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Saturday, 03 June 2017 00:00

Feeling at Peace after Donating Life Savings

Written by  Tan Kim Hion, KL & Selangor / Translated by Fu Jia Lik

Volunteer Tai Ee Moi (left) passing a receipt for donation of RM30,000 to Granny Leong Ah Chan (middle). Granny Leong happily received it and is grateful for having the chance to do something for the next generation of children. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]

A donation receipt for RM30,000 represented Granny Leong Ah Chan’s entire savings over the past 40-plus years. The donated sum is a result of the blood, sweat and tears of her labour throughout her life and is also proof of her loving heart. This receipt has now become the most valuable item in her possession.


The decision

White haired, 87-year-old Leong Ah Chan has lived alone in a terrace house situated in Cheras for years. According to her neighbours, she is pleasant, good natured and has a loving heart. Each morning, despite her failing and blurred vision, she would use an umbrella as her walking stick and head towards the park opposite her home for her daily exercise in the company of Tai Ee Moi, a volunteer who lives nearby.

Ee Moi has known Granny Leong for over ten years and they have long since treated each other as godmother and daughter. Ee Moi took pity on Granny Leong and would regularly bring her to the park for walks. At times when she was late, she would find Granny Leong already seated on the stone bench at the park, doing light arm exercises while greeting each and every passer-by. As she notices Ee Moi’s arrival, Granny Leong would happily draw her into daily small talk.

In May this year, Ee Moi discovered that Granny Leong wanted to participate in the Buddha bathing ceremony at KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall but was worried that she would not be able to do that without a companion because of her poor vision. Ee Moi could not accompany her as she herself was assigned to volunteer duty as well. However, she managed to find another volunteer to guide Granny Leong throughout the day.

On May 14, Granny Leong attended the Buddha bathing ceremony at Jing Si Hall. As she visited the various exhibitions set up in the area, she felt no strong connection towards them until she arrived at the area which shared about the Tzu Chi International School (TCIS). Volunteers stationed there shared with her about how Tzu Chi Foundation will be building a school that encompasses holistic education and includes kindergarten, primary and secondary syllabus, up to even pre-university courses.

“Children in poverty can also apply to study here as there will be a study fund set up specifically for this purpose.” This statement by a volunteer greatly touched Granny Leong and it was then that she made a decision in her heart.

Donated her entire life savings

After Buddha bathing event, Ee Moi met up with Granny Leong, and the latter started asking her about all details pertaining to the construction of TCIS. Ee Moi informed her that the school will be built near Bukit Jalil and is estimated to be ready within three years. However, she also shared that it was difficult to correctly estimate the exact amount of funds required in its construction. At this juncture, Granny Leong responded by saying, “I know a lot of money is required to build such a big school. It cannot be done with just a small sum of money.

“Godmother, would you like to donate towards this cause?” asked Ee Moi offhandedly. Granny Leong nodded in response. “How much would you like to donate? Even a small sum will be a great help,” said Ee Moi. With a gentle smile, Granny Leong stayed silent, only lifting her fingers to indicate numbers two and three. Ee Moi sought for confirmation whether she meant to donate RM2 or RM3, to which Granny Leong shook her head.

“Is it RM200? RM300?” Ee Moi guessed again. But upon seeing Granny Leong’s mysterious smile, she started wondering whether the Granny had wanted to donate RM2,000 or RM3,000.

Granny Leong did not reveal her answer and instead asked Ee Moi to go to her home to collect the money from her a few days later. When a curious Ee Moi met Granny Leong, the latter took out a stack of cash and passed it to Ee Moi, saying that there was RM10,000 in the envelope, her bank savings which she had just asked her daughter to withdraw.

Holding the stack of cash, Ee Moi was speechless. She was stunned that Granny Leong wanted to donate RM10,000. To her utter surprise, Granny Leong continued saying, “I have another two fixed deposit accounts, which total up to RM20,000. I will withdraw them from the bank and donate them all.”

Ee Moi clarified with Granny Leong whether she had obtained approval from her family members before withdrawing all her life savings for donation. The Granny replied in the affirmative. After passing the money to Ee Moi, Granny Leong happily said, “This RM30,000 is all I have. By donating it all to the school, I no longer have a single cent in the bank. Even so, I feel a peace of mind and am very happy!”

Upon witnessing Granny Leong’s genuine happiness, Ee Moi was deeply moved. Concerned, she asked whether Granny Leong wanted to keep some money in the bank for safekeeping. However, Granny Leong resolutely declined, saying “Money is impermanent. I came into this world without anything and will leave as such. Why do I still want to keep money with me? I am already so old. As long as I have food to eat and a roof above my head, I am content.”

Ee Moi knows of Granny Leong’s difficult life and understands that this RM30,000 is truly the result of her blood, sweat and tears. Yet, at this late part of her life, Granny Leong had donated them all without a single hesitation, and this truly touched Ee Moi’s heart.

Every single cent of hard-earned money

“This sum of money is all from my hard work, saved up bit by bit over the past 40-plus years. Every single cent was hard earned!” shared Granny Leong as memories flooded her, with each moment still clear in her mind.

Granny Leong had a hard life. She was only two years old when her mother brought her to Malaysia from China, and she no longer remembers how her father in China looked like. At eight years old, she was adopted and had to help out in household chores while putting up with beatings from her adopted parents. In that period of time, she never once had an easy day, not to mention schooling.

When she grew up, Granny Leong made a living by washing clothes. Every day, she had to wash mountains of clothes while making only RM3 monthly. Spending RM2 on basic necessities, she saves up the remaining RM1. Later on, she went on to other jobs like cleaning and caring for children. However, she never did make much money. Regardless of how difficult her life was, she persisted in having monthly savings.

