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Sunday, 06 July 2014 00:00

Setting Up a Malay Communal Recycling Point in Tawau

Written by  By Tsang Pui Ling & Chung Chui Tieng / Tawau, Sabah/ Translated by Wong Mun Heng & Chong Pei Fen

The opening of the eighth Tzu Chi recycling point in Tawau. [Photograph by Yeo Teck Hwa]

“I intend to make this place a model community for environmental protection.” Jennifer Hong So Kia, a Tzu Chi volunteer, made this vow when she shifted to Taman Sri Apas in 2012. The eight four-storey apartment blocks house 888 households, where 97% of the residents are Malays.


Jennifer who speaks Malay fluently has been fostering good relationships with the residents and looking for opportunities to advocate environmental protection since she moved in to the neighbourhood. Jennifer stays in Block 8, which houses 120 families. On the second Sunday of each month, all the residents of this block will clean up the surroundings by sweeping, weeding and cleaning up the drain.  

On her own initiative, Jennifer took part in the cleaning-up exercise organized by the residents. She also took the opportunity to educate and promote recycling to the residents. She used the little space beside her house to keep recyclable resources and after a while, the residents also learned to sort out the resources before bringing them to her house. At one stage, Jennifer was in a dilemma as the cleaning-up day clashed with one of Tzu Chi regular activities. Thanks to her rapport with the residents, the cleaning-up day was moved to the third Sunday to avoid the clash.

Working together for the recycling point

After two years of relentless efforts, the eighth Tzu Chi recycling point in Tawau, Sabah was finally set up at Taman Sri Apas. This is an important milestone in recruiting the residents as recycling volunteers.

Abdul Rahman Bin Amit, the head of Block 8, is very supportive of the recycling concept of Tzu Chi. Led by Jennifer, he and his family members have participated in Tzu Chi recycling activities. With the strong support and assistance from Abdul Rahman, coupled with the approvals from the resident association, housing developer, and municipal council, the setting up of the Tzu Chi recycling point was made so much easier.

On February 2, which is the third day of Lunar New Year, while many were still in festive mood, about 10 Tzu Chi volunteers went around Block 7 and 8 of the apartments to promote an upcoming environmental-themed tea party prior to the opening of the recycling station, in the company of Abdul Rahman and another resident, Kasma Binti Wahib. Many residents accepted the volunteers’ invitation and signed up for the tea party to be held at the community hall on February 9.

Other than helping in inviting her neighbours for the tea party, Kasma who interacts well with Jennifer also voluntarily took charge of refreshment for the tea party. Indeed, she is going to be a pillar for the recycling team.

Turning garbage into gold, and gold into loving-kindness

On February 9, 2014, the small community hall was packed with 140 residents. Volunteer Chang Vui Seng, a lecturer from a technical college and fluent in Malay, was the speaker on promoting environmental protection. Since all of the attendees were Malays, when showing the Tzu Chi video (in Chinese) on environmental protection, Vui Seng did a voice-over translation in Malay.  

With the aid of video and PowerPoint slides, Vui Seng shared the significance of environmental protection and the concept of “Turning garbage into gold, and gold into loving-kindness.” He urged everyone to take part in environmental protection and to curb material desire, so as to protect the Mother Earth. Wahid Bin Sahat, the park supervisor, also went on stage to urge others to support the recycling efforts by Tzu Chi; making environmental protection as a way of life. Wahid also hoped that Tzu Chi will continue this education on environmental protection in the neighbourhood.

“I thank Tzu Chi for promoting environmental protection in our residential area; this is a blessing for all of us.” Abdul Rahman again expressed his gratitude to Jennifer for introducing environmental protection to him. He even invited the park supervisor and head of other blocks to attend the tea party. “I will continue to contribute whatever I can in this environmental protection initiative.”   

“Promoting the concept of environmental protection to the Malay community is definitely a good start and hopefully, this will enhance the Malays’ understanding on the concept of environmental protection; especially on how to “turn garbage into gold, and gold into loving kindness.” Wong Wui Khen, team leader in charge of the environmental protection activities in the zone, had high hopes for this Malay community.

Recruitment drive while doing recycling

The promotion of environmental protection aims not only to purify the environment, but also the mind. The volunteers immediately approached Rosidah Binti Aco, wife of Abdul Rahman, and three of her friends when they arrived at the venue. After learning about the charitable missions of Tzu Chi, Nordiana Ngempe who first came into contact with Tzu Chi, not only signed up as Tzu Chi donating member, but also put on the volunteer vest and joined Rosidah to volunteer at the event. All four of them also promised to volunteer at the recycling point when it starts operating.

Many attendees were moved by news coverage on how a Tzu Chi care recipient has gone through difficulties and then passing on love to others. Learning about the great love spirit of Tzu Chi that transcends races, many Malay residents signed up as donating members. This includes five children who are willing to contribute a portion of their pocket money as donations and promised to volunteer at the recycling point on its opening day.

