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Sunday, 24 May 2015 16:23

Care Recipient Took a New Turn in Life to Pursue the Bodhisattva Path

Written by  Tsze Hut Sea, Kota Tinggi / Translated by Chew Chiau Ping

Tan Siew Hiok attended the commissioning ceremony at Tzu Chi Melaka. [Photograph by Chin Fook Kuen]

May 24, 2015, was an auspicious day for Tzu Chi Melaka as it welcomed a new batch of Tzu Chi Commissioners and Tzu Cheng dressed respectively in their demure dark blue cheongsam and suits, and wearing a tag, “With Buddha’s heart and Master’s conviction”. These new additions included Tan Siew Hiok, who had mixed feelings attending the commissioning ceremony.


 
In August 2014, when volunteer Khoo Ee Keng informed Tan Siew Hiok that she had qualified as a Tzu Chi Commissioner, the latter was surprised, “How could this be possible?” Being a former Tzu Chi care recipient, Siew Hiok had never thought of having the opportunity to travel to Taiwan to be commissioned by Master Cheng Yen. But, with volunteers’ encouragement, she agreed to it and prepared herself for a root-searching trip to Hualien.
 
She booked the air tickets, got her photograph taken for the name tag and took measurements for a tailor-made cheongsam in eager anticipation of the commissioning ceremony in November 2014. Unfortunately, the ceremony was cancelled due to the spread of the Ebola virus.
 
Although saddened by the news, Siew Hiok and few other volunteers decided to proceed with the trip as their air tickets were non-refundable. While in Hualien, they visited Jing Si Abode and Pu Ming Temple. They then learnt from a Commissioner that the Master understood that it was a rare opportunity for those overseas disciples to travel to the Abode, thus, she decided to commission the overseas Commissioners and Tzu Cheng the following day.
 
Siew Hiok was moved to tears and had a sleepless night. When it came to her turn to be commissioned, she looked at the Master up-close and felt her great compassion. Hence, she promised to be more diligent in shouldering Tzu Chi’s missions and in following the Master’s footsteps closely on the Bodhisattva Path.
 
Suffered from loss when impermanence struck
 
Recalling the tough times she had in the past, Siew Hiok felt relief and grateful to become one of the Living Bodhisattvas to help others.
 
The petite 51-year-old Siew Hiok was born to a poor family with many siblings. She had to help her parents at the rubber plantation after completing primary education. By 18, she started working in a garment factory; and in 1987, she was married to her husband, Wong Ah Kow. The union resulted in three children and while her husband worked for a living, Siew Hiok stayed home with the kids.
 
Everything was perfect until impermanence struck in 2004 with the demise of her husband due to illness. She felt she had nothing left, and for eight months she mourned in tears. With three school-going children and financial constraints, she had to overcome her shyness to look for jobs. As she is lowly educated, she could only work at a paper factory, earning a minimal wage to make ends meet. When her children’s teacher learnt about their dire situation, she helped them to apply for Tzu Chi’s financial aid to keep the children in school.
 
Siew Hiok said, “Volunteers who are neither my relatives nor friends visited me on a monthly basis. Their thoughtful attention moved me deeply.” Volunteer, Ee Keng often lent a sympathetic ear to her trouble and encouraged her like her own family. The warmth of love eventually eased Siew Hiok’s mind.
 
Deepened understanding of Tzu Chi through active participation
 
Ee Keng then invited Siew Hiok to do recycling at the recycling point located at SJK(C) Tiram, Ulu Tiram. The latter did so but stopped after a few visits as she needed to work extra hours on Sunday to earn more income. A year later, when her working schedules were less hectic, she resumed her participation in recycling activities.
 
She shared, “I used to throw away recyclables as I don’t understand about recycling. Now that I think of it, it was a waste of resources.” Through recycling, she finally understood the meaning of “turning resources into gold, and gold into love”. She learnt to sort out recyclables and taught her children to do the same at home.
 
When Ee Keng brought her along on home visits, she learnt to appreciate her blessings after witnessing how other care recipients were living a harder life, yet they embrace it strongly. She even became a donating member after learning that Tzu Chi’s funds were raised by volunteers little by little. Not only did she learn to care for others, but she also encouraged the deprived families not to give up hope by sharing her personal experiences.
 
