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Monday, 01 January 2018 00:00

Good Vows for the New Year

Written by  Gan Chian Nee, KL & Selangor / Translated by Lee Hui Yieng

Yong Kum Thong (2nd left) and his family shared their stories on stage during the Year-end Blessing Ceremony in the company of volunteer, Lim Lea Kuai. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]

With ten months of financial aid from Tzu Chi, Yong Kum Thong, a former care recipient, has fully recovered from tuberculosis and returned to work. Now, he is not only able to cope with his living expenses himself, but he also donates towards Tzu Chi International School Kuala Lumpur.


“I thought kindness would never return to me, but Tzu Chi restored my faith in human kindness and I saw hope.” In the company of his spouse and two children, Yong Kum Thong shared his stories with some 1,000 audience members at the Year-end Blessing Ceremony held at KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall on January 1, 2018. He convinced everyone that there is no suffering in life that is too hard to cope with or will stay forever; even when one falls sick or hits rock bottom in life, with a shift of perspective, one can transform one’s life.

“Sister, I really just want to die...I helped so many people before, but now that I am in trouble, no one offered help!”

Kum Thong was diagnosed with tuberculosis in December 2015 and had to quit his job as a sand truck driver to focus on his treatments. As the family’s breadwinner, he felt helpless when he lost his source of income, and no one went to his aid even though he had been a helpful person who would always think of others and give his utmost whenever his families and friends needed his help. He was also upset that everyone avoided and refused to visit him because his tuberculosis was contagious.

In his moment of hardship, his neighbour suggested that he sought help from Tzu Chi. In February 2016, volunteers visited him to find out more about his situation. Initially, he doubted if this group of strangers clad in blue and white uniforms would really help him. Then, after due assessments, Tzu Chi began to provide his family with monthly living allowance of RM400 and school transport fares of RM350 for his sons from March. In addition, TIMA doctors also visited him and cared for his health conditions. Hence, he finally let down his guard towards the volunteers.

Volunteer Lim Lea Kuai was Kum Thong’s best listener. He had no one to confide in when he was sick, and even contemplated suicide. Tzu Chi volunteers were the only people he was sure would answer his calls and listen to him as he poured his heart out.

Lea Kuai recalled smilingly, “I remember I received at least three calls from him in a day, with each lasting quite long.” He could talk endlessly about his bitterness and at times, a call from him would last for at least half an hour.

Lea Kuai understood that he needed a listener, so she did not mind listening to him and would guide him. She told him, “You know about the karmic law of cause and effect, and that suicide is a sin. What will happen to your wife and children if you give up on yourself? They need you, your responsibilities are not done yet…”

Lea Kuai and a few other volunteers would visit him regularly, and sometimes, TIMA doctors would also join them. When the doctors advised Kum Thong on ways to take care of his illness, volunteers would chat with his wife and affirm her for her hard work in handling the house chores. Their care and support boosted Kum Thong’s confidence in the treatments.

“Your situation is temporary. Follow the treatments and you will get back on your feet when you recover later.” Lea Kuai would often instil positive thinking in him, help him regain his faith and drive him to keep a positive outlook on life.

Self-reliant with a new job

Kum Thong fully recovered from tuberculosis after ten months of treatments. He requested Tzu Chi to stop the financial aid in January 2017 because he had found a new job and earned a stable income. The family of four, who have learnt about Tzu Chi’s charitable work from the volunteers, have also become monthly donors and would save in the bamboo banks for donations. They also started collecting recyclables at home, and Kum Thong’s wife and sons would join the volunteers at the recycling point. They would also go to the KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall monthly to help in cleaning chores.

Kum Thong was glad to see his family involving themselves in voluntary work and sowed blessings for themselves. As for himself, he would share with his neighbours about Tzu Chi’s bamboo bank spirit and encourage them to save for charitable causes. Savings in the bamboo banks are donated to Tzu Chi monthly.

