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Tuesday, 26 April 2016 00:00

Kitchen Turned Spiritual Cultivation Ground

Written by  Tzu Chi Documenting Team, KL & Selangor / Translated by Tan Heang Shin

In welcoming the 50th Anniversary on May 8, volunteers of Tzu Chi KL & Selangor were busily preparing 30,000 longevity peach buns in 12 days. [Photograph by Look Foot Seong]

Volunteers of Tzu Chi KL & Selangor rushed to produce 30,000 longevity peach buns for the public attending the Buddha Bathing Ceremony held on May 8. The countdown began in mid-April 2016, and volunteers were very careful in making each and every bun.


Comparing to the buns made previously, the longevity peach buns tasted much better. As soon as they were tasked, volunteers called on friends and relatives to accomplish the mission together at KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall.

Chang Sew Loon, who was in charge of Jing Si Hall kitchen unit, expressed that it was a great challenge to produce 30,000 longevity peach buns in such a short time. Other than preparation of the ingredients, temperature control during the steaming process posted a great challenge too.

Sew Loon has a passion in culinary interest and loves to explore new recipes. Since 2015, he has been leading a team to cater for the daily snacks of children studying at Kepong Da Ai Kindergarten.

Volunteers Zhang Yu Rong and Tee Yok Yang have been helping out at the kitchen since the completion of Jing Si Hall. Initially, both of them had thought of being ordinary volunteers but as they were touched by the selfless giving and sincerity of Tzu Chi team, and with encouragement from experienced volunteers, they agreed to be trained as trainee volunteers.

Yu Rong and Yok Yang became good friends after volunteering at Tzu Chi as both of them share the same passion in baking. They would even try out new recipes together.

Before sleeping every night, Yok Yang even reflected on making and improving the texture and appearance of the buns. After a few trials and errors, she successfully came up with a tastier texture. Following the success, they began to call on community volunteers to kick-start the bun project on April 12.

Repeated attempts for improvements

After making buns for large-scale events for two years, volunteers have gained more experience. On this occasion, they initiated two production lines that involved about 40 volunteers from the community. Every step in the making process needed careful attention to ensure good quality.

Sew Loon estimated consumption of about 600 kg of ingredients, including the use of more than 500 kg of flour. He had racked his brain everyday to ensure the right quantities of ingredients were used. As they had made between 2,000 – 2,800 buns daily, planning on kitchen usage was crucial. He was proud when the team once produced 3,000 buns in a day.

There is always strength in numbers. Segregation of duties and controls at every process had ensured quality albeit huge quantity.

The role of powder mixing was assumed by Yok Yang, with coordinators and group leaders managing all other volunteers. Though with different roles, they would step up and fill in for each other when required.

Yok Yang used to be domineering at home. But she learnt to humble herself after joining Tzu Chi’s activities. She thanked Sew Loon for the learning opportunity, the selfless coaching and the free hand. She also hopes to be certified as a Tzu Chi Commissioner soon.

Sin Me Lan, who was responsible for manpower coordination, felt very pleased that she was able to contribute on Tzu Chi’s 50th Anniversary. With a sincere and thankful heart, she provided guidance to volunteers and at the same time, built a common understanding with them.

As there were two production lines, coupled with unfamiliarity with roles on the first day, only 1,000-plus buns were produced. On the second day, it was increased to more than 1,600 buns. Due to the tight schedule, pressure had mounted and doubts on the completion of 30,000 buns arose. However, after working together for two days, volunteers surpassed themselves with 3,300 buns. This had boosted everyone’s confidence!

Since then, the team has managed to complete more than 2,700 buns a day, and had even set a record of 3,700 buns daily. Every day, volunteers would report themselves punctually and “work” would then start at 7.30 am until 3 pm. They would even stay back to clean up and although they worked from dawn to dusk, no one felt bitter or tired.

Finally, on April 26, they successfully completed the making of 30,000 longevity peach buns! They exclaimed in delight, “We did it!” After working together for 12 days, there was a close bond among the team members. The thoughtful coordinators and group leaders promised to bring everyone back when there is an “order” for buns in future.

