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Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Thursday, 10 December 2015 13:46

Blessings Exhausted via Littering; Created via Recycling

Written by  Koh Poo Leng, Klang / Translated by Tan Heang Shin

With the set-up of a recycling centre on Pulau Ketam, Heng Bok Meng found the meaning in life and the best way to repay his beloved island. [Photograph by Tee Kim Wooi]

To ease the burden at the recycling centre, Heng Bok Meng would set aside one day in every three weeks to transport a full load of recyclables to Port Klang, converting the recyclables into kindness that could help more unfortunates.


 
Before knowing Tzu Chi, Heng Bok Meng did not really understand what environmental protection means. He never knew that through recycling, planet Earth could be saved and the waste on Pulau Ketam reduced. Back then, he only focused on his business and felt happy that his company was doing better and better with the island becoming a famous tourist spot.
 
Bok Meng was the first islander to be certified as a Tzu Cheng Faith Corps member. He runs a fuel and gasoline trading business, supplying for the households on the island, and would cycle around the island during his free time. Life was filled with work and leisure, and thus the subject of environmental protection never crossed his mind.
 
“I used to dump trash indiscriminately into the sea. Indeed an evil deed. Now, I am picking them up, it is time to do some good for the island,” Bok Meng said with a laugh. He has willingly put in his effort for the island he resides.
 
As Pulau Ketam is surrounded by sea, it has become a habit for the islanders or tourists to dispose waste into the sea, deemed as a “natural wastebasket”. This has been done for generations, and they were neither stopped nor advised. At high tide, rubbish would be floating on sea surface, making it a sight to behold!
 
“Since the establishment of the recycling centre, the floating rubbish has visibly been reduced. This is by far the most obvious change and the best thing that has ever happened,” expressed Bok Meng. As a native islander, he has witnessed the “rise” and “fall” of the island’s garbage heap. Being one of the persons-in-charge of the centre, Bok Meng commended the locals on their cooperation and for the functions of the centre.
 
Involve heartily upon understanding
  
“Prior to joining Tzu Chi, I used to think a carefree live is most blissful. But after joining Tzu Chi, I realized an enriched life is most blissful.” Bok Meng became a Tzu Chi donating member in high school, where he would contribute a few ringgits a month for charity. For many years, he was contented with just contributing financially for a good cause. In his mind, Tzu Chi is a charitable organization, hence he is happy to be a part of it to help those in need.
 
He once praised Chua Hock Boon, a recycling volunteer, upon seeing the latter’s boat full of rubbish “salvaged” from the sea on top of a full load of fish. “I admired what he did as I myself was still unaware about environment protection. But then, life went on,” Bok Meng recalled shyly of his past ignorance.
 
On October 15, 2011, Tzu Chi set up a recycling centre at Pulau Ketam. Upon learning that there were only a few female volunteers, Bok Meng offered his assistance. Initially, he would only show up as and when needed, but things changed after he travelled to Taiwan for a recycling educational trip in 2013. He decided to put more effort into environment protection.
 
“When I saw the elderly volunteers working very hard in sorting recyclables in Taiwan, I have no excuse of not doing it since I am still a young man. I became very involved after returning from Taiwan.” Bok Meng admitted that the spirit of the elderly volunteers and the support of the Klang volunteers have been his driving force.
 
It was not easy carrying out recycling on the island due to manpower shortage. Whenever there were activities, the Klang volunteers would cross over to help the local volunteers and promote environmental protection to the islanders. Bok Meng was truly touched by their warmness. In Tzu Chi, he does not walk alone but is backed by a strong team.
 
Bok Meng has three sons and a daughter. His wife was not happy with his involvement in the recycling initially as she feared he could not cope physically. But Bok Meng was happy doing it and has demonstrated that he could juggle both family and voluntary work. This had allayed his wife’s fears; and she has even joined him for recycling whenever time allows.
 
It has been four years since Bok Meng’s participation. From a complete novice to a tour guide, he viewed this as good karmic affinity. Thanks to the recycling centre, he has found the purpose in life and the best way to contribute back to his beloved island.
 
