Friday, Sep 20th

Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Wednesday, 09 September 2015 09:35

A Cherished Zoo Excursion for the Underprivileged

Written by  Yaw Ah Moi & Lim Eng Yee, KL & Selangor / Translated by Chong Pei Fen

Volunteers took the refugee children on a learning trip to the Zoo Negara. [Photograph by Lim Choon Huat]

“Bus one!” “Bus six!” “Bus ten!” On September 9, 2015, Tzu Chi volunteers were seen busily getting a large group of 360 refugee children from UNHCR Tzu Chi Education Centres, namely Unity, Joint Effort and Harmony, to queue up at the entrance of Zoo Negara. These children, who rarely had a chance to go on an outing, jabbered excitedly and curiously on the new things around them. With assistance from their teachers, volunteers managed to keep them lining up patiently for 20 minutes before they were finally admitted.


 
Located 5 km away from the Kuala Lumpur city centre, the Zoo Negara covers a land of 110 acres and houses over 5,000 specimens from 476 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.
 
The moment the children entered the zoo, they were thrilled to see a flamboyance of flamingos. Then they were drawn to three giraffes, which they had wanted to feed but were warned off by their teachers. They were surprisingly familiar with animals and could even name the hedgehog, which is not usually found in books.
 
A long awaited day
 
Teachers from the Education Centres revealed that the children had been counting down to the day to see the pair of pandas on loan from China and their cub since they were informed about the trip. After an hour long queue, they eagerly entered the Giant Panda Conservation Centre. However, to their disappointment, Liang Liang was confined elsewhere to take care of her newborn cub, while a lonely Xing Xing kept sleeping. Thankfully, they were compensated with an animal show.
 
“Malaysian children are so blessed compared to these Myanmar refugee children! It would be wonderful if Tzu Chi volunteers or other organizations could do something for them and make them feel the warmth of humanity and happiness,” exclaimed Tan Guat Kooi, a retired school principal and member of Tzu Chi Teachers’ Association, who has been teaching humanities lessons at the Education Centres over the past four years.
 
She remarked that unlike local children, these refugee children lack resources. They are taught only English, Malay, Mathematics and Science at the Education Centres even though an all-round education should encompass moral, intellectual, physical, social and aesthetic aspects. Therefore, she had looked forward to take the children on an excursion to broaden their horizons and bring them joy.
 
Charity transcends borders
 
Dr Foo Seay Liang, Head of Buddhist Tzu-Chi Free Clinic and chief coordinator of the activity, shared that the excursion, jointly organized by Tzu Chi and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), had been meticulously planned with careful considerations to every detail.
 
The fact that there were 21 five-year-old children increased the challenges faced. Hence, Dr Foo specially scheduled the visit on a Wednesday, when the Free Clinic is closed, and invited three Myanmar medical attendants to help with interpretation and four second-year medical students from Lincoln University to attend to the children.
 
Having volunteered at the Free Clinic for years, Dr Foo added emotionally that many refugees lead a tough life because they have yet to apply for a UN Refugee ID even after a lapse of 10 to 20 years due to red tape and procrastination. Fortunately, there are still people who care about their well-being.
 
Dr Foo hopes that the seeds of kindness embedded in the children’s mind will multiply and bring us a step closer to the three wishes of purified mind, harmonious society and a peaceful world. Hanif, a former student of the Unity Education Centre and now an interpreter at the Free Clinic, testified that.
 
Muhammad Danial, a student from Lincoln University, said that his late mother had imparted in him at a young age that life is impermanent and encouraged him to seize every opportunity to help others. Despite his mother’s demise two years ago, her generosity and benevolent have left a significant influence on him. By extending a helping hand to others, he has also gained different life experiences.
 
Muhammad, who frequently volunteers at the Free Clinic, believes that everyone is equal and shares the same blood as humans despite the differences in religion and colour of the skin, thus being a Muslim should not hinder him from serving at the Free Clinic.
 
He also noticed that the children were well-behaved and helpful. Seeing how the volunteers held the children’s hands and walked them around patiently, he aspired to treat young and elderly patients with heedfulness and patience ever since then.
 
Without a legal status, refugees face the risk of being arrested by law enforcement officers at any time, not to mention basic medical and educational benefits. Thus, in year 2008, three UNHCR Tzu Chi Education Centres were set up to empower refugee children the right to education. Through outdoor learning, the children are exposed to knowledge beyond the textbooks.
 
These underprivileged children have no choice over their birthplace, but if every adult could just show them a little mercy, care and love, there is no reason why they cannot succeed in life.
 
 
The refugee children were overjoyed to go on an outing. [Photograph by Lim Choon Huat]   Tzu Chi volunteers and teachers from the UNHCR Tzu Chi Education Centres took care of the 360 refugee children during the visit. [Photograph by Lim Choon Huat]

The refugee children were overjoyed to go on an outing. [Photograph by Lim Choon Huat]
 
Tzu Chi volunteers and teachers from the UNHCR Tzu Chi Education Centres took care of the 360 refugee children during the visit. [Photograph by Lim Choon Huat]
 
The children were mesmerized by the colourful sea creatures in the aquarium. [Photograph by Lim Choon Huat]   Hanif was grateful to Tzu Chi for organizing the excursion for children from his homeland. [Photograph by Lim Choon Huat]

The children were mesmerized by the colourful sea creatures in the aquarium. [Photograph by Lim Choon Huat]
 
 
Hanif was grateful to Tzu Chi for organizing the excursion for children from his homeland. [Photograph by Lim Choon Huat]
 
Muhammad Danial (2nd left), a medical student from Lincoln University, was aspired to become a merciful doctor with Great Love. [Photograph by Lim Choon Huat]   It is Tan Guat Kooi’s (right) hope to expand the children’s horizons and bring them joy through the outing. [Photograph by Lim Choon Huat]

Muhammad Danial (2nd left), a medical student from Lincoln University, was aspired to become a merciful doctor with Great Love. [Photograph by Lim Choon Huat]
 
 
It is Tan Guat Kooi’s (right) hope to expand the children’s horizons and bring them joy through the outing. [Photograph by Lim Choon Huat]