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Monday, 22 May 2017 14:32

Raising Funds in the Streets for the Children’s Future

Written by  Tan Kim Hion, KL & Selangor / Translated by Ng Li Fei

Ah Lay (middle) and Soe Ko (left) from Myanmar raised funds for the building of Tzu Chi International School from their countrymen. Whenever someone made a donation, Ah Lay would make a record in his booklet. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]

As night fell, Ah Lay Leme and Soe Ko from Myanmar walked through the streets in downtown to raise funds from people they met, including staff at foot massage centres, hotels or restaurants. Regardless of how much money they could raise, they felt extremely happy so long as the person they approached was willing to contribute his/her love.

 


Located at the heart of KL, Bukit Bintang is a lively commercial and entertainment hub. Not only are there commercial centres, hotels, foot reflexology centres, massage centres and other businesses everywhere, it is also a place where tourists throng for local food. Many foreign labourers and refugees also settle and make a living here, including Ah Lay Leme, who works at a nearby restaurant, hence he is very familiar with the whereabouts of his countrymen around that area. Most of his countrymen work at a restaurant, a foot reflexology centre, massage centre or hair salon. During the nights, they would be distributing flyers or calling for customers in the streets.

Shuttling through the streets, Ah Lay and Soe Ko would approach their countrymen they met and talk to them about the construction of Tzu Chi International School with the help of a flyer. Frequently, the people they talked to would give them money to donate to Tzu Chi.

Those who were unaware of their efforts would think that they were getting business. But when they realized that they were raising funds for Tzu Chi, a Buddhist charitable foundation, to construct an international school, some quickly donated while some had doubts. When unable to explain clearly, Ah Lay would request the help of volunteer, Lieu Aoi Mey, who accompanied them, to explain the reason and significance of the fundraising.

Have faith in Tzu Chi International School

“Tzu Chi makes no distinction of religion and race. Ah Lay is very grateful of Tzu Chi’s assistance. Hence, when he heard that Tzu Chi is building an international school, he wants to raise funds for the school. The amount doesn’t matter, what matters is the love and kindness.”

Whilst explaining, Aoi Mey took out a Tzu Chi monthly magazine and flipped to the pages featuring Ah Lay’s story. Although the Burmese ethnic groups could not read Chinese, listening to Aoi Mey’s explanations on how Tzu Chi cared for Ah Lay and seeing the photo of Ah Lay with his wife and new-born twins, surprised all present.

“We all knew Ah Lay’s story. We heard from him that in last November, his wife gave birth to a pair of twins, but one of the babies needed to undergo a surgery due to illness. He had no means to get that large amount of money for the surgery and was very sad.”

Rambo Chang, who came from Myanmar and works for a foot reflexology centre, has known Ah Lay for some time. She had heard about his predicament but was unsure of the details. She learnt through Aoi Mey that Tzu Chi and UNHCR had come to Ah Lay’s timely assistance when he was in total despair, unable to afford his youngest son’s surgery costs and food for his family.

Aoi Mey shared that the volunteers visited Ah Lay and his family frequently, bringing them food, clothes, milk powder and other daily necessities. They also organized a full-moon celebration for the twins. Upon hearing that, Rambo was deeply touched and indicated that she was willing to contribute her love for Tzu Chi international school. Having gone to Tzu-Chi Free Clinic for medical consultation, Rambo knew whatever Tzu Chi did were all good deeds. She was confident that Tzu Chi’s school will be a good school, which can nurture many talents. She was glad that she gave her support right away when Ah Lay raised funds from her the month before.

She decided to contribute to Tzu Chi International School monthly and said, “We will definitely support Ah Lay’s initiative. We can contribute bit by bit every month, and hopefully Tzu Chi International School will be completed quickly.”

The only way to repay Tzu Chi

To Ah Lay, the support of his countrymen was the most comforting thing because that would allow him the opportunity to repay Tzu Chi’s kindness. Since receiving help from Tzu Chi, he is no longer depressed and has found the courage to live on. Now, he has not only returned to work in the restaurant, where he earns a steady income, but is also leading a stable life, with his eight-year-old eldest son, who is studying in a school for refugee children, and the adorable twins, who are growing up well.

In April this year, when Aoi Mey and fellow volunteers visited Ah Lay’s family and shared with them the spirit of Tzu Chi’s Bamboo Bank Era, where some housewives contributed NT$0.50 from their grocery money daily for charitable deeds, Ah Lay was moved. Then, when he learnt from Aoi Mey that Tzu Chi KL & Selangor has acquired a piece of land in Bukit Jalil for the construction of Tzu Chi International School and requires public contribution, he immediately donated RM10 on behalf of all his family members.

He also became a regular donor to contribute to the school building fund on a monthly basis. Volunteers were worried that he would not have enough money for his family, but he said that if it was not for Tzu Chi, his home and children would have gone long ago. Therefore, the monthly contribution of RM10 to Tzu Chi is no big deal.

“I felt it is not enough to just make donations myself, I should also be raising funds from fellow countrymen. This is the only thing I can do to repay Tzu Chi.” With that thought, Ah Lay obtained a few Tzu Chi International School flyers from Aoi Mey and decided to amass love and raise funds from his fellow countrymen.

At first, Ah Lay asked his colleagues to accompany him to raise funds in the streets because he was shy to do that alone. However, his colleagues too felt shy and declined his request, despite knowing that it is a good deed. Left with no choice, Ah Lay summoned up the courage to go to the streets alone, talk to his countrymen about Tzu Chi’s plans to build a school and plead with them to donate.

