on thumbnail view) addresses transistors, processors and memory devices face similar growth.  These devices impact the software development business in a very big way.

Software development is our business and we know software is never done.  You have to update constantly to keep up with the latest technology.  Otherwise it will end up like the Golden Gate Bridge.  Underwater.

If you are living with legacy, you won’t be able to take advantage of the latest web technology.  And just like hair extensions, don’t be fooled by web extensions.  Like the world’s underground of tunnels and subways, the underlying technology behind web extensions is client-server – (legacy) based.  If and when available, what will it cost you to upgrade to the latest web-server technology of your ECM product?  It just may be time to find out.

Technology is not slowing down, it’s speeding up.  The faster technology changes the faster software applications must change to keep you competitive in your industry.

Integra Business Systems, Inc. develops ECM products for financial institutions and the financial services industry.  We own our technology.    We develop in ASP.Net and .Net.  Our iDentifi.net (follow link) http://www.identifi.net/product line is web-based.

To learn more about the products you need and best practices, go to the post, http://advancingthepaperlessoffice.com/2010/09/11/imaging-horsepower-2/ Imaging Horsepower, a post on this Blog which has appeared in both ICBA Magazine and online at Credit Union Magazine.

iDentifi.net customers live without legacy.  To us ECM is not our ancillary, it’s our occupation.

Imaging Horsepower is now available on Credit Union Magazine's website.

February 24, 2011

Imaging Horsepower is now available on Credit Union Magazine’s website.

Imaging

http://www.creditunionmagazine.com/articles/imaging-horsepower?

A successful ECM implementation means credit union staff must find the software easy to use. An ECM application using the ubiquitous browser is a good choice for searching for documents. Who isn’t familiar with the Internet browser? This reduces the cost and time to train employees, especially in positions with high turnover.

Stranded! Kim Tran, an American Success Story – Part Two

January 11, 2011

 Kim and her family survived one major ordeal only to face new challenges landing on a small island short of the island of Pulau Bidong, Malaysia.  Two days and nights later they would land on Pulau Bidong and begin an eleven (11) month odyssey on the island. Hard to believe their flight and their plight was perceived a blessing, but a blessing none the less.

There were thousands of their neighbors, friends and relatives who were less fortunate.  Young children, who’s parents had bought their freedom fell victims to pirates, were raped, had their possessions stolen, were thrown overboard or perished from malnutrition or starvation.  Those who remained behind in Saigon, with children too young to travel or couldn’t afford to buy their freedom met similar fates.

Pulau Bidong, one of the scenic and uninhabited islands off located off Kuala Terengganu, is often remembered as the temporary home of the Vietnamese boat people who fled their war-torn country in the 1970s. Out of the estimated 800,000 Vietnamese who left their country during this period, the biggest proportion, more than a quarter of a million, landed on their shores.

Although the island has the capacity to provide shelter for 4,500 refugees at any one time it took up to as many as 20,000 people at one stage, at the height of the arrival of the boat people. Pulau Bidong served as a half-way house for these people before they were sent to other countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia and several European countries, and it took time to grant approval to those qualified to be accepted as refugees. Those whose applications were rejected were sent to the Sungai Besi Refugee Camp, where they were later forcibly repatriated back to Vietnam after the war.

In the early stages, the refugees, some with nothing except the clothes on their backs, ate anything they could find on the island including monkeys, frogs and squirrels. The wildlife population was decimated. To ensure the refugees got humanitarian aid and better living conditions, the UNHCR through the International Red Cross supervised the activities on the island.

Long-houses and offices made from wood from the local forest were built and the boat people were provided with better basic needs and amenities such as food, schools, workshops, electricity and water. Perhaps to make it just like home, the camp was subsequently turned into a bustling mini Saigon. It had the trappings of a township – post office, church, temple, tailors, hair salons, sundry shops and even disco and bar. One part of the beach was even named Pantai Cina – China Beach – after its more famous counterpart in Vietnam.

