Thursday, Nov 23rd

Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Friday, 30 June 2017 00:00

Receiving Help and Helping In Return

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

Twenty-four-year-old Qiqi (left) donates RM3 every month to the building of Tzu Chi International School. Whenever she places money into the bamboo bank, she is happy to be able to help others. On the right is volunteer Ong Saw Tin. [Photography  by Tan Kim Hion]

Before knowing of Tzu Chi, 24-year-old Qiqi was known amongst her neighbours as an infamous young delinquent who was a frequent ‘guest’ at the police station. Unable to bear seeing her loitering in the streets, without a roof over her head, Tzu Chi volunteers placed her in the care of a mental health institute and taught her to be someone who offers help to others.


Every month, Tzu Chi volunteer, Ong Saw Tin would arrive at the mental health institute with Qiqi’s favourite noodles. While happily enjoying the noodles, Qiqi would hand over RM3 to Saw Tin as donation to the building of the Tzu Chi International School (TCIS).

Saw Tin expressed, “Actually, when Qiqi said that she was willing to donate RM3 as contribution towards the building of TCIS, I was surprised and touched. Despite being a patient herself, she had a loving heart wanting to help others.”

Tzu Chi volunteer Yong Mun Fei, who regularly visits Qiqi together with Saw Tin, was not only similarly touched, but also found it to be a bittersweet moment. Over the years helping out in Tzu Chi’s Charity Mission, he has met all kinds of cases but none as dramatic as Qiqi’s. Of all the memories he had of Qiqi, he will never forget the shock and dismay he felt when they first met.

A frequent ‘guest’ at the police station

In March 2016, Mun Fei, a taxi driver, was driving past a police station when he saw a young girl in her 20s flagging him down. Thinking that she was just another customer, he allowed her into his taxi. As he was about to drive off, a policeman came out and stopped him, explaining that the girl was a mental patient who had just escaped from the police station.

Clueless of what was really going on, Mun Fei then tried to coax the girl out of the taxi together with the policeman. After a frustrating 20 minutes, the girl suddenly jumped out of the taxi and ran off. Mun Fei and the policeman were caught unawares and could only stare at her disappearing figure.

When Mun Fei returned home, he told his landlady, Saw Tin, about it. He pitied the girl and wanted to help. Saw Tin, a Tzu Chi volunteer with over ten years of experience in the missions of charity, knew that such cases were not straightforward. Worried that the girl might be bullied, Saw Tin followed Mun Fei back to the police station to gather more information.

Upon enquiring, the two realized that Qiqi was a frequent ‘guest’ at the police station. Passers-by and those in the neighbourhood would report her to the police when they saw her roaming the streets with an odd expression on her face. The police would then take her to the station and call for her family members to pick her up. The same scenario would repeat itself after a couple of days.

Saw Tin left her contact number, requesting for the policeman to inform her the next time they saw Qiqi. Unsurprisingly, Saw Tin received a call from the police in less than an hour later, saying that Qiqi was being held at another police station. When Saw Tin and Mun Fei arrived, Qiqi was standing by the roadside with a giggly grin on her face.

Saw Tin recounted, “I went over to speak to her. She did not resist so I brought her into the police station. The policemen shared with us that they were frustrated with the girl and did not know how to handle the situation. Based on what the police shared, I got in touch with Qiqi’s family members and got their permission to bring her to see a doctor.”

At that time, Qiqi was hostile towards everyone and refused to get into the car to the hospital. Saw Tin had to coax her to get into the police car, and she and Mun Fei then followed the police vehicle. Upon arrival at the Psychiatric Ward, Qiqi found the chance to escape once again.

A regular visitor at the hospital

Saw Tin and Mun Fei went out in search for her. Interestingly, the hospital staff and doctors were not surprised that this happened. It turned out that Qiqi had been a regular visitor at the hospital and would escape from the place all the time. Upon finding Qiqi, Saw Tin noticed that she was particularly uneasy. Saw Tin gathered her in her arms and calmed her down with a hushed voice, keeping her company till midnight before leaving.