It was also touching to find that some of the residents who signed up as donating members were not well off. For example, Abdul Rahim Bin Baso who once received timely financial aid from Tzu Chi through a Study Grant offered to his children, immediately donated some money on seeing Tzu Chi volunteers.

Opening of the recycling point

On February 23, 2014, the eighth Tzu Chi recycling point in Tawau was officially opened in Sri Apas. The recycling point is set to operate for two hours on the fourth Sunday of each month, so that the residents can send the recyclable items over.

On that day, while the volunteers were preparing for the opening, the family of Abdul Rahman arrived at the recycling point with recyclable items collected from their house as well as their neighbours. After putting down those recyclable items, they turned to help other neighbours to bring their recyclable items. Abdul Rahman’s son even helped arranging some PET bottles and aluminum cans into a heart shape together with his friends. The children who promised to volunteer at the recycling point had also held to their promise.

Wahid and Abdul Rahman said in their speeches that the day of the opening marked a new chapter of the residential area, and they hoped that the residents can all play their parts in conserving the living environment, not just for themselves, but also for their loved ones. After the speeches, everybody stepped on the PET bottles and aluminum cans in the heart shape, and the recycling activity began.

Some of the residents who had never heard about recycling went home to bring some recyclable items after learning about recycling from the volunteers. Among them, Haji Rosna returned with all the aluminum and metal cans that she could find at home. “It is such a waste that I had been throwing away these metal cans, as I did not know that they can be recycled.”

On hearing a volunteer’s sharing that the proceeds from recycling are used to help the needy, Sultan, who is 11 years old, promised to save 10 cents in bamboo coin bank every day and donate the sum of RM 3 on the recycling day the following month. His loving-kindness has also inspired 9-year old Siti Khadijah to spare 50 cents from her RM 2 pocket money as donations. Albeit small in amount, the generosity of these children is in indeed, invaluable.

The setting up of this small recycling point, carries with it the great mission to turn garbage into gold, and gold into love in this Malay community. Hopefully, with joint efforts from all the residents of Sri Apas, it will soon become a model community to all.

 

Hopefully, Sri Apas with eight four-storey apartment blocks will be a model in recycling. [Photograph by Quek Chou Kiong]   Jennifer (first left) vowed to lead everyone in the community to take part in environmental protection. [Photograph by Tsang Pui Ling]

Hopefully, Sri Apas with eight four-storey apartment blocks will be a model in recycling. [Photograph by Quek Chou Kiong]
 
Jennifer (first left) vowed to lead everyone in the community to take part in environmental protection. [Photograph by Tsang Pui Ling]
 
The volunteers went door by door to invite the residents to attend the tea party. [Photograph by Tsang Pui Ling]   Abdul Rahman (in red shirt) and Kasma (in yellow shirt) accompanied the volunteers to invite the residents to the tea party. [Photograph by Tsang Pui Ling]

The volunteers went door by door to invite the residents to attend the tea party. [Photograph by Tsang Pui Ling]
 
 
Abdul Rahman (in red shirt) and Kasma (in yellow shirt) accompanied the volunteers to invite the residents to the tea party. [Photograph by Tsang Pui Ling]
 
Chang Vui Seng advocated environmental protection to the residents in Malay. [Photograph by Quek Chou Kiong]   Volunteers introduced Tzu Chi to the residents at Sri Apas. [Photograph by Quek Chou Kiong]

Chang Vui Seng advocated environmental protection to the residents in Malay. [Photograph by Quek Chou Kiong]
 
 
Volunteers introduced Tzu Chi to the residents at Sri Apas. [Photograph by Quek Chou Kiong]
 
Nordiana (first right), who first came to know about Tzu Chi, immediately volunteered herself and signed up as Tzu Chi donating member together with her friends. [Photograph by Quek Chou Kiong]   Volunteers educating the children on the different categories of recyclable items. [Photograph by Quek Chou Kiong]

Nordiana (first right), who first came to know about Tzu Chi, immediately volunteered herself and signed up as Tzu Chi donating member together with her friends. [Photograph by Quek Chou Kiong]
 
 
Volunteers educating the children on the different categories of recyclable items. [Photograph by Quek Chou Kiong]
 
The children segregating the recyclable items after listening to the explanations given by the volunteers. [Photograph by Yeo Teck Hwa]   9-year old Siti Khadijah donated her pocket money for Tzu Chi’s charitable missions. [Photograph by Yeo Teck Hwa]

The children segregating the recyclable items after listening to the explanations given by the volunteers. [Photograph by Yeo Teck Hwa]
 
 
9-year old Siti Khadijah donated her pocket money for Tzu Chi’s charitable missions. [Photograph by Yeo Teck Hwa]