It seemed a simple task, but when Ah Lay was rejected by four countrymen, he was discouraged and felt that others would not necessarily concur with one’s good deed. But his intention to reciprocate Tzu Chi’s kindness spurred him on. Being a Christian, he silently prayed to God for courage and confidence, so that his wish could be fulfilled.

Perhaps his sincerity touched his countrymen, because they finally responded with some giving one or two ringgit. Eventually, after one and a half day of fundraising, 51 persons had contributed their love.

Ah Lay informed, “We are all refugees from Myanmar and do not earn much. So we can only give one or two ringgit. I am happy enough because I do this not for myself, but for the future of the children.” He did not consider whether his children will have the opportunity to study at the school when it is completed, but he knew for sure that other children can be educated at the school. He believes that this school will nurture and produce loving and kind students; and as they grow up, will also help people in need.

Touched by Ah Lay’s selflessness, his colleague-cum-countryman, Soe Ko decided to join him in raising funds in the streets from their countrymen on the restaurant’s off day.

Hope to be a Tzu Chi volunteer

On May 22, Ah Lay and Soe Ko’s rest day, they went to the streets to raise funds in the company of Aoi Mey. The latter was impressed to see their courage; and in April, when Ah Lay handed to her a donation of over RM500 that was raised in one and a half days, she was curious. Ah Lay also expressed that he hoped to have Aoi Mey and other volunteers accompany him to raise funds because he only speaks Burmese and a little English, hence is unable to communicate his messages to the tourists whom he came across and who wished to donate.

When it was late at night, Aoi Mey witnessed Ah Lay and Soe Ko going into the crowd with flyers in their hands, promoting the good cause to people they met. When someone donated money, Ah Lay would squat down or sit on the staircase steps under the street light to record the donor’s name and amount of donation in a small booklet.

In addition to raising funds from fellow countrymen at the roadside, Ah Lay also went to massage centres. Seeing his countrymen doing foot massages for customers, he would squat at a side patiently, waiting for opportunity to speak.

He also encountered people who were too busy to entertain him, but he did not mind and would continue to wait, sometimes up to half an hour before he left. Aoi Mey was deeply touched by his determination, but he said, “We are doing a good deed. When we think of the day the school comes to completion, we have the courage to continue raising funds.”

Ah Lay and Soe Ko spent a whole two hours without drinks and rest. They walked around the streets they were familiar with, and also discussed whether they had left out any other places. When they calculated the money raised and handed all the money to Aoi Mey, the latter was filled with a deep sense of gratitude and repeatedly thanked them both.

Soe Ko smiled shyly when Aoi Mey expressed her gratitude. He likes to do good deeds, but it was the first time for him to approach others and pool their kindness this way. Throughout the night, he followed Ah Lay and kept talking and walking, but he did not feel tired. Instead, he was happy to be able to come into contact with Tzu Chi and its volunteers. He hopes that he will one day become a volunteer to help people everywhere.

Ah Lay and Soe Ko managed to solicit donations from more than 40 people that day. Ah Lay informed that as some of his countrymen were not around, he will return to continue raising funds in the streets together with Soe Ko on their rest days next month. With Soe Ko’s company, he has gathered more strength to continue doing what he is doing. He hopes that the little donations from everyone will contribute to the Tzu Chi International School, with love.

 

 

In April 2017, Lieu Aoi Mey (left) visited Ah Lay (middle) and his family. She also told them about Tzu Chi KL & Selangor’s plans to build a Tzu Chi International School in Bukit Jalil. Ah Lay immediately donated RM10 on behalf of his family. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]   Bukit Bintang is a lively place where many foreign workers and refugees live and work. Ah Lay (right) grabbed every opportunity to raise funds. Volunteer Lieu Aoi Mey also introduced Tzu Chi to the foreign workers. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]

In April 2017, Lieu Aoi Mey (left) visited Ah Lay (middle) and his family. She also told them about Tzu Chi KL & Selangor’s plans to build a Tzu Chi International School in Bukit Jalil. Ah Lay immediately donated RM10 on behalf of his family. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]
 
Bukit Bintang is a lively place where many foreign workers and refugees live and work. Ah Lay (right) grabbed every opportunity to raise funds. Volunteer Lieu Aoi Mey also introduced Tzu Chi to the foreign workers. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]
 
Soe Ko became a good partner of Ah Lay. Both of them went to the streets and into the malls to raise funds together for the construction of Tzu Chi International School. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]   Ah Lay and Soe Ko kept a proper record of each donation received. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]

Soe Ko became a good partner of Ah Lay. Both of them went to the streets and into the malls to raise funds together for the construction of Tzu Chi International School. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]
 
 
Ah Lay and Soe Ko kept a proper record of each donation received. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]
 
Ah Lay (2nd left) talked to a worker at a foot reflexology centre about Tzu Chi in the company of volunteer, Lieu Aoi Mey (2nd right). [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]   Lieu Aoi Mey (left) showed Rambo (right) from Myanmar the story of Ah Lay, as reported in Tzu Chi’s monthly magazine. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]

Ah Lay (2nd left) talked to a worker at a foot reflexology centre about Tzu Chi in the company of volunteer, Lieu Aoi Mey (2nd right). [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]
 
 
Lieu Aoi Mey (left) showed Rambo (right) from Myanmar the story of Ah Lay, as reported in Tzu Chi’s monthly magazine. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]