Using the information shared by the police, Saw Tin reached out to Qiqi’s family and learnt of her sad past. Qiqi’s mother was also a mental patient and hence placed her under the care of her relatives, who treated Qiqi like their own. When Qiqi was in Primary 3, she started showing signs of mental instability and often ran away from home for long periods. Doctors diagnosed her with mental instability and prescribed long-term medication.

Since then, Qiqi had stopped schooling. As she grew up, she became more rebellious. Running away from home to roam the streets became a habit. As her relatives were worried for her safety, they placed her in a rehabilitation centre. However, Qiqi would escape and in her unstable moods, would self-inflict upon herself using knives. In the hospital, she would wait till she was able to use needles to prick herself until she bled. Thus, her relatives could not bring themselves to overly restrict her.

Upon learning of Qiqi’s misfortune, Saw Tin and Mun Fei thought of looking for a mental health institute where Qiqi would have a stable life with people looking after her, instead of wandering aimlessly in the streets. Qiqi’s family requested for volunteers’ help after their discussion with Saw Tin. They also faced difficulty in finding a suitable institute as the previous one they had sent Qiqi to did not want to take her in again after her escape attempt.

Saw Tin recalled, “We found a mental health institute in Kajang, where most of the patients were Chinese. Hence, communication there would not be a problem. The environment there was good, and the staff would bring Qiqi to see a doctor monthly and ensure that she takes her medications daily. This should be helpful for her.”

When Saw Tin first brought Qiqi to the institute, she was worried that Qiqi would put up a fight. Hence, she had to coax Qiqi by saying that they were going back to her relative’s home. Upon arrival at the institute, Qiqi found herself in an unfamiliar place and wanted to run away again. Saw Tin had to persuade her with a promise to visit monthly with her favourite noodles and Milo drinks. Upon hearing that she would get her favourite noodles every month, Qiqi reluctantly agreed to stay at the institute.

Qiqi’s relatives also frequently visited her, which helped greatly in her adaptability to the new environment. With careful monitoring by the institute, it was now difficult for Qiqi to run away. Although Qiqi’s relatives were relieved, they were still worried about whether they were able to bear the additional monthly financial costs. Saw Tin helped by registering Qiqi as a Tzu Chi care recipient to help lighten this burden.

When visiting Qiqi every month, Saw Tin and Mun Fei would always remember to bring her favourite noodles and Milo drinks as promised. Upon seeing the noodles, Qiqi’s face would light up and she would happily enjoy them. As time progressed, Saw Tin found that Qiqi’s speech started to become more structured and rational, even managing to crack jokes. Saw Tin and Mun Fei both felt happy seeing her improved demeanour.

Mrs Chen, the Manager of the institute, shared that initially, Qiqi regularly threw tantrums, used vulgar words and even lied about having stomach aches in order to take the opportunity to run away when the staff brought her to the doctor. Under the staff’s daily monitoring of her medications and doctor visits, Qiqi’s emotions started to stabilize. Due to the positive environment she was in, Qiqi even started to take care of the older patients and help out with household chores. Once, Qiqi told Saw Tin that she helped a fellow patient who was too old to move. Qiqi felt for her and was reminded of her own mother. Thus, she wanted to help feed her and change her diapers. Saw Tin praised Qiqi’s compassionate heart that was so willing to help others.

Pay it forward

Over the past year, Mun Fei personally saw Qiqi’s transformation from someone who did not smile, to one who is constantly grinning; from having hostility for everyone, to caring for others. This comforted him and he found that his initial decision to search for Qiqi at the police station was a right one. Now, Qiqi no longer roams the streets and has a normal life.

One day, as Mun Fei was visiting Qiqi, he drew an apple on the bamboo bank labelled with “Project Hope” (for TCIS). On the apple, he wrote a Chinese character to symbolize “Safe”. He gave Qiqi the bamboo bank as a gift, hoping that she would always stay safe and happy.

