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Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Sunday, 04 January 2015 00:00

Cash-for-Work in Lipis, Pahang

Written by  Low Siew Lian & Loo Chia Chia, Pahang / Translated by Tan Heang Shin

Volunteers from Tzu Chi Melaka initiated cash-for-work programme in Lipis, hoping to give local villagers a sense of community. It was an uplifting experience for both parties. [Photograph by Charlie Kam How Chan]

With blessings from Master Cheng Yen, Tzu Chi volunteers initiated the cash-for-work programme in Lipis, hoping to give the local villagers a sense of community and speed up the recovery of the town’s livelihood.


 
Kampung Seberang Jelai is a Malay village built along Jelai River in Lipis District of Pahang. Its population consists of 74 families (about 300 villagers), and a small number of foreign workers. The main occupation (90%) is rubber tapping.
 
In December 2014, torrential downpours caused rivers to overflow, flooding houses and neighbourhood. On December 30, the locals quickly evacuated to a nearby mosque using small boats. When the floodwaters subsided four days later, the villagers returned home only to find the entire town in a layer of mud, silt and other debris.
 
On January 2, 2015, more than 200 volunteers from Melaka and KL & Selangor Branch arrived in Lipis to conduct home visits in groups. One group went to Kampung Seberang Jelai, where the village chief, Kamaruzaman, expressed his gratitude to Lim Geok Choe, CEO of Tzu Chi Melaka, for being the first Chinese organization to proactively care about the villagers.
 
According to Kamaruzaman, all houses were affected except for ten families, who live on higher ground. All he had were nine mattresses, some rice and noodles, but there was no cooking gas to prepare the meals. Most of the villagers had packed their meals from a nearby market. They also struggled to clean-up the flood-stricken areas and were concerned about a possible outbreak of diseases.
 
Getting paid to clean-up
 
Geok Choe then proposed a joint effort between volunteers and villagers to clean-up their homes; and the village chief also expressed a strong desire to participate. Following a discussion and subsequent agreement between Geok Choe and Echo Chien, CEO of Tzu Chi KL & Selangor, a cash-for-work programme was carried out in Kampung Seberang Jelai led by Tzu Chi Melaka. Tzu Chi KL & Selangor had already established a similar programme in Temerloh.
 
On January 4 at 2 am, 49 volunteers from Melaka departed for Raub in four-wheel drive vehicles and with a truck-load of cleaning paraphernalia and material aid. On arrival in Raub, they met with local volunteers prior to embarking on a 5-hour journey to Kampung Seberang Jelai. 
 
Besides the cash-for-work programme, volunteers also distributed aid and cooked Jing Si Instant Rice to the villagers. Free clinics were also held by Dr Yu Guo Hua and Xu Jin Lan from TIMA. 
 
When the bus pulled over by a bridge, volunteers wore their rain boots before disembarking. They saw traces of mud, and most of the houses were swamped with garbage and sediments.
 
As the civic hall was not spared from flooding, volunteers had to use the new residence of village chief as the gathering point although it is still under renovation. At first, the villagers could hardly believe that they would get “wages” for cleaning-up their own neighbourhood and thus most of them did not turn up.
 
Volunteers then approached them and more than 20 villagers came in the beginning. They were split into groups, initially a group of six to eventually a group of fifteen to twenty. Each group was led by volunteers to designated houses, with female villagers helping to clean-up inside and outside the house, and male villagers moving large broken furniture to the roadside for disposal by trucks, as well as, clearing away the mud on the road. This sizable team of 200 started work right away and disappeared from sight down the alley.
 
Before work commenced, volunteers invited the religious teacher to lead a prayer, followed by an introduction of Tzu Chi and the significance of the cash-for-work programme. Following that, volunteers led the participants to perform the sign language of “We Are Family”. A deeply touched participant, Mohd Amin bin Mohd Jadin said, “The lyrics are very meaningful; they remind me of the troubled ones. As I am not affected, I have joined in and hopefully I could be of help.”
 
Cooking at home finally
 
When the water supply resumed, the water pressure was still very low so volunteers used their own water pump hoses to help with the clean-up. Tzu Chi volunteer, Wu Yi Rong, visited Grandpa Zakaria’s house with his team. The grandpa requested volunteers to help clean a dressing table that belonged to his mother. Although it was dirtied by floodwaters, its condition was still intact. He was all smiles when it was restored by the volunteers.
 
The grandpa later shared with Yi Rong that unlike other organizations, Tzu Chi had helped with the clean-up and brought material aid. For the past few days, no organizations had followed up after their surveys. The grandpa had asked Yi Rong to return to the village in future. Yi Rong, who had joined three relief efforts to the East Coast, told the grandpa that he hopes to come back as a friend to talk about Tzu Chi and not as a relief volunteer the next time.
 
Suryani bte Mohammad, who just returned home from the relief centre a day earlier, was depressed upon seeing her house filled with mud. Volunteers came forward to help move out the broken furniture and wash the kitchen utensils. As Suryani’s husband had not gone to tap rubber the past two weeks due to flood, both of them joined Tzu Chi’s cash-for-work programme and used the cash relief to buy a mattress and gas stove. At last, they were able to cook at home.
 
Flood victim, Norsaridah bte Mohd Isa breathed a sigh of relief when her mud- and thrash-filled house was restored by the volunteers and villagers. She said, “The scene was really bad originally. I do not know what to do. It was good to have you all, the house is now cleaned and I feel comfortable and relaxed.”
 
Donating cash relief received
 
To encourage her team members, volunteer Teh Saw Keow shouted, “Team seven…” “Hogoh! Hogoh! Hogoh! (means ‘Keep it up’ in the local language)”. The former then responded loudly and clearly. 
 