Cultivation ground everywhere

Volunteer Tan Son Hong carefully added some colours to the buns fresh from the oven. The cute little buns had lightened up his mood. He has long treated Jing Si Hall as his second home and let his children run his business. To him, the kitchen chores presented opportunities to tame his mind. People surrounding him could easily feel his joy. He knew that the script of one’s life is written by oneself hence, the mindfulness in one’s behaviour.

Tan Fen Fen, who had volunteered herself over the past three years, had described the mission this time as “an impossible task to be completed with sole effort”. She runs a home pastry business and would usually be tied up with orders during year-end and Chinese New Year festival. She felt that the team this year was organized with prior planning and though there were less volunteers, everyone had established good rapport and pooled their efforts to create a loving environment.

When Zeng Mei Lan was invited by volunteers to help in the kitchen unit, she agreed as both her children were grown up. Though she only had primary education, she was willing to learn while doing. She liked the peaceful environment of Jing Si Hall and felt extremely blessed to hear the Dharma.

She had doubts on the mission at first but seeing the team’s joint efforts, she was truly moved. She often stayed by the steamer and would only retrieve the buns for some colouring after the steam on the buns had dried up. She left with a weary body but a happy mind, and would arrive on time the following day, never missing a session!

Mission accomplished!

At 3 pm on April 27, the hard work was all over and everyone gathered to share their thoughts. While enjoying some snacks, they also used the opportunity to know each other better and agreed to meet again.

Deputy CEO of Tzu Chi KL & Selangor, Song Quek Khian joined in the session and thanked everyone. He also listened to the sharing of the volunteers.

Among them was a Mainland China citizen, Wu Fei Xia, who just returned from Suzhou to Malaysia to work. Even though she heard of Tzu Chi back in Suzhou, she did not know what Tzu Chi does. She had turned up with her family every day and learnt that relationship among people could indeed be nurtured to accomplish a shared goal.

She was very inspired when she saw how the group leaders had pointed out mistakes gently and the team members had made corrections right away. She was deeply touched by the great teamwork and harmonious relationship demonstrated. To her, the past 12 days had been the happiest days in her life.

Before parting, chef Sew Loon reminded all to stay connected on the mobile “chat group” and that he would inform them should there be any bun-making activity. He also encouraged everyone to partake in other Tzu Chi’s activities.

 

Photo shows the longevity peach buns ready to be distributed to public members who attend the Buddha Bathing Ceremony. [Photograph by Look Foot Seong]   Chef Chang Sew Loon shared that the main challenges were mastering of the raw materials needed and the required oven temperature. [Photograph by Look Foot Seong]

Photo shows the longevity peach buns ready to be distributed to public members who attend the Buddha Bathing Ceremony. [Photograph by Look Foot Seong]
 
Chef Chang Sew Loon shared that the main challenges were mastering of the raw materials needed and the required oven temperature. [Photograph by Look Foot Seong]
 
Sin Me Lan joined in the volunteering team with a sincere and joyful heart. While guiding the new volunteers, she also learnt to work with all team members. [Photograph by Look Foot Seong]   Photo shows Zeng Mei Lan adding some colours to the longevity peach buns fresh from the oven.[Photograph by Look Foot Seong]

Sin Me Lan joined in the volunteering team with a sincere and joyful heart. While guiding the new volunteers, she also learnt to work with all team members. [Photograph by Look Foot Seong]
 
 
Photo shows Zeng Mei Lan adding some colours to the longevity peach buns fresh from the oven.[Photograph by Look Foot Seong]
 
To Tan Son Hong, Jing Si Hall is his second home hence, he is often seen helping in the kitchen and learning how to tame his mind from the chores. [Photograph by Look Foot Seong]   A group photo was taken when 30,000 longevity peach buns were successfully completed in 12 days. [Photograph by Look Foot Seong]

To Tan Son Hong, Jing Si Hall is his second home hence, he is often seen helping in the kitchen and learning how to tame his mind from the chores. [Photograph by Look Foot Seong]
 
 
A group photo was taken when 30,000 longevity peach buns were successfully completed in 12 days. [Photograph by Look Foot Seong]