Friday, Sep 20th

Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Saturday, 18 July 2015 11:16

Blessedness in Volunteering Overseas during the Summer Holidays

Written by  Bee Yong Chin, Liu Ai Lian & Lim Hui Chu, Melaka / Translated by Chai Eu Ern

Su Yi Chun (right, kneeling) showed her care for a grandpa at the old folks’ home. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]

True to its name, the Happiness Centre for the Mentally Disabled Children, and the Machap Baru Old Folks’ Home had one special day on which their residents were pampered by students with massaging, feeding and housekeeping services.


 
On the morning of July 18, 2015, 6 teachers and their 12 charges from Tainan Tzu Chi High School were received by wheelchair-bound Lew Ern Hau and a resident at the Happiness Centre for the Mentally Disabled Children in Klebang Kecil, Melaka. This Centre takes in people with serious cases of cerebral palsy and currently houses more than 20 of them. Most of them are confined to beds or wheelchairs, and almost all of them come from single-parent families or were abandoned by families who could not pay their medical fees.
 
While exchanging greetings, Teacher Hsueh Ching Yi was surprised and touched that Ern Hau could still remember her and recalled that it was the school’s fourth visit to the Centre. An overjoyed Ern Hau even asked the group to join him in singing after lunch.
 
Persisted in spite of adversity
 
In groups of three or four, the students assisted the staff in feeding the kids. Chiang Hsuan Chen and Lin Su Huang even learnt a few Malay phrases from the staff to coax a little boy to cooperate at lunch time. One of them fed the child while the other persuaded him to open his mouth with soft toys.
 
“Ahh…buka mulut (open your mouth), bagus (excellent)!” The boy finally ate but refused to finish the food. Thus, they tried feeding him with a little water between feeds to soften the rice noodles. After half an hour of applying various strategies, their mission was accomplished.
 
Happiness is simple
 
Then, a little girl toddled over and affectionately nudged Hsuan Chen and Su Huang. The latter obligingly started feeding her, and she responded with “Ah, ah…” and a clapping of hands.
 
“The children here can only express themselves by saying ‘ah, ah’. I’m grateful that I’m healthy and can express myself accurately!” said Hsuan Chen, who also realized that it is important for a volunteer to equip himself/herself with knowledge so that he/she is able to deal with different situations well.
 
“The greatest gift on this trip is understanding ‘contentment’,” mused Su Huang. “Here there is a lack of resources but the children are happy.”
 
A handicapped body is no handicap for a rich soul
 
“I have forgotten how long it has been since you last told me the story that you loved the most…” After lunch, Ern Hau’s solo performance commenced! Seeing so many fans clapping and humming along, Ern Hau smiled, “It’s not easy being a singer. I’ve sung till I have no energy left.”
 
Before saying goodbye, the students and Ern Hau sang together the song, “The First Time”, to capture the treasured memories and their first meeting today.
 
A touching sight evokes deep reflections
 
In the afternoon, the students and teachers arrived at the Machap Baru Old Folks’ Home, located in a countryside permeated by the fragrance of durians. Its occupants comprised of 17 grandpas and 2 grannies. They took the group on a tour of their dwelling, which was neat and clean, but there was a whiff of urine in the air. Unfazed, the students divided into three groups to start work.
 
Liu Cheng Yu scrubbed every corner of the bathroom and when she adjourned to clean the walkway, she was reminded by her teacher, “All the moss must be cleaned away so that the old people won’t slip and fall.” She then realized why her mother has always reminded her to keep the house clean; and she felt blessed to have her mother handling the household chores.
 
Seeing the grannies in the old folks’ home, Cheng Yu realized that she had been rather impatient with her own grandmother, who is in her seventies. “Before I embarked on this trip, my grandma gave me some cash and told me to have fun, and not worry about money,” she sobbed. Feeling remorseful, she whispered, “Grandma, I love you.” 
 
Warm the elderly’s hearts with handmade desserts
 
After cleaning, the students made fruit tarts and served the elderly along with red bean soup. To Su Yi Chun’s horror, she splashed some red bean soup on a grandpa. Fortunately, he magnanimously waved off her apologies. Feeding him carefully, she explained, “Old people and children are similar. I’m feeding him the way my mum fed me when I was young.”
 
Later, Yi Chun gave the grandpa, who is about her grandfather’s age, a back rub. Unexpectedly, he began to weep and did not respond to a concerned Yi Chun. Her own eyes were filled with tears when she said, “I’m grateful that my grandparents in Taiwan are healthy and mobile.” She realized that old people do not ask for much; they just need someone to talk to.
 
Empathize and witness the power of change
 
Huang Yu Wei’s parents encouraged her to go on this trip this year after seeing the positive changes in her elder brother who made the same visit last year.
 
 As she fed red bean soup to a grandpa, her thoughts wandered to her own great-grandfather, whom she hardly talked to due to a language barrier. She reflected, “I treat the elderly in the old folks’ home kindly, but I didn’t treat my family this way… It was three to four years ago that I last fed my great-grandfather. He is already in his nineties. There is so little time left to accompany him, so I must take every opportunity to do so.”
 
 
For the student-volunteers, who barely have a chance to witness and delve into suffering, this eye-opening journey was one filled with a fair share of laughter and tears, and one that will create ripples of change. Teacher Hsueh is aware of this, thus she arranged a volunteer trip to Melaka every summer. Seeing the bitter parts of life will encourage the students to count their blessings and awaken their kindness and filial piety.
 
 

 
Residents of the Happiness Centre and teachers and students of Tainan Tzu Chi High School joined in the chorus. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]   Noting how the children at the Happiness Centre stay cheerful despite lacking resources, Lin Su Huang learnt to treasure what she has. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]

Residents of the Happiness Centre and teachers and students of Tainan Tzu Chi High School joined in the chorus. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]
 
Noting how the children at the Happiness Centre stay cheerful despite lacking resources, Lin Su Huang learnt to treasure what she has. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]
 
Students of Tainan Tzu Chi High School performed for the elderly. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]   Students and their teachers helped the elders to clean their compound. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]

Students of Tainan Tzu Chi High School performed for the elderly. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]
 
 
Students and their teachers helped the elders to clean their compound. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]
 
Encouraged by her parents, Huang Yu Wei joined the trip to gain new experiences. [Photograph by Yong Siew Lee]    

Encouraged by her parents, Huang Yu Wei joined the trip to gain new experiences. [Photograph by Yong Siew Lee]