“After I got married, I still had to continue these difficult jobs. I did not go to school and am illiterate, hence was unable to do anything else. Long periods of washing clothes and hard labour resulted in me having arthritis, which causes pain to flare up without warning,” shared Granny Leong. Her past was filled with pain and difficulties but she never had a single resentment. Even when sharing about her sick husband, who needed large sums of money for medical care, her tone was light.

Granny Leong is used to living alone after her husband passed away more than ten years ago. She is grateful that she insisted on sending her only daughter to school despite the family’s poor financial status. Now, her daughter has her own family with two children who are both university graduates, with stable jobs. They also visit her often in their spare time.

Granny Leong was reassured by her daughter and grandchildren’s filial piety. She realized that education is key to one having good understanding of life’s principles, having a heart of gratitude and contributing towards society instead of becoming its burden.

Making up of this life’s regrets

“Other than having poor eyesight and hearing, I also have diabetes and arthritis, and have to take a lot of medications daily,” said Granny Leong as she took out a square basket filled with all sorts of medications. While smiling, she shared that she did not require that much medication until November last year, when she fell down while avoiding a passing car on her way to the shops. She suffered a fracture in her leg and was hospitalized for over ten days after going through surgery to insert metal frames in her leg.

Since then, Granny Leong depended on support in order to walk. Her eyesight worsened and frequently teared up. In order to see clearly, she has to sit right in front of the television, even the brochure showing the model and outline of TCIS had to be held close to her eyes for clarity. Due to all these physical conditions, Granny Leong had to take numerous medications daily.

Ee Moi’s heart ached for her, but Granny Leong optimistically said that her life now is good. She rents out two rooms and the RM700 she receives as monthly rental is enough for the basic monthly expenses. She also does not require additional money since her daughter brings her food daily, which is split into many meals due to her small appetite.

“I do not need much in my meals. Just vegetables and rice is enough. Even rice soaked in water is a meal. Eating is only to fill up the stomach. Additionally, I have oats and milk powder. All I have to do is add water and drink, simple and convenient.”

Granny Leong was also very grateful that Ee Moi frequently brings her different types of food for her to try. Knowing that she is lonely, Ee Moi also brings other volunteers around to have chats with her. She is content with her current life. Upon hearing Granny Leong’s sharing, Ee Moi’s admiration for her grew. She knows that Granny Leong is frugal in nature and never longs for materialistic comfort. Even when the 20-year-old fridge in her house broke down, she was unwilling to throw it away. It was not until Ee Moi advised her over and over again that she gave in and spent RM1,000 on a new fridge.

Granny Leong, who is so prudent in spending on herself, was determined to withdraw all of her life savings to donate towards TCIS so that future generations of children will be educated. She frankly said that other than doing so, she is unable to do anything else for children of the future generations.

Ee Moi thanked Granny Leong profusely for her spirit of Great Love, to which Granny Leong responded by saying seriously, “I was unable to attend school. It is my greatest life’s regret for not being able to pick up a pen and write. Now, Tzu Chi is going to build a school that allows children in poverty to gain access to education. This helps me to accomplish my dream and also makes up for the regret I have, which is not being educated due to poverty.”

Granny Leong also shared that when she was younger, she saved all her money with the hope of travelling and enjoying life in her old age. But now she no longer has enough energy to do so. Instead, she spends her days at home and with walks in the park. She is content that even at this age, she does not suffer from dementia and still has a clear and sound mind. Being able to do charity now is her life’s biggest reward. Not regarding it as a taboo topic, Granny Leong talked about her death and stressed that she did not want any valuables to be buried with her, only the couple of her handmade outfits of the Tang Dynasty period to be placed within her coffin. She knows how to sew clothing of the Tang Dynasty period and her everyday clothes were made when her eyesight was better. These outfits are uniquely hers and cannot be bought elsewhere.

Ee Moi handed the donation of RM30,000 to Tzu Chi KL & Selangor, and passed the official receipt to Granny Leong. The latter happily took the receipt and held it close to her eyes. Although she was unable to see much, she laughed happily and said, “I finally have the chance to seriously do a good and meaningful deed.”

After that, she asked Ee Moi for a couple more brochures of TCIS, which she wanted to pass to her neighbours she meets at the park because she felt that everyone should participate in doing good deeds. She hopes to have more people supporting the TCIS cause and speed up its construction so that students will soon be able to attend classes there. This is Granny Leong’s most awaited moment.

 

 

Every day, Tai Ee Moi (right) would bring Granny Leong Ah Chan (left) to the nearby park for walks, sharing small talk, just like a pair of mother and daughter. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]   Granny Leong Ah Chan (2nd left) listens intently to Tai Ee Moi’s (1st left) explanation of Tzu Chi International School, to be built near Bukit Jalil for completion in approximately three years. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]

Every day, Tai Ee Moi (right) would bring Granny Leong Ah Chan (left) to the nearby park for walks, sharing small talk, just like a pair of mother and daughter. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]
 
Granny Leong Ah Chan (2nd left) listens intently to Tai Ee Moi’s (1st left) explanation of Tzu Chi International School, to be built near Bukit Jalil for completion in approximately three years. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]
 
Granny Leong Ah Chan has diabetes, arthritis, teary eyes and more. Due to her poor health, she has to take many medications daily. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]   A receipt for a donation of RM30,000 is everything that Granny Leong Ah Chan has accumulated in savings over the past 40 over years. It also represents the transformation of her life savings into an act of loving-kindness. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]

Granny Leong Ah Chan has diabetes, arthritis, teary eyes and more. Due to her poor health, she has to take many medications daily. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]
 
 
A receipt for a donation of RM30,000 is everything that Granny Leong Ah Chan has accumulated in savings over the past 40 over years. It also represents the transformation of her life savings into an act of loving-kindness. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]