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Tuesday, 04 December 2018 00:00

Helping Hands in a Foreign Land

Written by  Siah Siew Chew, KL & Selangor / Translated by Chia Wen Fang

Volunteers, who treated Arbaiyah (left) like family, gathered at her place on the eve of her departure. [Photography by Eddie Chang Kheng Ho]

On December 4, 2018, Tzu Chi volunteers visited the severely-ill Arbaiyah before she returned to Indonesia to receive medical care. Volunteers brought along some basic supplies and a red envelope of blessings, and wished Arbaiyah a safe journey and speedy recovery on her return.


It was drizzling that night when volunteers travelled to Arbaiyah’s temporary dwelling at Subang Indah right after work. They brought along some basic supplies based on her needs. These included a thermos, cup, pillow, blanket, masks, incontinence pads, wet tissues, 3-in-1 drinks, two pieces of sweaters, and a red envelope containing Indonesian Rupiah equivalent to RM200, as a blessing to her.

When Arbaiyah saw the volunteers’ arrival, she was very much delighted. As a thoughtful gesture, the volunteers even brought along an electronic scale to check the weight of her luggage to avoid penalty, and were relieved when it turned out to be only 12 kg.

Arbaiyah’s two housemates, who were reluctant to say goodbye, showered her with hugs and kisses, allowing the volunteers to witness genuine kindness and the beauty of human nature.

An impermanent and challenging life

Since young, Arbaiyah lost her mother and lived with her father in Medan, until his unexpected disappearance when she was ten. Without any education, Arbaiyah could only work as a labourer to support herself. Eventually, she found her way to Malaysia where she stayed for 25 years.

A few months ago, the 51-year-old started experiencing nose blockage, which she originally thought was from a cold. After her condition deteriorated even with over-the-counter medications, she visited the public hospital for further investigation. It turned out that she had stage 3 nasopharyngeal cancer. With the collective financial support of her kind neighbour, Bahari bin Md Shah and others, Arbaiyah was admitted to the hospital. However, she could not afford the hefty medical fees as a non-citizen. After evaluation, the hospital decided it would be best for Arbaiyah to receive treatment back in Indonesia, and supplied her with a month of free medications upon discharge.

At this stage, Arbaiyah could no longer continue working as a cook in a restaurant where she was owed four months of wages by the Pakistani owner. One of her previous housemates offered her a bed, and shared her living expenses with other neighbours. However, being low-income foreign labourers themselves, they found it hard to sustain her medical fees.

Kindness among the poor

Volunteers took over Arbaiyah’s case in November 2018, after being informed by the hospital. “My sleep is disrupted by constant cough every night. I can often feel the discomfort in my nose, and I also have blood-stained phlegm. Even as I am lying in bed, I can feel pain in my face and neck,” Arbaiyah told the volunteers. Despite the persistent pain, Arbaiyah was determined to maintain her strength by walking around the compound.

During the volunteers’ visit, a little Pakistani boy delivered a big bowl of rice to Arbaiyah on behalf of his mother. Arbaiyah’s housemate explained that their neighbours often share their food with Arbaiyah. Even though the neighbours were also financially deprived, they were willing to help one another; and by doing that, they have shown their compassion and humanity.

Due to her overstay in Malaysia, Arbaiyah was fined RM3,100. Tzu Chi helped to repay her fine and her ticket back home. On the day of her departure, Bahari also bade her farewell at the airport. Tzu Chi volunteers in Medan will continue caring for her upon her return to Indonesia.

Arbaiyah could not express enough gratitude for the help and care she has received. She thanked the volunteers repeatedly with teary eyes, and said she has had many beautiful memories of this foreign land, especially Tzu Chi volunteers’ sincerity and genuine care. She indicated that she could only repay the kindness by wishing everyone good health.

Post script:
After Arbaiyah returned to Indonesia, she could not be admitted to the hospital immediately as she lost her Indonesian Identity Card in Malaysia. Tzu Chi volunteers in Medan assisted her with the reissuance of card and admission to a local hospital for medical treatment without any further delay upon receipt of the documentation. Once she has settled down and become familiar with the treatment routine, local Tzu Chi volunteers will reassess her situation and decide on the subsidy for transportation to and from the hospital.

 

 

Arbaiyah’s two housemates showered her with hugs and kisses as they were reluctant to say goodbye. [Photography by Eddie Chang Kheng Ho]   Arbaiyah had beautiful memories of this foreign land, including Tzu Chi volunteers’ sincerity and genuine care. She indicated that she could only repay the kindness by wishing everyone good health. [Photography by Eddie Chang Kheng Ho]

Arbaiyah’s two housemates showered her with hugs and kisses as they were reluctant to say goodbye. [Photography by Eddie Chang Kheng Ho]
 
Arbaiyah had beautiful memories of this foreign land, including Tzu Chi volunteers’ sincerity and genuine care. She indicated that she could only repay the kindness by wishing everyone good health. [Photography by Eddie Chang Kheng Ho]
 
On the morning of December 5, 2018, apart from Tzu Chi volunteers who took her to the airport, Arbaiyah’s neighbour Bahari also sent her off at the airport. Tzu Chi volunteers in Medan, Indonesia will continue caring for Arbaiyah upon her return to Indonesia. [Photography by Lim Heng Lai]  

On the morning of December 5, 2018, apart from Tzu Chi volunteers who took her to the airport, Arbaiyah’s neighbour Bahari also sent her off at the airport. Tzu Chi volunteers in Medan, Indonesia will continue caring for Arbaiyah upon her return to Indonesia. [Photography by Lim Heng Lai]