Tzu Chi Melaka held its annual year-end distribution event on January 1, 2017, with a steamboat feast for the care recipients and their families so that they could enjoy a warm festive celebration. Sixty-nine tables were set up to receive 497 guests, who arrived for an annual reunion despite obstacles like sickness, transportation issue, family affairs, timing and so on.
Apart from the scrumptious vegetarian food, New Year gift packs conveying Tzu Chi volunteers’ care and love were presented to the care recipients. The gift packs consisted of rice, oatmeal, cookies and other daily necessities. Free health screenings and haircut services were also provided in addition to spring couplet writing, charity sale of used goods, and other activities. All these were arranged for the care recipients and their family members to enable them to usher in a New Year feeling and looking good.
Thoughtfulness brought good mood
Under the hot sun, volunteers welcomed and exchanged hearty greetings with their guests: “Good morning everyone, Happy New Year!” “Welcome, please follow me to your seat.” “Hi, nice to see you again.” “The decorations are beautiful and are full of the New Year mood.” “You may get a haircut and health screening services here, and feel free to visit the environmental protection section if you have the time.” Everyone was beaming with joy.
Care recipient Sarujah a/p Kathervelooy, together with her four children, aged between 7 and 11, were chauffeured by a volunteer to the event. When her children discovered there was haircut service available, they happily queued up for their turns. Looking exceptionally radiant with happy faces after getting their haircuts, they expressed their joy and appreciation in simple words: “Love it. Very pretty. Look more handsome now. Nicer compared to my previous haircut.”
Volunteers learnt that Sarujah had been the children’s barber all these while to save costs. However, due to lack of skill, she could not give them a proper haircut, making them the laughing stock of their schoolmates. Today, watching how happy her children were, Sarujah exclaimed happily, “With the new look, my children will not be laughed at anymore when they return for their new school term.”
A happy and warm New Year celebration
Care recipient Chang Xing Ni arrived at the venue carrying a child and two other primary school children beside her while a Tzu Chi volunteer helped to hold the hand of another child. As this was their first participation at a year-end distribution event, they were curious at the things around them.
When the lion dancers appeared in two opposite directions, the striking of the drums sounded simultaneously. Unable to contain her excitement, Xing Ni moved towards the stage with her children, and immersed themselves happily in the lion dance performance.
“My daughter is only one year-plus. I wanted to give her a good view by moving closer to the stage as this is her first time seeing a lion dance. My other children were so excited that they rushed forward with other children upon hearing the music and seeing the lion dancers performing.”
While Xing Ni happily shared her feelings, her youngest son, Ng Zin Juan remarked, “I love the lion dance, very lively! The food here is different from home and very delicious. I want to come again next year.” Xing Ni explained that they are deprived of the fun of family outing, so whenever there is an opportunity, the children would get excited. Moreover, celebrating New Year here was livelier than at home. She thanked Tzu Chi for easing her financial burden with milk powder subsidies since 2016, and other necessities during festive seasons. The family had a happy New Year reunion filled with warmth and a good spread of food today.
Anticipate the annual reunion
“I want to return to my spiritual home every year,” said Koh Moey Kim, a care recipient with muscular dystrophy. Despite being handicapped to outdoor activities, she would make all the effort to leave her home once a year to attend the annual year-end distribution event.
On this occasion, she came with her mother and two nephews. She first learnt about Tzu Chi more than 30 years ago through a cassette borrowed from a Buddhist friend. From there, she understood and was touched by how Master Cheng Yen from Taiwan had established Tzu Chi despite her tough living conditions. Not long after, Tzu Chi volunteers visited her and started to care for her.
She is vigilant about Master Cheng Yen’s advice for volunteers to serve amongst the crowd. However, as she aged, her physical condition deteriorated leaving only her right index finger flexible while other parts of her body were motionless. As such, she was unable to join volunteers in their community services. Nevertheless, this did not cripple her spirit. Through knowledge gained from watching Da Ai TV, she would share about Tzu Chi’s spirit with friends on the Internet and pledge for donations from her relatives. Her life story is the manifestation of the realities of life. Her persistence to live life to the fullest despite physical disabilities has saved and encouraged many netizens to value their lives and live a meaningful life.
