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Friday, 29 June 2018 00:00

Soothing an Inmate’s Worry

Written by  Low Siew Lian, Malacca / Translated by Wong Mun Heng

Goh Kok Eng (left) and TIMA doctor visited care recipient, Choo Kim. [Photograph by Low Siew Lian]

Initially, he could not understand the volunteers’ kind intention and tried to chase them away. But for his son in jail, volunteers did not give up. They tried all means and finally managed to gain his trust. With that, the father and two sons had a change of fate for the better.


A year ago, when volunteer Goh Kok Eng and fellow volunteers in Bukit Katil visited care recipient, Choo Kim, they could only talk to him from the perimeter fencing.

Choo Kim has three sons. The eldest went astray and landed in jail. Although in jail, he is still concerned about the wellbeing of his father and two brothers. The second son, Ah Ong (nickname), is mentally-challenged and unable to converse. Whenever the father wants to go out, he would have to chain his son’s leg so that he could not run away. The youngest son, Ah Hock (nickname), suffers from bipolar disorder and confines himself indoors all the time. He also quarrels with his ill-tempered father frequently.

During one of their quarrels, Ah Hock ended up beating up his father and smashing the glass windows to release his anger. When the eldest son learnt of this, he was concerned. In 2017, he requested help from Tzu Chi through his Buddhist friend, and when volunteers first came to the house, Choo Kim could not understand their kind intention. He even tried to chase them away by threatening to splash urine on them. It was only after a few conversations that he was convinced the volunteers were there to help him. Even then, he was rather cautious and spoke to the volunteers over the fence, with him inside and the volunteers outside.

When Kok Eng was entrusted with the case, he realized that this elderly man, a scavenger with meagre income, had to support his two dependent sons. That was why he was extremely cautious with his money. He wanted to save as much as he could for his sons. However, he also smoked and drank alcohol frequently, and that did not help to ease his worries.

Once, Choo Kim called Kok Eng and asked when the volunteers would visit him because he was penniless. For him to be asking for money when he would not simply allow his sons to accept aid from others, Kok Eng sensed the urgency and rushed over to discover that he had used up the money from Tzu Chi to pay quit rent and assessment bill. Kok Eng then immediately applied for emergency cash relief from Tzu Chi for him. When handing him the money, Kok Eng told him, “This comes from the contributions of many people. Please do not spend it on smoking and drinking.” Waving his hand, Choo Kim replied in Hokkien, “No, no! I won’t.”

With trust, his fate changed

Gradually with trust established, Choo Kim opened the door and allowed the volunteers to enter his garage, where he would talk to them, standing or squatting. When volunteers asked to enter his house, he would politely place his palms together and say, “Thank you, but not necessary...”

Having understood the reason for Choo Kim’s cautious stand on money, Kok Eng pointed at the carton paper boxes at a corner of the garage and said, “Let me help you to sell those carton paper boxes. If they can fetch RM3, then donate and three of you become Tzu Chi donors. What say you?”

When Choo Kim realized that he could do charity without taking any money from his pocket, he quickly responded, “Why not!” Later on, Choo Kim would automatically offer RM3 from the monthly cash relief as donations. On one occasion, when volunteers noticed that there were some coins on the floor, they asked Ah Ong to pick them up and place them into the Tzu Chi’s bamboo bank, so that the family can do charity and at the same time, cultivate blessing.

“I wish to change the fate of this family,” said Kok Eng.

He advised Choo Kim again to quit smoking and drinking to save money and for his health’s sake. Since then, after receiving the monthly cash relief of RM400, Choo Kim would put aside RM100 for food, groceries and petrol expenses, and the balance would be given to Ah Hock to manage. Occasionally, Kok Eng would drop by. When he discovered Choo Kim was still indulging in his smoking and drinking habit, he told the latter that if he continued doing that, the cash relief would be replaced with material relief. Upon hearing that, Choo Kim waved his hand and said, “No, no! I won’t.”

After a year of caring and support, Choo Kim had reduced his smoking and drinking considerably, and is more willing to share his family’s happenings with Kok Eng.

Happiness after stepping out of house

Now at 63, Choo Kim is due for retirement. However, because of the family, he has to soldier on. The volunteers realized that the only way to relieve the family’s burden is through the youngest 24-year-old son; he must get better to be able to share the load.

