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Friday, 17 March 2017 14:09

Volunteers Care for Fire Victims

Written by  Teh Yuan Ying & Ng Wei Kiat, Kota Kinabalu / Translated by Wong Mun Heng

The volunteers bowed 90 degrees and with both hands, presented the relief cash and eco- blankets to the fire victims. [Photograph by Teh Yuan Ying]

On March 14, 2017, a fire razed through 42 wooden houses at Kampung Muhibbah, Kota Kinabalu. On March 17, Tzu Chi volunteers from Kota Kinabalu went to Dewan Serbaguna Likas and distributed relief cash and eco-blankets to 278 affected families.


 
Kampung Muhibbah in Likas is located about a seven-minute drive from Tzu Chi Kota Kinabalu Liaison Office, and had houses built along the swampy ground of a river bank. At about 7.30 am on March 14, thick grey smoke billowing from Kampung Muhibbah was seen from as far as a few kilometres away. When volunteers noticed the unusual thick smoke, they drove to the fire site.
 
By the time they reached the site, firemen were extinguishing the fire, while many fire victims were seen salvaging their belongings. Some victims, who could not retrieve their personal belongings in time, just stared helplessly at their gutted houses.
 
Apparently, the fire was started by a resident, who forgot to turn off the gas stove in the kitchen, before sending his children to school. Due to the close proximity of the wooden houses, the fire spread out of control, burning down the houses within minutes.
 
“By the time I rushed home, the fire had already spread to my house and everything was burnt.” At 6 am, fire victim Halimah Mohammad was out at work. When she received an emergency call from her brother, she immediately rushed home. Sadly, the fire spread so fast that her brother had no time to salvage any household belongings. He just managed to run for his life and saw how the fire gutted the house.
 
Visited fire disaster area
 
On the following day, Tzu Chi volunteers visited the site to assess the damage. Although the fire had been extinguished, smouldering smoke was still visible from the charred rubbles; and some fire victims were looking for anything that were salvageable. The local welfare authority made arrangements for the affected victims to stay at the Dewan Serbaguna Likas, as well as, supplied them with food and water.
 
The big community hall was packed with victims, who were provided with daily necessities by the local officials. Volunteers were there to speak to the victims and show their care and love. They also obtained from the Welfare Department the list of victims and their backgrounds. The victims then queued and registered their details with the volunteers.
 
At 8.30 am on March 17, volunteers went to Dewan Serbaguna Likas for the emergency relief distribution. Upon arrival, they immediately tidied up the place and set up the registration counter. Other than ascertaining the details of the fire victims, they also comforted them with kind words and warm embrace. Before the start of the relief distribution, volunteers invited a Muslim to lead everyone in prayers.
 
Distributed relief cash and eco-blankets
 
“The fire is merciless, but the volunteers will always be there to provide love...” A volunteer was reading out the letter from Master Cheng Yen to the fire victims, while at the same time introduced the history of Tzu Chi. After the briefing by volunteers, the victims were very touched by Master Cheng Yen’s spirit of kindness.
 
“One, two, three. Thank you, bless you...” All in line, the volunteers bowed 90 degrees and with both hands, presented the relief cash and eco-blankets. Many fire victims were awed and surprised that the nice blankets were made from recycled PET bottles.
 
“No words can express our gratitude to you all. At the very moment of distress, you all came to provide us with the much needed help.” Fire victim, Muharibah Sadikin thanked the Tzu Chi volunteers for their selfless help, irrespective of race and religion. “When the fire came, I could only think of my children, and had no time for other things and documents. I just ran out with my children...” Muharibah recalled. The fire might have destroyed everything, but loving-kindness of volunteers had helped to ease her pain and sorrow.
 
“Your joy is my happiness; if you cry, my heart will ache...” Volunteers led the residents in the sign language performance of the song, “We Are Family” which was played before the end of the distribution event. The touching lyrics expressed the love from the volunteers to the victims and in a way, also enable the victims to feel the Great Love spirit of the volunteers.
 
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After the distribution, volunteers took out the bamboo bank and explained to the victims the story of Tzu Chi’s bamboo bank era; how even a small amount of money can do kind deeds. Upon hearing that, the victims dropped whatever coins they had into the bamboo bank, thereby responding to the concept that “small kindness when put together could make a big difference”.
 
This emergency relief distribution carried out by 16 volunteers had benefitted 45 affected families (799 persons).

  

On the day after the fire, Tzu Chi volunteers visited the site to assess the damage. Smouldering smoke was still visible from the charred rubbles. [Photograph by Teh Yuan Ying]   Before the start of distribution, volunteer Seow Kwee Fa comforted fire victims with kind words. [Photograph by Ng Wei Kiat]

On the day after the fire, Tzu Chi volunteers visited the site to assess the damage. Smouldering smoke was still visible from the charred rubbles. [Photograph by Teh Yuan Ying]
 
Before the start of distribution, volunteer Seow Kwee Fa comforted fire victims with kind words. [Photograph by Ng Wei Kiat]
 
Fire victim Muharibah Sadikin thanked the Tzu Chi volunteers for their selfless help, irrespective of race and religion. [Photograph by Ng Wei Kiat]   The fire might have gutted their homes, but the victims still dropped whatever coins they had into the bamboo bank to help others in need. [Photograph by Teh Yuan Ying]

Fire victim Muharibah Sadikin thanked the Tzu Chi volunteers for their selfless help, irrespective of race and religion. [Photograph by Ng Wei Kiat]
 
 
The fire might have gutted their homes, but the victims still dropped whatever coins they had into the bamboo bank to help others in need. [Photograph by Teh Yuan Ying]