Mohammad Zaidi bin Mat Jidin, a flood victim and a member in Saw Keow’s team, joined the cash-for-work programme as he believed his kindness would be reciprocated. He thought the programme was a great team-building activity as it helped foster the relationship among the villagers.
 
He added, “There are many reasons for the flood. Many times, it is due to human negligence in taking care of the environment.We used to have regular spring-cleaning in the village many years ago. After the flood this time, I will recommend to resume this exercise.” 
 
There were three siblings, who participated in the cash-for-work programme although only two of their families were affected by the floods. The younger brother had travelled from another state to volunteer and refused to accept the cash relief. He felt the need to give back to society. Another brother brought the volunteers to other homes that needed more attention. “You have come all the way to help us, so there are no reasons why we cannot help our own villagers,” the elder sister said.
 
Tzu Chi volunteers not only rendered their services but had also brought along a rice cooker, gas stove and dry food to teach the villagers how to prepare the Jing Si Instant Rice. However, due to a short circuit, the team could not prepare the rice with hot water and rice cooker. They had to resort to using bottled water instead.
 
“We were preparing rice for 200 people and that required two rounds of preparation. The first one was done by me while the second was handled by local housewives. The second one turned out to be very good and the housewives were so proud of themselves,” Team Leader Ji Li Fang said smilingly.
 
Starting a new chapter
 
A total of 124 villagers and 82 volunteers from Southern Branch and Raub Office had participated in the cash-for-work programme. They had successfully cleaned-up 32 houses, distributed aid to 60 families (272 people) and provided free medical services to 17 villagers.
 
“Kampung Seberang Jelai…” “Boleh!” Volunteers took the opportunity during lunch time to explain environmental protection and Bamboo Bank Era to the villagers. They also led the villagers to shout motivational slogans and performed the sign language of “Love and Care for All” and “We Are Family” again, before offering the cash relief to the villagers. Each family also received cooking oil, sugar, mattress, Tzu Chi blanket, gas stove, and so on. A woman with her husband and daughter went home happily, as the aid not only reduced their financial burden but also eased their sadness.
 
Former village chief, Samsudin bin Idris, who is almost 70 years old, had assisted the volunteers throughout. He knew about Tzu Chi from leaflets received some time ago and was very impressed with the founding of Tzu Chi. He could speak in detail the numerous hospitals built by Master Cheng Yen, the international disaster relief in Aceh, the missions in South Africa and so on.
 
During his speech, he spoke gratefully, “Tzu Chi volunteers have raised the awareness of extending help to the needy beyond race and religion. I want to thank Tzu Chi for their willingness to organize this charitable drive in our small village. On behalf of all villagers, a big thank you to Tzu Chi once again. I hope this is not the end. Tzu Chi volunteers are welcome to return here. May our friendship grow stronger.”
 
 
Photo shows the flood situation in Kg Seberang Jelai. [Photograph provided by villagers of Kg Seberang Jelai]   Mohammad Zaidi (blue shirt), a flood victim, had joined the cash-for-work programme as he felt it was a great team-building activity in fostering the relationship among villagers. [Photograph by Charlie Kam How Chan]

Photo shows the flood situation in Kg Seberang Jelai. [Photograph provided by villagers of Kg Seberang Jelai]
 
Mohammad Zaidi (blue shirt), a flood victim, had joined the cash-for-work programme as he felt it was a great team-building activity in fostering the relationship among villagers. [Photograph by Charlie Kam How Chan]
 
Besides cash-for-work programme, volunteers had also distributed aid to 60 families (272 people). [Photograph by Lee Kin Chee]   Upon completion of the clean-up, villagers happily received the cash relief and adopted a Bamboo Bank. [Photograph by Lee Kin Chee]

Besides cash-for-work programme, volunteers had also distributed aid to 60 families (272 people). [Photograph by Lee Kin Chee]
 
 
Upon completion of the clean-up, villagers happily received the cash relief and adopted a Bamboo Bank. [Photograph by Lee Kin Chee]
 
Ex-village chief, Samsudin bin Idris, who is almost 70 years old, had assisted volunteers throughout. He learnt more about Tzu Chi from leaflets received sometime ago and was grateful to Tzu Chi’s relief this time. [Photograph by Tan Lian Hee]
  With blessings from Master Cheng Yen, volunteers initiated the cash-for-work programme and distributed material aid to villagers, bringing joy to givers and takers. [Photograph by Tan Lian Hee]

Ex-village chief, Samsudin bin Idris, who is almost 70 years old, had assisted volunteers throughout. He learnt more about Tzu Chi from leaflets received sometime ago and was grateful to Tzu Chi’s relief this time. [Photograph by Tan Lian Hee]
 
 
With blessings from Master Cheng Yen, volunteers initiated the cash-for-work programme and distributed material aid to villagers, bringing joy to givers and takers. [Photograph by Tan Lian Hee]
 
On January 2, Tzu Chi Melaka CEO, Lim Geok Choe met with Kg Seberang Jelai village chief, Kamaruzaman. The latter shared that Tzu Chi was the first Chinese organization to proactively care about the villagers. [Photograph by Lee Kin Chee]   Tzu Chi held free clinics to benefit the villagers. [Photograph by Tan Lian Hee]

On January 2, Tzu Chi Melaka CEO, Lim Geok Choe met with Kg Seberang Jelai village chief, Kamaruzaman. The latter shared that Tzu Chi was the first Chinese organization to proactively care about the villagers. [Photograph by Lee Kin Chee]
 
 
Tzu Chi held free clinics to benefit the villagers. [Photograph by Tan Lian Hee]