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Wednesday, 25 May 2016 00:00

Dumpling Sale for Melaka International Schools Construction

Written by  Julie Yen Yu Chu, Melaka / Translated by Tan Heang Shin

The canteen in Tzu Chi Melaka premises was swamped by enormous volunteers every day. [Photograph by Yong Siew Lee]

The vicinity of Tzu Chi Melaka was filled with the aroma of spices and the fresh smell of leaves. A group of volunteers was seen making the dumplings at the cafeteria; some were busy washing the leaves while others were weighing the ingredients, frying the filling and steaming the dumplings. Volunteers’ laughter and singing had been going on for about two weeks.


Tzu Chi Melaka vegetarian dumpling charity sales started in 2005 and entered the 12th year this 2016. It was deemed the most challenging year too due to soaring sales – from 15,000 previously to over 20,000 this time. The number of days needed to make the dumplings was extended from 12 to 16 days. This proved a physical challenge for the volunteers, most of whom were in their fifties and sixties and some even in their seventies and eighties.

Amongst them was a group of volunteers who arrived as early as five in the morning for preparation. There were also a few that left as late as nine at night after all the steaming and cleaning was done. Throughout the 16 days, they persevered despite being physically exhausted. They were motivated by a single mission – to raise funds for Tzu Chi international schools in Melaka.

Working towards a shared goal

Apart from the volunteers involved in the production, there was another group of volunteers who tirelessly promoted the dumplings on the streets under the hot sun, to the shop owners and in the markets. Each dumpling contained the love of every volunteer working towards the same goal.

Volunteer Chan Geo Hong used her smartphone as the platform to promote the dumplings to her friends, relatives and customers. She would call to explain if there was no response. She and her husband, Kok Eng Goh even set a sales target of 10 bundles a day. Kok Eng said: “With goal comes motivation. We would promote wherever we go.”

Regardless of whether they were meeting customers or simply having meals, they would explain and promote to the people they met. Their efforts paid off as they managed to close an order of 1,000 dumplings. During their free time, they even delivered the dumplings to the buyers.

Geo Hong stated: “This year, there were more than 20,000 dumplings for sale so we had to work really hard. Other than arousing kindness, we took the opportunity to explain the progress of the international schools.”

Some volunteers visited the night market in the evening and during weekends to promote to the crowd present. Volunteer Tan Yow Jiuan from Tengkera community had asked three other volunteers to join her. One of them would carry the signboard while others would hold the hot dumplings and promote to the crowd.

“From evening to night, no matter how many dumplings we have sold, our goal is one step closer,” Yow Jiuan shared her thoughts with a smile. She seemed even to forget about the hot weather and her sweaty body.

Backing the front line

With so many volunteers actively promoting outside Tzu Chi, the kitchen volunteers had to work very hard in making the Nyonya-style vegetarian dumplings. Since May 10, they were able to make 1,500 dumplings per day. Although they were rushing to complete their target, all the details in making the dumplings were not neglected to ensure the look, the taste and the hygiene were of sufficient quality.

A few volunteers were skilfully washing the leaves under the makeshift canopy. They had to wash the leaves three times in three different pails of water. Volunteers Chong Ai Ching, Leong Ling Aui and Wong Lee Hin did not feel weary at all despite the repeated actions and with their hands soaked in such water for a long time.

The three steps of the washing process was the idea of Ai Ching and Ling Aui from their recycling experience. According to Ling Aui: “The water has to be changed often for hygiene purposes. However the third pail of water is always the cleanest so it would be a waste to throw away. We then thought of moving the third pail to second, the second pail to first, and throwing away the first pail of water which is always the dirtiest.”

Ai Ching stressed that after washing the leaves three times, they would be left in the water to prevent from curling up. The leaves were soaked in a few small basins for the convenience of the volunteers.

The three of them would wash the leaves from morning till afternoon but they never calculated the number of leaves they had washed every day, and they never thought of moving to other tasks as they were not familiar in making the dumplings and feared they might mess up the quality of the dumplings.

To Lee Hin, everyone was contributing their best efforts. Carrying out the same task every year, she was grateful that her hands did not fail her as some people turned out to be allergic to the furry leaves and some were unable to soak their hands in the water for long.

On top of that, the three of them did not have their own transportation and had to rely on friends and family members to send them to Tzu Chi. They were very grateful for the help of the many, which had allowed them to join in the good cause.

Excellent segregation of duties

“Thank you for all your efforts, I have bought nasi lemak, please help yourself,” volunteer Lim Giok Hong said with a smile, inviting all volunteers for a break. Even though she was unable to participate, she drove Ai Ching and Ling Aui over to Tzu Chi every morning. She would also deliver snacks for the team, as a form of moral support.