With volunteers’ company, support and guidance through his lows in life, Kum Thong has not only relieved himself from his physical illness and mental afflictions, but has also become his own life changer.

In March 2017, Lea Kuai shared with him about the fundraising of Tzu Chi International School Kuala Lumpur (TCISKL) and that everyone could donate a symbolic “Lotus Flower (see Note) at RM1,000 each to support its construction, which would benefit future generations with well-rounded and quality education. Considering his recent recovery in financial stability, volunteer encouraged him to complete the donation of a “Lotus Flower” in three years instead of in one go, so that his family’s finance would not be affected.

However, Kum Thong said, “I can do it now. There is no need to wait for three years. I will donate RM700 first this month.” As promised, he donated in April 2017 as soon as he received his pay, and completed the balance for a “Lotus Flower” on May 9.

“My wife is a slow learner, so please make her the donor for the first ‘Lotus Flower’ so that she could sow some blessings.” Not long after, Kum Thong handed another RM1,000 to volunteer for the second ‘Lotus Flower’ on behalf of his eldest son. He repeated the same for his youngest son and himself within a year.

In addition, he also donated a few hundred Ringgit to international disaster and Penang flood relief. He said, “Seeing others in trouble, we should quickly offer our help if we can!” He understood a simple principle: “Don’t wait to do good deeds!”

He expressed, “I am so grateful that Tzu Chi gave me a hand when I was most helpless. When my relatives avoided visiting me by saying that my illness was contagious, it was the volunteers, who were total strangers, who came to me.” Kum Thong has become a different person with self-confidence after he returned to his normal life with a stable income.

It takes time and patience to accompany care recipients to get through their life’s challenges and to face life with a positive outlook, and even become a giver. Kum Thong and his wife were grateful for the help they received and they are reciprocating the kindness together with their sons. New year, new hope; Kum Thong urged everyone to have good thoughts and do good deeds to create an environment full of kindness.


Note 1: In 1986, Song Jinyuan of Losheng Sanatorium, a nursing home in Taiwan, initiated the “Lotus Flower” charity fundraising for the construction of Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital. The “Lotus Flower” represented the love of its contributors and was not viewed for its monetary value alone. Tzu Chi KL & Selangor adopts the same concept, with a “Lotus Flower” priced at RM1,000 to evoke kindness from the public while raising funds for the TCISKL.

 

 

Having bounced back from his illness, Yong Kum Thong makes monthly donations in the bamboo bank to Tzu Chi. He completed the donation of a “Lotus Flower” within two months in 2017. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]   Yong Kum Thong smiled confidently as he regained his source of income after returning to work. Picture shows him and his wife, Chan Chow Mooi, chatting happily with volunteers during their visit. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]

Having bounced back from his illness, Yong Kum Thong makes monthly donations in the bamboo bank to Tzu Chi. He completed the donation of a “Lotus Flower” within two months in 2017. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]
 
Yong Kum Thong smiled confidently as he regained his source of income after returning to work. Picture shows him and his wife, Chan Chow Mooi, chatting happily with volunteers during their visit. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]
 
Yong’s family of four would participate in the monthly Recycling Day whenever they could. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]   Seeing the TCISKL model, Yong Kum Thong was gratified to have made the right decision to donate to its construction, which would enable more children to receive a good education. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]

Yong’s family of four would participate in the monthly Recycling Day whenever they could. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]
 
 
Seeing the TCISKL model, Yong Kum Thong was gratified to have made the right decision to donate to its construction, which would enable more children to receive a good education. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]
 
Participating in Tzu Chi’s Year-end Blessing Ceremony for the first time, Yong Kum Thong happily told volunteers that he would continue to do good deeds and help more people in need. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]

Participating in Tzu Chi’s Year-end Blessing Ceremony for the first time, Yong Kum Thong happily told volunteers that he would continue to do good deeds and help more people in need. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]