In Kim’s own words…

Later I had learned the aid ship following us was a World Vision Missionary ship.  Approaching land, our boat had stopped once the propeller had stuck in the sand.  The boat had begun to tilt.  Someone had yelled “get off the boat as quickly as possible.”   The boat was taking on water.   The men got off the boat and assisted the women and children toward the shore.  I remembered as I walked toward the beach, my head felt heavier than my body.  Once everyone had gotten to shore safely, each family cleared an area for their family and settled on the beach.  The women used whatever spare clothing they could find to cover the sand, so the elderly and children could sit down. While everyone was busy setting up camp for the night, I looked out at where the boat had been.  Within minutes, it had sunk tail first.  I could not believe it.  We were all stranded on this small island with limited food and water supply (of course, I was too young to worry about food or drink, I just thought of how lucky that I did not drown).  Some people from our boat started to look around the island and search for help but did not see anyone else on the island. The men continued to look around the island and talked among themselves.  The women were asked to occupy the kids.  Our caretaker, Anh, told us stories to help us sleep but I could not sleep that night.  I heard too many strange noises close by.  I stared into the sky.  It was clear with plenty of stars out.  I looked again to the horizon.  There was no remnant our boat had ever existed. 

As the sun rose a boat with Malaysian soldiers approached.  The soldiers told everyone on our boat to surrender all of our gold and valuables to them for safe keeping.  They assured everyone that these items would be recorded and returned to us, once we had been accepted by and ready to depart to a new destination.  Most of the people on our boat were skeptical and didn’t want them holding their valuables.  Finally, the soldiers demanded that if no one surrendered their valuables, we would have to stay on this island until they got what they wanted.  So families started to bring a few pieces of gold to the soldiers.  My dad quickly told my sister, My, and other sisters to keep some gold hidden under their clothes.  My family gave up approximately 50 pieces of gold to the soldiers.  At the time, we didn’t know the exact value of the gold.  The soldiers wrote something down (in Malaysian) and had each family sign.  We had no idea what they had written on those documents.  We believed that the gold pieces were as good as gone.  My dad just considered it payment so we could leave the small island in peace, a down payment on our future.

After this, they left us alone and told us that they would call for assistance.  At that moment, everyone was just relieved, happy and excited that everyone had found FREEDOM.   Later that day, someone was stung by a poisonous sea urchin.  The poison spread so quickly that she went unconscious.  The soldiers called and asked for immediate rescue.  That evening, the rescue boat came.  It only took her and her family and to leave the island first.  They would not take anyone else who had been stranded.  The soldiers pushed the others away from the motor boat.  Someone explained that more boats would be back tomorrow for the rest of us.   That news calmed the remaining people.  One more night, we spent on this isolated island.  The next day around noon time, several boats arrived.  We all packed whatever belongings we had left and we headed toward these boats.  I remembered treading through the clear blue water and attempting to avoid stepping on jelly fish of all colors and sizes that had covered the island’s shoreline.  Luckily no one else got hurt that day.  It was a short ride to a larger island called  Pulau Bidong, where my family would reside for approximately 11 months.  There were plenty of adventures and obstacles to come.

 As we approached new land (Pulau Bidong), we saw the wood dock.  We could see the people on the beach that were Vietnamese by their clothing, which got us all very excited.  Side note:  We all had thought the boats were taking us to main land of Malaysia.  Come to find out, this new home for us all was a refugee camp.  After all of us had gotten off the motor boats, each family looked for a spot for our family on the beach to settle.  Hunger finally hit my family fast and hard.  We were starving. We hadn’t eaten food in several days.  We had only drank water or something close to it.   

There was very little rice left to feed my family of 16 members.  We had to cook rice in a broth to have enough for my family to share.  We shared a small half bowl of white rice soup between us.  We passed the bowl to each family member in turn to sip.  My family had never suffered hunger.  This was a very humbling and frightening experience.  We were a proud family living comfortably to a family starving within a span of 4 days. 

Since the boat that transferred us to Pulau Bidong was the 23rd boat that had arrived at this camp, it was labeled number 23.  The population on Pulau Bidong Island at that time was roughly 40000+ people.  Our boat was assigned to the D or B area of the island.  This was how the island officials would divide and find the families.   That night we slept on a bank along the shore of the island.  The next morning, each family was shown to where we were to live.  When we got to our new home, it was just a patch of dirt.  It was up to us to build a shelter.  Unfortunately for my family, we didn’t have the skill nor the know how to build a structure of any kind and we would rely on other refugees to assist us.  We were tired, fatigued and hungry.  We slept with a plastic tarp for cover.  That 2nd night, thunder and lightning woke us, the rain water soaking us beneath the tarp.   We picked up our belongings to avoid the rain from ruining them.  The rain was so heavy, it poured down the hillside.  We all stood till morning and then we had were provide help to start building our new home. 

