Saturday, Oct 20th

Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Monday, 28 May 2018 00:00

A Cheer for You, My Wonderful Child!

Written by  Tan Kim Hion, KL & Selangor / Translated by HY Yong

Despite being born without palms, 6-year-old Hong Jun Sen, who is keen to learn, has been a “wonderful boy” to his teacher, Yau Huey Lu. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]

Born without palms, Hong Jun Sen has only one finger on his left and right wrists. But the boy loves to play, laugh, and learn. Always beaming with smiles, the 6-year-old is precious to his parents and is a “wonderful boy” to his teachers. Thanks to the love he received in his journey of growth, he is now a happy little angel waiting to soar to great heights.


“Mummy, why do all my classmates have five fingers in their hand and I only have one?” Hong Jun Sen once asked his mother Tan Ai Ling when he was four.

“That’s because everyone is born different. Some are tall, some are short, while some are fat and some are thin. That’s why you are different from others!” Ai Ling responded.

When Jun Sen turned five, he went to Ai Ling again. “Mummy, why am I given only one finger? Why can’t I be like other children?”

“If you were like others, you would not be Hong Jun Sen. It’s a special test for you, so you must face it bravely!” Ai Ling knew her child was growing and she must start instilling positive thinking in him.

“But if I had five fingers, I could still face the test courageously!” Jun Sen still could not comprehend his deficiency. He told Ai Ling that his schoolmates had made fun of him at school because he was different.

Ai Ling thus showed Jun Sen a video of an American who was able to overcome all kinds of challenges despite losing her hands. The video also showed the woman flying an airplane with her feet. Other than that, Ai Ling also let Jun Sen see that there were many unfortunate children in the world through some documentaries. Those children had no homes, no education, no food to eat, and some even starved to death.

Ai Ling then said to Jun Sen, “You must be grateful that you still have two fingers. Mummy believes that (even with two fingers) you will be able to help other people someday.” The words seemed to have convinced little Jun Sen to accept his difference, and he never asked about his circumstances again.

This year, Jun Sen turns six and this is his third year studying at Tzu Chi’s Da Ai Kindergarten in Pandan Indah, Ampang. He is not so concerned about his lack of fingers anymore, and if other children asked him about them, he would calmly tell them that his fingers are naturally grown that way and there is nothing bad about it.

Seeing Jun Sen’s confidence and optimism, Ai Ling and her husband, Hong Wai Kan, are glad that they did not give up on Jun Sen. They are also thankful that Jun Sen could study in Da Ai Kindergarten where he could learn and grow in a caring and loving environment.

Which would you choose?

Every life is valuable. The arrival of a child is a continuation of a past-life relationship with the parents. Six years ago, when Ai Ling became pregnant, both she and Wai Kan were thrilled and excited. They began thinking up names for their unborn child and even made plans for his future.

“However, at the moment when Jun Sen was born, I saw that he had no palms but only two fingers. I was very scared. I kept asking the doctor, ‘Why did this happen to my child? Why?’”

When Wai Kan first saw Jun Sen, he was at a total loss too. He kept imagining the obstacles his child would face as he grows. How will he read and write? How will he work? Will the society accept him?

When he found the doctor had no answers to his questions, Wai Kan decided to calm down because he realized he had to focus on taking care of his wife, who too could not accept the shocking fact.

For Ai Ling, the fact was truly cruel. She had been very prudent with her food intake during pregnancy, and was cautious of mobile phone radiations that she tried her best to stay away from them. With no foetal abnormalities detected during the monthly check-ups, she had assumed that her child would grow to be lovely and healthy.

The heartbroken mother took half a year to overcome her misery before she braced herself to face the fact that she would be mothering a special child the rest of her life. She is grateful that during that time her husband had remained strong and optimistic. She still remembers him consoling her saying, “Our boy came to us because he chose us. It’s his destiny to be with us. Imagine if he were born in another family, what would his fate be? Would he be abandoned?”

“If God gave you another chance of having a perfect Jun Sen, and Jun Sen in his current state, which one would you choose?”

Ai Ling, without hesitation, said she would choose Jun Sen as he is, because he is her own flesh and blood that she gave birth to. It was then she decided that she could not continue to live in misery and she should share the responsibility of raising her child with her husband.

Nourishing life with love

Wai Kan learnt from the Internet that Jun Sen’s condition was very rare in Malaysia, but there had been similar cases abroad, from which he learnt more about his child’s situation and ways to care for him. He often gently told Jun Sen when he was still an infant, “You are with us, Jun Sen. We will love you and take care of you.”

