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Wednesday, 31 August 2016 00:00

Reciprocate by Protecting the Environment

Written by  By Tan Kim Hion, KL & Selangor / Translated by Lim Wen Xin

Ong Koon San, who attended the new volunteers’ training for the first time, was happy to be acknowledged as a recycling volunteer. He is seen here performing sign language cheerfully with other volunteers. [Photograph by Kevin Tan Kok Sieong]

In the beginning, Ong Koon San repeatedly used his illiteracy as an excuse not to join the volunteers’ training. In the end, it was the irresistibly beautiful landscaping of the recycling centre that attracted him. He began to recycle and eventually became part of the big Tzu Chi family.


Volunteer Ong Koon San rose early in the morning, and after washing up, he put on his uniform and appeared at the Jing Si Hall energetically. Those who knew him had praised that he looked most handsome that day. He could not stop smiling, mumbling lovingly that, even in his wildest dream, he would never dream of this day.

Seventy-two-year-old Koon San has been collecting recyclables by the roadside and volunteering at the recycling centre for two years. It had never crossed his mind that he would be recognized because of his recycling efforts, not to mention the opportunity to put on the grey uniform for recycling volunteers and receive his volunteer ID card, to officially become part of the Tzu Chi recycling team.

Koon San highly respects the grey-haired senior citizens with impaired mobility, who dismiss their pain to protect the environment all year round. He said, “The 70- and 80-year-olds are still doing recycling despite their old age, so what excuse do I have? I feel healthy, so I can do more.”

Appreciate the chance to contribute

Through the programmes and sharing sessions, Koon San discovered that there are many people – elders or those who suffer more pain than him – who would go the extra mile to gather recyclables. They never complain about the hardship, instead, they are proud to be doing recycling and to be volunteers. Being an elderly himself, he realized that age is not an issue, and that it is more important to do recycling without wasting his time. He truly appreciates the chance to join Tzu Chi.

Koon San never intended to become a volunteer in his life because he thought volunteers needed to have a good grasp of knowledge, attend lessons and lectures, and speak about Tzu Chi. For one who had never been to school, he has always used his illiteracy as an excuse not to volunteer.

“I did not think of doing recycling initially, however, because Tzu Chi helped us and I did not know how to show my gratitude, I went to the recycling centre in Ampang and thereafter, decided to join the recycling team to repay Tzu Chi’s kindness,” he added.

When they were young, Koon San and his wife ran a good business selling pork noodles. The couple worked hard to raise their son and daughter. The initial calm days changed when Koon San had a stroke in 1998. Fortunately, it was only a mild stroke. Although he gradually recovered after half a year of acupuncture and physiotherapy, he limped and hobbled, and could no longer walk as before.

Nevertheless, they were thankful and thought that they could continue the business upon recovery. But two years later, his wife was diagnosed with kidney disease and had to be on dialysis. Facing the sudden predicament, Koon San was left with no option but to retire and hand over the stall to his son-in-law. He stayed home to take care of his wife and help out with housework.

Koon San informed, “My wife has been on dialysis for 16 years. Five years ago, she could no longer go on haemodialysis and had to purchase solution monthly to undergo peritoneal dialysis at home. We have spent most of our savings on medical expenses. Although our children are married, they live very tough lives too, so they cannot help us much.”

Repay Tzu Chi’s financial support by recycling

Koon San could not forget how Tzu Chi had subsidized their living expenses two years ago, so they did not have to worry about daily expenses when his financial situation turned bad. He was grateful for that and knowing that Tzu Chi practises environmental protection, he kept bags of carton packed dialysis solutions and handed them to the recycling centre.

The volunteers often encouraged him to join recycling and participate in Tzu Chi’s activities, but he declined them all. One day, when he went to drop off recyclables at the recycling centre in Kampung Baru Ampang, he saw volunteers beautifying the surrounding. As he has green fingers, he volunteered to help out. Since then, he began to turn up at the centre weekly and was responsible for general cleaning. Slowly, he learnt the true meaning of recycling, and without realizing it, he started to recycle, too.

Other than going to the centre for recycling, he would go for a walk around the neighbourhood every morning. While exercising, he would collect the bottles, cartons, tins, and other recyclables he spotted along the way. He would bring a few empty plastic bags with him for the collected materials. Although he left home empty-handed, he would return with a full bag on each hand.

Koon San shared, “My friends thought I picked them up to sell, but I told them they are for Tzu Chi. Others wondered why I do not sell them and keep the money to myself, I explained that it is because I can only sell them for a minute sum which is not even enough to help anyone. But, if I take them to Tzu Chi, the money earned will flow into the sea of merits, and we can use the collected money to help the needy. I feel happy doing so, too.”

Thanks to recycling, Koon San has learnt the meaning of the proverb, “A pin a day is a groat a year.” In his heart, putting on the grey uniform not only reminds him of his identity as a recycling volunteer, and a guardian of Earth, but it is also a commitment to himself to continue to protect the Earth and walk on the bodhisattva path with the volunteers in his later years.

 


Photo shows Ong Koon San (3rd left) performing happily on stage. [Photograph by Kevin Tan Kok Sieong]   Ong Koon San received his name badge from the Deputy CEO of Tzu Chi KL & Selangor, Song Quek Khian (right). [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]

Photo shows Ong Koon San (3rd left) performing happily on stage. [Photograph by Kevin Tan Kok Sieong]
 
Ong Koon San received his name badge from the Deputy CEO of Tzu Chi KL & Selangor, Song Quek Khian (right). [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]
 
Ong Koon San would go for a walk around the neighbourhood every morning and collect recyclables spotted along the way. [Photograph by Lim Choon Huat]   Through participation in the activities organized by Tzu Chi during the 7th Lunar month from August 12 to 14, Ong Koon San learnt more about the right Buddhist teachings. [Photograph by Ten Chee Hean]

Ong Koon San would go for a walk around the neighbourhood every morning and collect recyclables spotted along the way. [Photograph by Lim Choon Huat]
 
 
Through participation in the activities organized by Tzu Chi during the 7th Lunar month from August 12 to 14, Ong Koon San learnt more about the right Buddhist teachings. [Photograph by Ten Chee Hean]