Tuesday, Oct 24th

Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Sunday, 11 January 2015 00:00

I Love You All Dearly

Written by  Tan Kim Hion, Pahang / Translated by Chong Pei Fen

The granny (middle) was delighted as Liu Xin Yin, a Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth, lovingly called her, “Granny”. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]

With her arms around a volunteer, 69-year-old Malay granny, held a Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth, Liu Xin Yin, close to her. When Xin Yin pressed her cheek against the granny’s and lovingly called her “Granny”, the latter joyfully said, “You all care for me genuinely, and I love you all dearly!”


 
Fond memories washed away by the flood
 
On January 11, 2015, a Malay woman, Norhayati Ibrahn, and her aged mother, attended Tzu Chi’s free clinic and relief distribution held in SMK Kuala Krau. After the event, Tzu Chi volunteers walked them home, carrying with them a Jing Si multi-purpose folding bed, an eco-blanket and other relief items. Norhayati could not stop smiling. She kept repeating to her younger brother, “Many things, Tzu Chi gives us many things!”
 
As soon as they reached home, she expanded the folding bed and laid the eco-blanket on it, before asking her mother to sit on it. The mother signaled the volunteers to sit beside her, and as she kept holding their hands, she whispered, “It’s really kind of you!”
 
Seeing them, Norhayati said emotionally, “Finally, my mum smiles! I have not seen her smile for days since the flood!”
 
Norhayati had never thought that the first person to step into her house after the flood would be a Tzu Chi volunteer, a complete stranger of a different race. If it was not for her courage to seek assistance from Tzu Chi, she and all other villagers would still be living in a dump.
 
Her house in Kampung Tanjung Kubu is near the Pahang River. Every December, the river would overflow its banks and cover the road, but it had never entered into her house. The fast-rising floodwaters this time caught the villagers by surprise, and they were forced to evacuate before they could salvage any of their belongings.
 
Without water, power and food supplies on the first two days, Norhayati had to go everywhere to look for food for her mother. What hurt them most, however, was not that they had to go without food and drinks, but to see their house in total ruin when they returned home a week later. The mother especially, had burst into tears in despair.
 
Norhayati revealed, “This house was built by my late father himself. Many things in the house belonged to them both and they evoked fond memories in them. But the flood had washed away everything. My mum was very upset and had been weeping every day.”
 
She added that her house was like a rubbish dump after the flood. The furniture and refrigerator were covered in mud, and the walls and windows were all damaged. They moved the drenched furniture and mattresses outside their house, and had been sleeping on a straw mat laid on the damp and cold cement floor.
 
Reaching out to the forgotten villagers
 
A helpless Norhayati then learnt from another villager that Tzu Chi would be there on January 10 to conduct another cash-for-work activity to help clean up the victims’ houses. When that day arrived, Norhayati and her mother went to SMK Kuala Krau very early in the morning to sign up for the cash-for-work programme; and they were assigned to clean up a school compound. Upon her enquiry, Norhayati then found that Tanjung Kubu was not in the cleaning list.
 
Despite her disappointment, Norhayati proceeded to clean up the school, which is her alma mater. At the end of the clean-up, her mother accidentally stepped into a ditch and cut her soles and toes. Volunteers immediately cleaned and treated her wounds. The mess back home and her mother’s injury had prompted Norhayati to again request the volunteers to visit her village, where the residents had not received any help yet.
 
On arrival at the village, volunteers found that there were only 12 houses, including 3 that were vacant. Most of the villagers are elderly Malays, whose children have moved to the cities for livelihood. Norhayati moved back to the village one-and-a-half years ago to take care of her aged mother.
 
The mother said glumly, “I have been living here for more than 30 years, but I had never experienced a major flood like this. It frets me to think about it. The house is filled with a terrible choking odour…”
 
As all families in the village were in similar predicament, volunteers swiftly made arrangements for a lorry and manpower to clear out large furniture and rubbish. Norhayati and her younger brother, who had returned home from outstation, also joined the clean-up. Relieved that the heaps of rubbish in and around her house were finally cleared, Norhayati said chokingly, “Our village had been forgotten. If it is not for your help, we would have to live with these rancid rubbish. We cannot afford the charges for a lorry…”
 
She felt fortunate that apart from the help all villagers received from Tzu Chi, she and her mother also received RM100 each for the cash-for-work programme. Although it was not a big sum, it was a timely aid because she had not been able to run her homemade popsicle business in the past two weeks.
 
Do not wait to do good deeds
 
“This folding bed from Taiwan is truly amazing! Mum, lie down here, it looks comfy!” Norhayati urged her mother. The latter then gave it a try and gratefully remarked that she felt extremely blessed to have a bed to sleep on, after sleeping on the cold floor for quite a few days.
 
“Thank you for showering your care on my mother and for your support. I am relieved that she looks happy now!” said a tearful Norhayati. Seeing her aged mother embraced the volunteers affectionately, she was deeply overwhelmed. She realized then that love is transcendental, despite the differences in ethnicity, race and religion. We are a family.
 
Worried that her tears would sadden her mother, volunteers turned to tell the stories of Tzu Chi’s eco-blankets and share about the importance of environmental protection. Norhayati was astonished to learn that the blankets are made from PET bottles.
 
She recalled that a lot of polystyrene packaging, plastic bags, bottles, cans and so on, were seen floating on the floodwaters, and a lot of debris that came from nowhere were swept into her house. She realized that she has to start practising environmental protection and stop dumping rubbish and waste into the river to prevent a repeat of the disaster she had witnessed.
 
She said, “I was very touched to learn about Tzu Chi’s charitable and environmental efforts at the relief distribution just now. Although I have only known Tzu Chi for two days, I strongly agree with Tzu Chi’s missions.”
 
She added that everyone should respond to environmental protection and charitable initiatives, and should not wait until the day a disaster strikes to take actions. Her mother and brother then joined her in expressing their wish to sign up as Tzu Chi donating members.
 
“Life was peaceful before the flood. Now, I wish not only for a peaceful life, but I also want to set up a small recycling station at home and encourage everyone to do recycling. I will collect the recyclables and send them to Tzu Chi’s recycling station weekly. Of course, I will also participate actively in Tzu Chi’s environmental protection activities, which are meaningful.”
 
Norhayati choked up again as she shared her thoughts. Touched by her words, volunteers moved forward to offer her a warm hug. She quickly wiped away her tears, and smiled.
 
 

Volunteers visited Norhayati’s (2nd from left) house upon her request for help. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]   Norhayati and her aged mother were helpless with the mess caused by the flood. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]

Volunteers visited Norhayati’s (2nd from left) house upon her request for help. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]
 
Norhayati and her aged mother were helpless with the mess caused by the flood. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]
 
Norhayati and her brother expanded the Jing Si multi-purpose folding bed, which they found to be something special. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]   The granny felt blessed to have a bed to sleep on and a blanket to keep her warm, after sleeping on the cold cement floor for days. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]

Norhayati and her brother expanded the Jing Si multi-purpose folding bed, which they found to be something special. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]
 
 
The granny felt blessed to have a bed to sleep on and a blanket to keep her warm, after sleeping on the cold cement floor for days. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]
 
Norhayati (right), her mother (front row, middle) and the villagers were happy to receive the relief cash for their participation in the cash-for-work programme. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]    

Norhayati (right), her mother (front row, middle) and the villagers were happy to receive the relief cash for their participation in the cash-for-work programme. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]