“My wish is to become a Tzu Chi volunteer but unfortunately I am handicapped. Nevertheless, I can share about Tzu Chi’s missions, save money in bamboo bank, make donations and do whatever is within my ability,” she shared happily, adding that her other wish is to visit the Master in Taiwan.
Another care recipient, Ham A Lan, a stroke patient with weak right limbs, arrived smilingly at the event with her mentally-challenged daughter. Despite her walking difficulty, she had never missed the reunion all these years. She said, “Although I have to trouble Tzu Chi volunteers to fetch me and push me around on my wheelchair, I must be here for the annual reunion no matter how difficult and how troublesome it is. This is the time for me to have some happy moments with Tzu Chi volunteers and some familiar people.”
Due to her physical condition, she has to stay at home most of the time and idle away her time watching television alone. Thus, she had been looking forward to the New Year, as it means the year-end distribution event is approaching. “It is lively here with many people around. It cheers me up to be able to interact with the volunteers and other care recipients, just like a family reunion. Last year, I came with my daughter and we took a family photo. It is still displayed in my living room now!” revealed A Lan happily.
Sharing the joy of New Year
Tan Kim Lin, a single mother, brought her three children to this event for the second consecutive time. She expressed her joy, “There are many volunteers greeting us warmly along the way. Red lanterns are hung high above everywhere, and there are also other festive decorations. I took a spring couplet that volunteers wrote on the spot to decorate my house. The event this year is full of Chinese New Year mood.”
Watching the Indian, Malay and Chinese traditional dances, followed by karaoke singing and other dancing performances on stage, the children gathered together in front and danced along with the performers. It was a harmonious scene of people from three main races sharing the joy of a New Year celebration. Kim Lin was touched by the thoughtfulness of volunteers in organizing the event with excellent performances and services to the care recipients and families, making them feel like special guests. She remarked smilingly, “After becoming a mother, I am always the one who serves my children. I feel shy to be served by volunteers at the dining table just now. I have over eaten because the food tasted exceptionally delicious.”
She revealed that her children were very excited when they learnt about the year-end distribution event. They had been anticipating the event with steamboat reunion lunch. Her six-year-old daughter especially, kept enquiring, “Is the day here yet?” Her son, Soh Soon Tat exclaimed, “We were so excited about coming here that we woke up very early to get ready for today!”
When Soon Tat and his siblings received some candies from the two “Gods of Prosperity”, who mingled in the crowd, he added, “The food tasted good, and the shows were interesting. I would love to come again next year.” His younger sister interrupted innocently, “I love the ‘God of Prosperity’ the most because he gave me candy. I also want to come again next year.”
Unlike previous years where free health screening was provided at the Free Clinic, this year, the services were moved to the area near the entrance. Kim Lin was overjoyed to find the new location and took the opportunity to go for a health check-up. The examination results set her mind at peace, for her blood pressure and glucose levels were within the normal ranges. She felt great and was grateful to Tzu Chi volunteers for their efforts in organizing the event and taking care of the care recipients’ health while getting the three main races to celebrate the New Year and enjoy a steamboat lunch together harmoniously.
An amazing experience
C. Lakshmi had to seek employment because her husband was unemployed due to sickness. Her Voluntary Separation Scheme compensation fund of her last employment was almost exhausted, and their children are still schooling. After being recruited as a security guard, she was diagnosed with cataracts and needed to undergo surgery. Unable to pay for the surgical fees, she approached Tzu Chi for help, hence became a care recipient.