With his parents’ undying love and care, Jun Sen had been able to grow healthily, and Ai Ling too became stronger and braver by the day. Ai Ling and Wai Kan had initially wanted a different name for their child but after learning his condition, they decided to name him “Jun Sen” (the Chinese character “sheng” is a combination of “sun” and “rise”). They wished their boy could rise like the sun and always be joyful and optimistic.

Ai Ling recalled, “When Jun Sen was turning four, we had a hard time deciding which kindergarten to send him to. We were worried that he would be alienated and bullied, so we were searching for a kindergarten that could accommodate and accept him.” The two parents were aware of the importance of kindergartens having great influence on a child’s growth and learning.

During the search, Ai Ling heard her mother-in-law spoke about Tzu Chi’s Da Ai Kindergarten. Her mother-in-law was a nanny to two children who were studying in the kindergarten then. It was the children’s parent who suggested Jun Sen be sent to the same kindergarten after learning about his situation.

Wai Kan and Ai Ling only knew Tzu Chi as a charity and were not aware that it is also involved in education. The couple searched the Internet and learnt that Tzu Chi’s missions cover four major aspects – with education being one of them – and its teaching philosophy includes living skills and life education. They felt they have found the right place for Jun Sen and decided to enrol him in Da Ai Kindergarten.

Happy little angel

Since Jun Sen was very young, Ai Ling has used various ways to train him to be independent. She had made him learn to put on his own clothes and socks from an early age. Sometimes when Jun Sen asked her for help or threw tantrums when he failed, Ai Ling would be by his side and patiently encourage him to keep trying.

When Jun Sen was about to attend kindergarten, Ai Ling, concerned that her boy might experience low self-esteem when he realizes he could not write like others, taught him proper pencil grip so that he could colour and write alphabets as well as numbers. When Jun Sen started schooling formally, Ai Ling, who is a career woman, took leave for several days to accompany Jun Sen in class.

When Jun Sen first joined the kindergarten, he cried profusely in school every day. That made Ai Ling cry too. When the teacher saw that, she comforted Ai Ling and suggested to her to not accompany Jun Sen during class. Although Ai Ling did not feel comfortable with the idea, she knew that Jun Sen might adapt more quickly without her company.

“The teacher said Jun Sen continued to cry for two months before he finally stopped.” Ai Ling still feels a bit saddened while recalling that. However, when she saw Jun Sen gradually making progress, all the sadness turned into happiness.

As Jun Sen got more and more familiar with the kindergarten, he liked to share what he did in school at home. He told his parents that he liked his teacher Yau Huey Lu very much because she often praised him, calling him a wonderful child. In his young mind, the teacher’s compliment of him as a wonder child simply gave him confidence and joy.

Huey Lu is a thoughtful teacher indeed. She was quick to notice the reason Jun Sen was crying a lot when he first came to the kindergarten was because he was in constant fear he might be knocked down by his schoolmates. She also observed that Jun Sen was concerned about the curious eyes of the other children, especially when they touched his hand out of curiosity, he would turn extremely silent and ignore them.

In order to solve Jun Sen’s concern and to develop a sense of empathy in the other children, Huey Lu told the class, “Jun Sen forgot to bring his fingers with him when he was born because he wanted to see his Mom and Dad sooner.” The children then understood that Jun Sen’s defect is inborn and started turning their curiosity into collective concern for him. They would offer Jun Sen assistance whenever possible, and even accompany him to the bathroom to help him with his pants.

There was once a child who was not sensible enough and laughed at Jun Sen for having no palms. Huey Lu knew that the incident would sadden Jun Sen, but she did not reprimand the child concerned. Instead, she initiated a game where the class had to tie their hands up, and used only a finger to write, open the door, grip things, and so on. When the children failed to do so, she explained to them highlighting that Jun Sen could overcome his physical defects to write, do housework, sweep the floor, wash dishes, play chess, play with blocks, and even drum. He could also put on his clothes and take off his socks and even feed himself. She explained to the class that Jun Sen’s independence is something worth learning and he is truly a wonderful child.

Jun Sen appreciated everything his teacher had done for him and shared his stories proudly with his parents when he got home. Now, he is happy to go to school every day and he gets along very well with his classmates. He loves to play and is deemed a happy merrymaker in the class.

The budding of love

Ai Ling was touched when she learnt that all teachers in Da Ai Kindergarten were treating Jun Sen the same way they treat other students, because she noticed her son was making progress in facing and overcoming difficulties. What impressed her most was that Jun Sen had learnt to turn his trousers the right way without the help of others. He had needed help with that in the past but ever since he attended kindergarten, he learnt to put on his trousers that were inside out and take them off to turn them the right way. That solved his problem of having his trousers turned the wrong way and hence, he was able to put them on without help.