He also informed Qiqi of Tzu Chi’s plan to build a school, which needed a lot of money, and that many had contributed to this cause in order to help more children to gain access to good education. Qiqi shared that she did not like to read, but was able to donate RM3 every month because she wanted to help others. She told Mun Fei how she once received help from passers-by who gave her money when she was wandering in the streets. The lady owner of a noodle shop also used to give her free noodles. Since others had helped her in the past, she also wanted to help others.

It came to light then that Mrs Chen would give Qiqi RM1 daily in appreciation of her help in taking care of the elderly people at the institute. Qiqi would save up the money and ask the staff to buy her noodles and iced Milo. Due to her love for food, the monthly RM30 would all be gone even before the end of the month. Mun Fei first thought that Qiqi would not be able to donate, but instead, she offered to donate RM3 from her salary, with the rest kept for her own use.

Mun Fei recognized a pure, open heart in Qiqi. At first, he was worried that he was unable to reach into her inner world. After a year’s worth of care, talks and guidance, Qiqi now knows how to love, give and help others. Once, he saw Qiqi giving Saw Tin a sudden kiss on the cheek and immediately captured the sweet moment on his camera. The warm scene taught him that regardless of the different experiences people may have, the love that is within their hearts will remain.

Chen Suet Mun, who helps her parents out at the institute, admired how Qiqi was also able to help others. Hence, she went up to Saw Tin to volunteer as a donor to donate RM3 every month for the building of TCIS. Suet Mun is 19 years old this year and when she was in Primary 2, she went through a brain operation to remove a tumour. Since then, her health was never the same, as it has affected her ability to go to school; and she never managed to complete her primary school education.

Suet Mun, who loves to read and longs to study, regrets that she is no longer able to achieve this dream. Therefore, when she learnt that Qiqi was willing to donate RM3 out of her monthly salary to the school, she was touched and felt that she should follow Qiqi’s footsteps.

Suet Mun’s charitable heart was praised by Saw Tin and Mun Fei and was happily supported by Qiqi. Every month, as Saw Tin comes by with the bamboo bank to collect their donations, Qiqi and Suet Mun would each place their RM3 into it. With every “Gan En” (thank you) uttered by Saw Tin after each donation, they both would smile widely and look forward to the next month’s donation.

 

 

In the hospital, Ong Saw Tin held Qiqi in her arms to console her until she calmed down. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]   Volunteer Ong Saw Tin (left) kept her promise to visit Qiqi every month and bring her favourite noodles. Satisfaction was all over Qiqi’s face as she held up the noodles. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]

In the hospital, Ong Saw Tin held Qiqi in her arms to console her until she calmed down. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]
 
Volunteer Ong Saw Tin (left) kept her promise to visit Qiqi every month and bring her favourite noodles. Satisfaction was all over Qiqi’s face as she held up the noodles. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]
 
Qiqi hugged Ong Saw Tin, giving her a kiss. This sudden gesture brought a smile to Saw Tin’s face. [ Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]   In a stable environment, Qiqi learnt how to care for others and she also helped in doing household chores. This is a far cry from one who used to roam the streets. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]

Qiqi hugged Ong Saw Tin, giving her a kiss. This sudden gesture brought a smile to Saw Tin’s face. [ Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]
 
 
In a stable environment, Qiqi learnt how to care for others and she also helped in doing household chores. This is a far cry from one who used to roam the streets. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]
 
Yong Mun Fei (left) drew an apple on the bamboo bank labelled with “Project Hope”. The apple and the Chinese character on it symbolized “Safe”. He hoped that Qiqi would always stay safe and happy. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]   Chan Suet Mun (right) admired Qiqi for her monthly donation of RM3 to Tzu Chi International School. She also followed suit to donate RM3 monthly. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]

Yong Mun Fei (left) drew an apple on the bamboo bank labelled with “Project Hope”. The apple and the Chinese character on it symbolized “Safe”. He hoped that Qiqi would always stay safe and happy. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]
 
 
Chan Suet Mun (right) admired Qiqi for her monthly donation of RM3 to Tzu Chi International School. She also followed suit to donate RM3 monthly. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]