Face adversities with wisdom
 
Due to the open sea, the high and low tides have played a crucial role in the daily lives of the islanders. Be it the time to go out fishing or the time to set sail for Port Klang, it all needs to be timed properly. Island recycling is not spared from this issue as loading of recyclables also depends on the height of the waves.
 
When the recycling centre was first set up, the recyclables were sent to the mainland voluntarily by a Tzu Chi member. However, as the volume started to increase, coupled with a rigid time schedule constrained by the tidal waves, Bok Meng has since been tasked to transport the recyclables. To cut down the volume stored at the centre, Bok Meng would ship the recyclables to Port Klang once every three weeks. The sale proceeds are channelled to help the people in need.
 
“When I first started, I was heavily tested as the timing of the tidal waves is not within our control. We may have made appointments with the recyclers to meet at the port and thus we will depart early in the morning. But sometimes the recyclers may be running late and because we have to rush back to the island during high tide, we would leave the recyclables by the port. We would then worry it might cause inconvenience to the port operations. In a dilemma like this, we just have to find a solution to overcome it.”
 
Bok Meng used to tremble with fear, but now he is able to deal with ease. He gave credit to the numerous challenges experienced and enormous insights gained. These days, with the presence of Klang volunteers, it has reduced unnecessary worries whenever the recyclables arrive at the port. Everyone feels joyful in learning and accomplishing the mission together.
 
“I was teased by the islanders each time I shipped the recyclables. They always make fun of me that I am making big bucks with the huge load. I did not elaborate further but I always encourage myself that if it is the right thing, just do it. Most importantly, have a clear conscience.” He continues sparing one day for transporting the recyclables to the mainland and would just laugh off the dubious look from others.
 
Realizing one’s life should not only focus on material affluence but also the spiritual wealth, Bok Meng explained, “What is the point of being rich but not happy? Now that I have a stable career and am able to contribute towards my hometown via recycling, I am truly happy! I don’t mind how others look at me and I don’t rush to clarify eagerly; everyone has their own view. I shall carry on this spiritual mission with ease.”
 
Bok Meng’s perseverance in educating the islanders on waste classification has gradually borne fruit. As a recycling volunteer, he hopes to mobilize all residents into the green movement, cleaning up Pulau Ketam together to make the island a memorable tourist spot.
 
 
Before getting involved in environmental protection, Bok Meng never knew the recyclables from a tiny island can be so voluminous, weighing in “tons”! He wishes to speed up his effort and yearns that the islanders would say no to open sea disposal, so that Pulau Ketam will keep enjoying a clear blue sky and beautiful blue ocean, as well as emitting rays of happiness and hope.
 
 
Heng Bok Meng learnt more about recycling upon seeing Chua Hock Boon’s (2nd right) boat full of rubbish “salvaged” from the sea. [Photograph by Tee Kim Wooi]   Heng Bok Meng would free one day every three weeks to ship the recyclables to Port Klang using his boat. [Photograph by Tee Kim Wooi]

Heng Bok Meng learnt more about recycling upon seeing Chua Hock Boon’s (2nd right) boat full of rubbish “salvaged” from the sea. [Photograph by Tee Kim Wooi]
 
Heng Bok Meng would free one day every three weeks to ship the recyclables to Port Klang using his boat. [Photograph by Tee Kim Wooi]
 
Whenever there are visitors to the island recycling centre, Heng Bok Meng (left) would bring them around  for a better understanding of the recycling activities on the island. [Photograph by Lai Kin Hoong]   In view of the voluminous recyclables, Heng Bok Meng wishes to speed up his effort and hopes that the islanders would say no to open sea disposal. [Photograph by Soh Teck Hing]

Whenever there are visitors to the island recycling centre, Heng Bok Meng (left) would bring them around for a better understanding of the recycling activities on the island. [Photograph by Lai Kin Hoong]
 
In view of the voluminous recyclables, Heng Bok Meng wishes to speed up his effort and hopes that the islanders would say no to open sea disposal. [Photograph by Soh Teck Hing]