Since the beginning of this year, volunteers have been fetching Ah Hock to the nearby recycling point monthly to partake in recycling activity and interact with people. Initially, he did not talk much and did his work quietly at one corner. On their recent home visit, volunteers noticed one Sunday on the calendar marked “recycling”. This is Ah Hock’s reminder for himself to walk to the recycling point as it is a recycling day. In addition, the local volunteers would fetch him to Tzu Chi Ayer Keroh Recycling-cum-Educational Centre to contribute three to four days per week.

Other than volunteering at the recycling centre, Ah Hock also started collecting recyclables to contribute towards his father’s income. He would also pick up recyclables by the roadside. When the neighbourhood sundries shop owner learnt that Ah Hock does recycling at home, he would keep the carton paper boxes and other recyclables for him.

Chow Fock Heng, an active volunteer at the Tzu Chi Ayer Keroh Recycling-cum-Educational Centre, shared this interesting anecdote. One day, Fock Heng needed someone to help him to move a heavy treadmill machine. As he looked around, he realized that most of the volunteers at the recycling centre were mainly old folks or female volunteers. Suddenly, a well-built Ah Hock carrying recyclables appeared in front of him. He felt extremely blessed because the latter would be of great help to him. Since then, Ah Hock, whose full name is pronounced as “Chao Qing Fu” in Mandarin, is also nicknamed “Chao Xing Fu” (which means superb blessing).

Ah Hock is well-liked by the older female volunteers. They said although he does not initiate a conversation, he could sort the recyclables very well, not to mention the lifting and carting jobs. Volunteer Tan Pek Liok had noticed, from recycling point to recycling-cum-educational centre, Ah Hock is getting better progressively, and it was a joy to see his smile.

Choo Kim is happy that with regular intake of medicine, Ah Hock is now able to interact with others. All this while, his major concern was that Ah Hock was jobless and hence unable to support his own livelihood. Now, he could see that Ah Hock no longer confines himself to the house. He is able to go out to do good deeds, and has volunteers’ care and support. Choo Kim can happily tell others, “Ah Hock has gone to work!”

On June 3, 2018, Kok Eng and fellow volunteers brought a TIMA doctor along to visit Choo Kim’s family, and they were finally invited into his house. Ah Ong was quite curious with the presence of a TIMA doctor and tried to hang around. At one stage, he even reminded the doctor not to forget the spectacles on the small table.

Thanks to the determination and perseverance of volunteers, this family has found support. At one conversation, Choo Kim announced that Kok Eng is his proxy and reminded everyone that in the event he passes away, the two brothers should seek help from Kok Eng on matters pertaining to their current house. One volunteer jokingly asked the two brothers, “Is it OK if the volunteers don’t come for a month?” Ah Ong shook his head and Ah Hock said, “No, no...”

 

Choo Kim and his sons do recycling at home. [Photograph by Low Siew Lian]   The sundries shop owner would give Ah Hock recyclables. Ah Hock would also pick up recyclables by the roadside to help with his father’s income. [Photograph by Low Siew Lian]

Choo Kim and his sons do recycling at home. [Photograph by Low Siew Lian]
 
The sundries shop owner would give Ah Hock recyclables. Ah Hock would also pick up recyclables by the roadside to help with his father’s income. [Photograph by Low Siew Lian]
 
Goh Kok Eng handed the donation receipts to Choo Kim and his sons, and made a voice recording of Choo Kim’s promise to quit smoking and drinking. [Photograph by Low Siew Lian]   Goh Kok Eng brought Ah Hock to volunteer at Tzu Chi Ayer Keroh Recycling-cum-Educational Centre so that he could interact with people besides contributing to environmental protection. [Photograph by Low Siew Lian]

Goh Kok Eng handed the donation receipts to Choo Kim and his sons, and made a voice recording of Choo Kim’s promise to quit smoking and drinking. [Photograph by Low Siew Lian]
 
 
Goh Kok Eng brought Ah Hock to volunteer at Tzu Chi Ayer Keroh Recycling-cum-Educational Centre so that he could interact with people besides contributing to environmental protection. [Photograph by Low Siew Lian]