Tzu Chi volunteers from Kluang started the recycling movement in Bekok New Village since 2001. This monthly recyclable collection activity caught on with the locals and the Tzu Chi Bekok Recycling Centre was established on a piece of land leased free of charge in 2012.
Grandpa Low Kong What started his “search, find and repair” mission at the recycling centre five years ago. He carted repairable gas hobs home, bought spare parts, rebuilt serviceable life and put them on sale to potential buyers. To-date, his time and efforts have brought new life to more than a hundred discarded hobs.
The pavement in front of his house, which is lined with a few shelving racks of spare parts, tools and repaired hobs, is the Grandpa’s workplace.
As good as new
Grandpa Low owes much of his knowledge and expertise with metals to his previous experience acquired from his younger days in the servicing industry. He has an eye for reuseables, which he takes apart, services and replaces whatever deemed fit, and conjures a working appliance as good as new. Despite not having previous experience with gas cookers, he learns by trial and error, effectively making use of odd parts and tools to clean away accumulated dirt.
“Reassembled cookers function on par with new ones, but more importantly, this minimizes wastage,” commented Grandpa Low, who would inspect and troubleshoot every finished product for safety before sending them off to the recycling centre.
Nowadays, most people would prefer to buy new appliances when old ones break down, but Grandpa Low felt that things break down due to a lack of proper usage and maintenance. Repairing and upcycling prevents an old appliance from going back to the manufacturing process, which consumes energy and resources.
Affluency and over-consumption damaged the planet
The simple and contented Grandpa Low holds dear to a principle of life nurtured from the tenacious younger days, practising prudence and thriftiness on material consumption. He felt that the new generation of consumers are tainted with greed, craving for comfort and lavish living, giving rise to garbage accumulation. “We should save up even when life is good,” he said. Wastage from over-consumption has contributed to the damage of this planet.
Grandpa Low leads a simple life with monthly expenses barely comparable to one dine-in tab of one to two hundred Ringgits for city dwellers, but he is generous in charity. Even the white shirt on him was a recycled item.
Recycled utilities around the house include a clock, power chargers and a mosquito swat. He even polished a rusty steel pot till it was sparkling clean and remarked that it is hard to get such quality piece these days; and it can be sold at a good price.
Working daily to keep boredom away
At 83, Grandpa Low’s health is on the decline. Though no longer able to do strenuous tasks, he still persists with lighter chores. He said, “I don’t know how much more I can do. So I just seize the time to do what I can do now.” He said engaging in recycling helps to keep boredom at bay too.
His wife, Tan Moy, said that sometimes he gets too engrossed in his work that he would skip his meals. Worried that he could exhaust himself, she would prepare his meals, stand by him and give her full support.
Dedication and commitment earns praise
Volunteer Ong Lai Ket admired the Grandpa’s dedicated efforts at repairing discards. He shared, “Grandpa Low would think about the repair work even when he is in bed. Sometimes when he gets an idea to solve some problems, he would get up from bed in the middle of the night to get it done.” Grandpa Low is a motivational role model to other volunteers. “The younger new generation should learn from this great example,” said Lai Ket, who added that, “Grandpa Low’s work exhibits sincerity and passion. It moved our hearts and encourages our commitment to recycling activities.” He is grateful for the Grandpa’s dedication.
Advanced technology and economic competition has made appliances of convenience more affordable to today’s consumers, hence, accelerating the exploitation of many resources. We can only minimize the impact by cherishing resources and exercising prudence with our material consumption. Grandpa Low’s spirit is indeed an exemplary role model for everyone.
Grandpa Low Kong What, aged 83, scours the recycling centre for “treasures”. He would collect repairable gas cookers, repair them and send them back to the recycling centre for sale to the community. [Photograph by Kang Miew Tiang]
Tan Moy (left) supports her husband’s philanthropic services unconditionally. [Photograph by Kang Miew Tiang]
Grandpa Low Kong What used sandpaper to renew a rusty steel pot. [Photograph by Kang Miew Tiang]
Grandpa Low Kong What sent repaired gas hobs to the recycling centre. On the right is Ong Lai Ket. [Photograph by Kang Miew Tiang]