In May 2009, Siew Hiok finally became a Tzu Chi volunteer officially and started participating diligently in Tzu Chi’s activities, like visits to old folk’s home, charity bazaar, Buddha Bathing Ceremony, year-end distribution, promotion of environmental awareness, and so on. All these experiences had deepened her understanding of Tzu Chi’s Four Major Missions. She shared, “I remember at my first charity bazaar, I was following behind the volunteers as I was too shy. I only dared to speak up after a few rounds.” She felt happy and satisfied seeing all the food was sold out on that occasion.
 
Vowed to do Tzu Chi’s work more diligently
 
By the end of 2010, Siew Hiok’s financial burden was alleviated when her youngest daughter graduated from high school and her two other children supported their university studies by working part-time. Thus, she requested Tzu Chi to discontinue the subsidy, hoping it would be used for the other needy people.
 
Henceforth, Siew Hiok was actively involved in Tzu Chi and seldom missed any opportunity to learn. With encouragement from volunteer Leong Yoke Wan, she learnt to take charge of the culinary team, where the team members bonded closely. She shared, “Culinary team has to work all the way from preparation of ingredients to cleaning after the cooking is done. Despite the heavy workload, I am very happy.” From there, she learnt to cook vegetarian dishes and attempted to become a vegetarian herself.
 
In August 2013, Yoke Wan, who often accompanied Siew Hiok to various activities, passed away due to a heart attack. Deeply saddened by the sudden loss of a Dharma sister and awakened to the impermanence of life, Siew Hiok vowed to be more vigorous and diligent in her involvements in Tzu Chi. She said in Yoke Wan’s memorial service, “I want to do more now, not only my part, but that of Sister Yoke Wan’s.”
 
Through her participation in volunteer training, study group and the Master’s Dharma lecture at dawn, Siew Hiok has purified her mind with the Buddha’s teachings, and started to observe the percepts and improve her habits. She said, “Even though I had been a Buddhist, I always thought of Buddhism as a form of faith and had never really practised the teachings. It was only after my involvement with Tzu Chi that my understanding of Buddhism deepens.”
 
 
“Tzu Chi has transformed my perception on life and reignited my passion to lead a more meaningful one,” said Siew Hiok. Now that her children have started working, she could fully focus on Tzu Chi without worries. She hopes to spread Tzu Chi’s spirit to those around her so that more people will know about Tzu Chi. Because of her, her sister, Siew Yan, has also become a Tzu Chi volunteer.
 
 

 
In 2007, Tan Siew Hiok (right) joined the year-end distribution for Tzu Chi care recipients. [Photograph by Tan Soon Long]   Tan Siew Hiok (right) at the volunteer training. She learnt to pay homage to the Buddha from volunteer Khoo Ee Keng (left). [Photograph by Tan Soon Long]

In 2007, Tan Siew Hiok (right) joined the year-end distribution for Tzu Chi care recipients. [Photograph by Tan Soon Long]
 
Tan Siew Hiok (right) at the volunteer training. She learnt to pay homage to the Buddha from volunteer Khoo Ee Keng (left). [Photograph by Tan Soon Long]
 
Tan Siew Hiok (right), who leads the culinary team, helped make dumplings on the eve of the 2014 Dragon Boat Festival. [Photograph by Loi Sai Boey]   Last year, Tan Siew Hiok (front row, 1st from right), visited Jing Si Abode in Hualien and had the opportunity to be commissioned by Master Cheng Yen. [Photograph by Chew Sock Hoon]

Tan Siew Hiok (right), who leads the culinary team, helped make dumplings on the eve of the 2014 Dragon Boat Festival. [Photograph by Loi Sai Boey]
 
 
Last year, Tan Siew Hiok (front row, 1st from right), visited Jing Si Abode in Hualien and had the opportunity to be commissioned by Master Cheng Yen. [Photograph by Chew Sock Hoon]
 
In April 2015, Tan Siew Hiok (right) shared her life story during the volunteer training at Tzu Chi Kluang. [Photograph by Goo Hock Leong]    

In April 2015, Tan Siew Hiok (right) shared her life story during the volunteer training at Tzu Chi Kluang. [Photograph by Goo Hock Leong]