Participating with her family members for the first time, she complimented, “I thought it was going to be a simple gathering with vegetarian food. I was worried that the food might not suit our preferences and hesitated whether or not to attend the event. To my surprise, it turned out to be a grand event with people of different races and social backgrounds. There were also wonderful performances specially arranged for the New Year celebration; and the mindfully planned vegetarian dishes were really delicious and we are full.”
Lakshmi feels blessed for she is more fortunate than many others here. She expressed her appreciation for Tzu Chi volunteers’ invitation and good care. She said, “I’ll continue working and be financially independent when my eyesight has fully recovered. I cannot depend on others forever.” Her eldest daughter will start working upon graduation in a few more months. This would ease her financial burden and she hopes to become a Tzu Chi volunteer one day to help others too.
Joy of giving transformed into blessings
Other than Tzu Chi volunteers, there were also public members who were there to help out. Among them were two senior calligraphers from Confucius Association, Lin Yuan Rui and Lin Ya Mei, together with Tiu Hwee Chuan and Wee Mei Jing, volunteer and student from Tzu Chi Continuing Education Centre respectively, were seen busily writing spring couplets for the guests.
The youngest among the calligraphers was nine-year-old Mei Jing. She had learnt calligraphy for over a year at the Continuing Education Centre and had taken part in several competitions. It was her first attempt in sharing her calligraphy in public with many people surrounding her. She commented, “I have practised regularly hence am not afraid of others watching. I just wish to send my blessings to the recipients through my calligraphy. I am happy to be able to contribute in this way.”
The care recipients were greeted with striking red calligraphy couplets and words of blessings that created a festive atmosphere. Everyone could request for their favourite words to be written by the calligraphers on the spot or choose their favourite couplets to bring home. Also, if they wished, they could make little donations into the bamboo bank.
In addition, there was the Sam Tiong Keng’s lion dance troupe, which had been performing at the event every year, and this year was no exception. The Director, Goh Yew Khim, led about 20 young members to perform for the elderly on a voluntary basis. In addition to bringing them joy of Chinese New Year celebration, he also hopes to instil the virtue of filial piety in the younger generation through this activity.
Volunteers and kind-hearted public members gathered here to celebrate New Year with the underprivileged group, beginning a New Year with love and kindness. On this special occasion, Melaka Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Utama Ir Hj Idris bin Hj Haron, made his presence in the company of Melaka State Assemblymen, Datuk Lim Ban Hong, Datuk Ng Peng Hay and a few other leaders, to extend his blessings personally. The Chief Minister thanked Tzu Chi for giving care to the underprivileged group in the past 50 years.
The annual gathering ended in applause, laughter and happiness, with everyone bringing home happy memories with them.
Koh Moey Kim, a care recipient with muscular dystrophy, made all the effort to attend this yearly event despite her mobility difficulty. [Photograph by Teng Swee Ueng]
Care recipients to the event were greeted with striking red spring couplets with words of blessings that created a festive celebration atmosphere. [Photograph by Gan Han Jin]
Tan Kim Lin’s mind was set at peace when she found her blood pressure and glucose levels were within the normal ranges. [Photograph by Lee Kin Chee]
Ageteya (right) and her siblings had their haircuts at the free haircut section. [Photograph by Ng Hai Ming]
Tzu Chi volunteers presenting blessing packs to the care recipients. [Photograph by Chin Fook Kuen]
Used-goods section was crowded with many purchasing their necessities for the Chinese New Year. [Photograph by Ng Hock Thai]
Chief Minister of Melaka, Datuk Seri Utama Ir Hj Idris bin Hj Haron, who was present at the event, made a visit to the environmental protection section too. [Photograph by Tan Lian Hee]
Lakshmi (1st right), her husband and children attended the event for the first time. She was impressed by the harmonious atmosphere with the presence of the three main races, great performances and delicious vegetarian food. [Photograph by Ng Hai Ming]
Lion dance troupe from Sam Tiong Keng performed every year at the event to bring joy and happiness to the care recipients. [Photograph by Teng Swee Ueng]