The team would always cheer each other up with their signature dishes and desserts; they would share and enjoy the food to relieve both the physical and mental exhaustion. Volunteers who were in charge of the steaming would also make coffee, tea and drinks for everyone to avoid dehydration.

“It is tiring as we work from six in the morning until seven at night, my whole body is aching when I reach home. I do not feel like moving around anymore and sometimes I could not even hold my toothbrush properly in the morning! However, I would still report for duty every morning,” volunteer Hay Choon Kui said with a laugh.

Volunteer Ng Ah Chan could not agree more: “Precisely! I have turned up every morning without fail. There are so many things to do so I must come. I have been having joint pain lately and although I have used medical plasters and taken pain killers, I cannot really raise my hands. But still I want to come, I will take it easy. While I am working, I tend to forget about the pain.”

Volunteer Yeo Ah Mian, who suffers from arthritis, has been joining the team since 2011 despite her crooked fingers. She came in at five in the morning: “My hands would be very painful when I apply force. I am slow in tying the dumplings but I would like to help as much as I can.”

Many people have been volunteering for years. As this year saw an increased number of dumplings, volunteers worked hand in hand to accomplish the mission. Everyone contributed in their respective areas without a break for more than ten days. Their determination and spirit inspired many. Some who were not able to turn up every day took leave or invited friends to participate, hoping to make the project a success.

Old is gold

Looking around, everyone was sitting but one. A petite and grey-haired volunteer was seen standing throughout the making, which could be five to six hours every day.

“I am used to it. I would feel uneasy sitting down,” said the 84-year-old Koo Geok See. She has not missed the annual activity despite her advanced age. She proudly declared that she is still as fit as the youngsters.

“Most importantly, the tying of dumplings. If it’s too tight, the stuffing would not be properly cooked. If it’s too loose, the dumpling would be too watery and if the rice spilled out, it would spoil the taste of all dumplings,” Geok See added.

She was certainly skilful and willingly shared with others on useful tips. She admitted that not many are able to master the technique these days, hence she seized the opportunity to help.

She enjoyed herself very much indeed, “The quantity is secondary. Most importantly, everyone gives their best and works together. The joy when we accomplished the mission excels all others.”

A jovial Geok See would always entertain others with songs especially “Sweet as Honey” hence was nicknamed “Sweetie”. Everyone revelled in her singing; constant laughter and chatter were in the air.



This is the third consecutive year the entire proceeds from the sales of the rice dumplings was channelled to the building fund of Tzu Chi international schools. In order to enable more people participate, the number of rice dumplings for sale was increased. It is hoped that volunteers would help spread the word, letting more people have a taste of vegetarian Nyonya rice dumplings.

Be it the production team or the sales team, everyone mustered strength to achieve the goal. Their efforts bore fruit as the 22,300 rice dumplings sold like hotcakes. Those who did not manage to secure any can look forward to placing an early order next year.

 

Demand for the Nyonya style of rice dumplings increased to over 20,000 this year, from 15,000 last year. [Photograph by Hong Geok Hui]   Volunteers Chong Ai Ching (1st left), Leong Ling Aui (2nd left) and Wong Lee Hin (3rd left) had been washing the leaves used for rice dumplings non-stop under the scorching sun. [Photograph by Julie Yen Yu Chu]

Demand for the Nyonya style of rice dumplings increased to over 20,000 this year, from 15,000 last year. [Photograph by Hong Geok Hui]
 
Volunteers Chong Ai Ching (1st left), Leong Ling Aui (2nd left) and Wong Lee Hin (3rd left) had been washing the leaves used for rice dumplings non-stop under the scorching sun. [Photograph by Julie Yen Yu Chu]
 
Though suffering from joint pain, Yeo Ah Mian never misses the annual activity since 2011. [Photograph by Hong Geok Hui]   Koo Geok See had reported herself for duty every day despite her advanced age. [Photograph by Hong Geok Hui]

Though suffering from joint pain, Yeo Ah Mian never misses the annual activity since 2011. [Photograph by Hong Geok Hui]
 
 
Koo Geok See had reported herself for duty every day despite her advanced age. [Photograph by Hong Geok Hui]
 
Chan Geo Hong collected the rice dumplings personally for distribution to relatives and friends subsequently. [Photograph by Yong Siew Lee]   Volunteers promoted the rice dumplings at night market in raising funds for the international schools. [Photograph by Quek Kah Hoon]

Chan Geo Hong collected the rice dumplings personally for distribution to relatives and friends subsequently. [Photograph by Yong Siew Lee]
 
 
Volunteers promoted the rice dumplings at night market in raising funds for the international schools.[Photograph by Quek Kah Hoon]