“On one occasion, he could not rush to the washroom in time and dirtied his pants, but he didn’t panic and didn’t ask his teachers for help. He went to the toilet, cleaned himself up, changed into a new pair of pants, and even wrapped up the dirty pants for washing at home,” said Ai Ling.

For other children, getting changed could be a trivial matter, but Ai Ling knew that it was not an easy feat for Jun Sen, and yet he did it. Ai Ling strongly believed that she did not have to worry about Jun Sen adapting to change anymore. Through the teacher’s trusting on Jun Sen’s potential, she learnt that she had been overly protective of her child and that only by letting go and allowing her son to learn, that he could grow and be independent.

In the past three years, Jun Sen has not only learnt to be self-reliant, but also progressed tremendously in his learning. Ai Ling was initially worried that Jun Sen might not be able to hold the pencil and master Chinese writing. However, under the close guidance of his teachers, Jun Sen overcame the difficulties and was able to write neatly. That inspired Ai Ling to realize that love can really help a child overcome obstacles. Therefore, she always tells Jun Sen, “Mommy loves you always. I hope that you will be a strong, brave, and compassionate child. No matter the problem, mommy and daddy will always be with you, so don’t worry. We believe in you. Mommy wishes the best for you.”

Wai Kan has been very pleased that Ai Ling was able to overcome her misery and shower their child with abundant love. He too was full of joy witnessing Jun Sen’s growth. He still remembers fondly the moment the three of them completed a lantern together as a family before Mid-Autumn Festival. It was a task given by the kindergarten in the communication book that assigns parent-child activity and reports children’s learning progress.

“We used to buy beautiful lanterns for Jun Sen every year but that time, we had to collect recyclable resources to make an eco-friendly lantern. It was remarkably interesting and meaningful for me,” mused Wai Kan.

In another occasion, the teacher asked the students and their parents to make a model transport. Jun Sen chose to make a big paper bus. When the family finally completed an orange cardboard bus together, Jun Sen happily entered the bus and invited his Dad and Mom to be his passengers. He wanted to not only carry his parents, but also a lot of other people, so that everyone has an opportunity to travel on a bus and do not need to walk so hard.

Wai Kan was deeply touched to see his child being so thoughtful and compassionate. Not only did he see Jun Sen’s progress in learning, he also saw the seedlings of love begin to sprout in his son’s young mind. He is convinced that with a loving and caring environment, Jun Sen will have a bright and hopeful future.

Jun Sen also has a flair for music. When he has some leisure time, he will sit in front of his electronic drums – a gift from his dad. His dad will then put a specially designed drum stick on his elbow and he will skilfully play a rhythmic piece of music. Whenever Jun Sen plays the drums, his Mom and Dad would enjoy being his best spectators and fans. They often bask in happiness while enjoying beautiful music together as a family.

Every time Wai Kan and Ai Ling see Jun Sen play the drums with poise, they would rejoice from the bottom of their hearts. Looking back on their journey of hardship that was filled with worries and tears, they now firmly believe that their little Jun Sen will be able to craft his own life and find his calling like any other children.

 

 

Hong Jun Sen is not overcome by his physical defects. Instead, he is able to play his electronic drums very well. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]   While playing blocks with his parents, Hong Jun Sen will always pull out the blocks himself without seeking help from his parents. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]

Hong Jun Sen is not overcome by his physical defects. Instead, he is able to play his electronic drums very well. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]
 
While playing blocks with his parents, Hong Jun Sen will always pull out the blocks himself without seeking help from his parents. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]
 
Hong Jun Sen happily fetched his parents on his “bus”. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]   Hong Jun Sen is now able to put on his socks with his two fingers. He believes in what his teacher said to him: “Wonderful boy, you can do it!” [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]

Hong Jun Sen happily fetched his parents on his “bus”. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]
 
 
Hong Jun Sen is now able to put on his socks with his two fingers. He believes in what his teacher said to him: “Wonderful boy, you can do it!” [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]
 
With Teacher Yau Huey Lu’s guidance and encouragement, Hong Jun Sen (1st right), overcame his mental barrier and joined his peers in playing games. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]
  Turning their curiosity into collective concern, Hong Jun Sen’s (2nd left) schoolmates would caringly bring the food to him. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]

With Teacher Yau Huey Lu’s guidance and encouragement, Hong Jun Sen (1st right), overcame his mental barrier and joined his peers in playing games. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]
 
 
Turning their curiosity into collective concern, Hong Jun Sen’s (2nd left) schoolmates would caringly bring the food to him. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]
 
Hong Jun Sen (left) would share the classroom cleaning chores without making excuse for himself. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]  

Hong Jun Sen (left) would share the classroom cleaning chores without making excuse for himself. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]