My dad and brothers went up the hill to gather woods and branches.  My family had many restless nights in the beginning.  To top it off, I had chronic Asthma attacks.  My family could not get me immediate medical attention.  We had to wait until our family was officially registered into the refugee residential list.  It took two days for the process to be completed.  We were helpless.  We went from a well-to-do family to doing things for ourselves.  It was very difficult life-altering event for our whole family.   Though time was all we had, my family was forced to quickly adapt to our new lives. 

Life on Pulau Bidong - finding clean water was a problem

My family life on Pulau Bidong:

My siblings and I shared one bed. There were 3 beds total in our home.   All of our beds were made with multiple and  uneven branches tied together.  But it was better than the dirt floor.  It was very difficult for my elderly grandmother.  She could not sleep on these beds.  Later on, she bought a wood plank that came from a wrecked boat.  This was used to make a more comfortable bed for her to sleep on.   For cooking, we dug a hole and mounted several rocks for a fire pit.  Other appliances and supplies, we had to buy with gold or money depending on the sellers.  All families received some supplies from the United Nations like rice, instant noodles, and beans.  Note: This is why I dislike beans, especially kidney beans.  To earn a living, my older siblings would buy and sell fresh fruits and others products from a lady, whom was the longest survivor on this island.  This lady would buy her inventory from Malaysian civilians that sail by our island.  The island was deemed a gold mine; for without gold or money no one would survive the hard life.  There was plenty of price gouging.  For instance, one bottle of Coca Cola, which cost 34 Cents, was sold for a $1.00.  This was just a small example.  There was no employment on the island. So, people created their own jobs. 

Some climbed the hill and cut trees for trading with those in need of lumber for shelter or for firewood.  My oldest brother, Jimmy, took on a risky business.  He swam offshore to where Malaysian fishermen boat drifted by.  The fishermen would bring different items to sell items such as axes; hand saws, tents, even cookies, which were in demand in our camp.  Malaysian police patrolled and would beat or kick the sellers and the buyers of these goods.  They would chase off the fishermen. One time, Jimmy had bought 20 axes as the policemen’s canoe was approaching.  Jimmy had to jump off the fisherman boat. The weight of 20 axes sank Jimmy to the bottom of ocean floor.  He panicked but would not give up.  He managed to drag the axes to shore.  Lucky for Jimmy with the weight of the axes he sunk quickly, otherwise the policemen would have beaten him with their sticks regardless if he had surfaced too quickly. 

For drinking water, there were only a few public wells which supported the large population on the island.   We would travel for miles, stood in a long line.  It could stretch for miles and we waited our turn.  Once we reached the well, we would gather a bucket of water.  Public wells soon went dry.  People started to dig their own wells.  Before the water system was built, most private wells were only used for bathing and washing.  The island was undeveloped and not ready to handle people especially large populations.  No sanitary system existed.  Heavy rain would contaminate the water supply and jeopardize the fresh water supply, which made everyone’s life more miserable.  Later on, the United Nations brought in piping and helped build a water system that transferred fresh drinking water for everyone on the island.   

My family tried and gradually adjusted to the lifestyle on the island.  Yet we would continue to pray and hope for a miracle that some country would sponsor us.  My family was low on the list for sponsorship for several reasons.  We were not a part of US military services or affiliated in anyway.  My family was not classified as a priority at that time, the US delegates could not process the sponsorship right away.  My family could only hope and wait for acceptance based on a religious sponsorship.  The biggest problem was the size of my family.  Most groups did not have the financial funds to sponsor 16 people. Our lives on the island were like the movie Groundhog Day and seemed hopelessly mundane.  We all lived day-to-day as  best we could. Churches and temples were built.  W donated wood, tree, and tents.   My brothers, sisters and I would spend our spare time by studying Basic English at any church or temple that offered free classes. 

Who is the shy one? Kim and family - USA - airport

When the last of these boat people left the island in the early 1990s, what remained were mute reminders of recent history: charred wooden buildings and rotting huts which once housed about a quarter of a million boat people since their first arrival in 1978.

Today, the only welcome for visitors to the beach of Pulau Bidong is a barren beachfront stall and glimpses of buildings heavily hidden by overgrown brushwood and bushes. Only emptiness, signboards with Vietnamese characters and names are still on display – ghostly reminder of the past.

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