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Wednesday, 24 September 2014 00:00

Pre-schoolers’ Experience in Cleaning Angke River and Cultivating Da Ai Spirit

Written by  Yen Yu Chu, Melaka / Translated by Lee Marn Fong

Facing a pool of dirty and smelly water, some held their noses and watched from the side, while some were seen picking up the waste. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]

Angke River used to be clean and clear. Sadly, it became polluted with increased population, coupled with their habit of discarding rubbish and waste carelessly.


 
A video on the Angke River was screened on stage. It showed the river, which the residents once relied upon for their livelihood, had become known as “the dark lungs.” Its banks were completely filled with illegally built houses, surrounded by garbage and sludge. Waste, including human faeces, flowed freely along the river. With the lack of sanitary and waste system, the living conditions were extremely unhygienic and tough.
 
On the morning of September 29, 2014, Dai Ai pre-schoolers and their teachers congregated at the assembly hall. Teacher Ng Ai Ai briefed on the international disaster relief work carried out on the Angke River, which had alleviated the hardships and poverty of the residents.
 
Angke River used to be filled with floating garbage and discharge of human waste. It provided the residents with water for household washing and cleaning purposes, and was also a water playground and treasure hunting place for the frolicking children. When news that the bean biscuits sold by hawkers were made using water from the Angke River, there was an uproar.
 
Teachers and students then explored how Tzu Chi volunteers’ five-part plan of great wisdom – water pumping, cleansing, sanitization, free clinics and construction of “Great Love” homes – brought hope to the residents. The sharing of this project has enabled the children to understand and put into practice the Jing Si Aphorism of translating love in the heart through actions.
 
The lesson about the international disaster relief effort on the Angke River will widen the students’ outlook and make them understand about the purpose and use of the bamboo coins to further help the needy around the world. At the same time, it also corresponds to the annual teaching program for the pre-schoolers on the “Sutra on the Difficulty of Repaying the Profound Kindness of Parents” for cultivation of wisdom.
 
Concept of environmental protection deepened through experience
 
To provide a hands-on experience of the actual situation, teachers utilized the break time to convert the corridor into a filthy and foul smelling Angke River. They created three swimming pools filled with water. One pool had dirty water created by adding used coffee residues; another was added with pungent smelling fruit enzymes; and the third one was added with ice cubes to lower the temperature of the water. The swimming pools and their surroundings were then filled with rubbish.
 
It was amusing to behold the stunned looks from the pre-schoolers. The elder brothers and sisters were the first to step on the river banks. Some held their noses, while some happily bent down to collect recyclables. When the teachers invited them to enter the pool to collect the rubbish, the usual excitement when playing in the water was replaced by looks of reluctance, feeling of lost and blank stares. With persistent encouragement from teachers, some gathered up courage and gradually started to enter the water to pick up rubbish.
 
“Wow, it is cold! I am frozen,” shouted the child, who had been misled to choose a clean pool for safety. That was the voice of four-year-old Lin Sheng Yan from the class of Great Happiness. He said, “I will be frozen, yet brave to continue to collect rubbish. But I dare not enter the dirty yellowish water.” Through the words of this child, we can see how deeply our severely damaged ecosystem had been planted in the children’s hearts.
 
Hurdles cleared and never to litter again
 
Some were wandering by the side of the pool, starring at the dirty black water and recalling the origins of the rubbish as told by the teachers. Memories of human faeces in the river brought the hardest impression. When Teacher Koh Siew Tin carried four-year-old Yang Yu Xuan, who usually loves to play in the water, and invited him to enter the pool with enzymes, he froze and refused. When his hand was guided into the pool, he shouted out, “I am afraid, there is human waste in the water.” Obviously, he was unable to forget the scene of Angke River.
 
In contrast, five-year-old Lin Xin Yao from the class of Great Virtue, was hard at work, picking up rubbish and trying to drain off the dirty water. She said, “The thought of the smelly water made me sick. But environmental protection is a must for the love of our Mother Earth.” Upon reflection, she added, “There were times I left rubbish on the floor as instructed, as I can’t help it. But I will not do it anymore as I do not want to live along the Angke River.”
 
While assisting Xin Yao in draining the dirty water, another student, Lai Yan Shan remarked, “The black water smelled like orange, lemon and coffee. It’s smelly but with a bit of fragrance too!” She was brave and not afraid of being dirty. She said, “I am not afraid to do environmental protection; and moreover, this is not the real Angke River.” She noticed the difference, and yet she acted out to show her support for environmental protection.
 
The children from pre-school and primary classes had segregated and washed the recyclables, in line with the principle of recycling at source. Water used for cleaning was recycled as well. The compound was then sanitized with disinfectants after the cleaning, and was back to its original clean state, filled with fresh air.
 
Care continued with gift of “Great Love” homes
 
At the lesson on September 30, and under the guidance of the teacher, there were discussions on how to continue helping the residents. Everyone thought hard and creatively drew out their gift ideas that included free books, pens, toilets, schools and cakes.
 
Four-year-old Wu Xiao Qing from the class of Great Trust said, “As their houses are broken, we give them houses.” Zhang Kai Zhe concurred by saying, “Right, it is broken. Water from Angke River was dirty and smelly, and we helped to clean it yesterday. Now, there is clean river, grass and houses, and the environment is also clean and free from the suffering of flooding.”
 
Four-year-old Zheng Xin You from the class of Great Love said, “They are pitiful, so I give them beautiful houses, clothes, apples and teddy bears, but I cannot draw them out.” These conversations attracted other classmates and together they contributed happily.
 
Five-year-old He Jin Lun from the class of Great Courage was counting the windows with deep concentration. He said, “Give them a multi-storey building with ten rooms; they need to climb the stairs.” Next to the building was a drawing of windows representing the individual families. He was happy to present lots of houses to the residents of Angke River. Sitting opposite him was Zhang Ying Ying, who drew an exceptionally large house. She said, “A house with a loving heart, this is Tzu Chi “Great Love” home.” Jin Lun responded, “Wow, that house is huge.” Zheng Shan You uttered softly, “This house is built by Tzu Chi volunteers using the money saved in the bamboo coin box.”
 
 
Commencing September, the school has arranged curriculum incorporating lessons from the Tzu Chi bamboo era to international disaster and charity missions. Using Angke River as an example, it had not only solved problems, but also propagated great love and care with actions, respect for individual life and dignity, and affirmation of small contribution for big charity beyond race and religion.
 
Through personal experience and creativity, it has enhanced the children’s understanding of environmental protection. It is hoped that they will continue practice compassion in their lives.
 
 
Teacher Ng Ai Ai explained Master Cheng Yen’s five part plan of great wisdom, from water draining, cleansing, sanitization, free clinic to “Great Love” homes in the disaster relief and charity effort. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]   Children were stunned by the video on Angke River displaying lives from another world. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]

Teacher Ng Ai Ai explained Master Cheng Yen’s five part plan of great wisdom, from water draining, cleansing, sanitization, free clinic to “Great Love” homes in the disaster relief and charity effort. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]
 
Children were stunned by the video on Angke River displaying lives from another world. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]
 
Dai Ai teachers were creative in converting the corridors into dirty Angke River with polluted air.
[Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]   Yang Yu Xuan refused to get into the water, so Teacher Koh Siew Tin had to carry him to pick up the waste. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]

Dai Ai teachers were creative in converting the corridors into dirty Angke River with polluted air. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]
 
 
Yang Yu Xuan refused to get into the water, so Teacher Koh Siew Tin had to carry him to pick up the waste. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]
 
Five-year-old Lin Xin Yao with her buddies drained water with little containers although the air was foul smelling. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]   Children got rid of the dirty water with their little tools. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]

Five-year-old Lin Xin Yao with her buddies drained water with little containers although the air was foul smelling. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]
 
 
Children got rid of the dirty water with their little tools. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]
 
Children cleaned and disinfected the place after the event. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]
  Five-year-old He Jin Lun from Great Courage class drew pictures of condominium with many windows for the residents of Angke River. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]

Children cleaned and disinfected the place after the event. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]
 
 
Five-year-old He Jin Lun from Great Courage class drew pictures of condominium with many windows for the residents of Angke River. [Photograph by Yen Yu Chu]