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Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Sunday, 11 January 2015 00:00

Cash-for-Work to Clean School in Pahang

Written by  Teh Aun Ni & Tee Pei Na, Pahang / Translated by Jacqueline Khoo

Tzu Chi volunteers launched a cash-for-work programme on January 4, hoping to clean the school with joint efforts from all, so that children could return to school soon. [Photograph by Tee Kim Wooi]

On their return visit on January 10 & 11, Tzu Chi volunteers found the religious school, SM (A) Darul Naim in Kuala Krau, Pahang, clean but with some traces of mud. The thick layers of silt on the ground had been cleared, unlike a week earlier where the deep mud had made walking difficult.


 
Schools on the East Coast of Malaysia were unprepared for the most severe flood in half a century. Due to the flood, the Ministry of Education had to defer the new school year, which was supposed to commence at the beginning of January 2015, to January 11, 2015. However, as some schools, like the abovementioned, were badly affected, losing all their furniture and textbooks, which had to be purchased; not to mention, some teachers and students were also affected, the schools’ opening had to be further delayed.
 
With most of the residents impacted by the flood, there was a shortage of manpower to help clean the school. Upon learning that the school’s Headmaster and teachers were worried about their ability to start new term in time, Tzu Chi volunteers, along with the Village Head, visited them on January 3.They decided to launch a cash-for-work programme on January 4, to enable the children to start school in time.
 
On January 4, volunteers found the school fully covered in mud, making walking difficult and hazardous to children as they might miss a step and injure themselves. There was even a chair on the roof, which indicated the height of the water level. All the furniture, blackboards and books were soaked in mud water, and discarded as rubbish. Bed sheets, pillows and cupboards in the students’ dormitory were also ruined. Even the little garden in the dormitory was turned into a mud pool.
 
Lack of manpower
 
Despite being built on low ground, SM (A) Darul Naim had never been severely affected by flood for the past 52 years. Even when there was flooding, the floodwaters only reached waist high. But, with this recent flood, the water rose up to the second floor, or 16 ft high.
 
Roslan Awang Mohamad, a religious teacher, informed that all teachers and students were on holidays when the flood occurred. Even though the school is close to his residence, he would require a boat to check it out due to the high water level. After the water subsided, he was the first to arrive to find the whole school covered in thick mud. He immediately invited about 30 relatives and friends to clean the school together.
 
After a whole day of cleaning, they only managed to clean an area of 150 sq meters, and were too tired to carry on with the rest. Just when Roslan was trying to find ways to clean the school, he was told that Tzu Chi, an NGO, would be there the following day to help clean the school. He felt hopeful then.
 
Sharifah Fazura bte Syed Omar, who has served at the school for 11years, said nervously,
“When I saw the school after the flood, I thought it could not operate anymore. Although I and other teachers did gather some manpower to clean, we did not know where to start initially.” When she learnt about Tzu Chi’s cash-for-work programme on January 4, she quickly called upon the alumni, her relatives and friends to register.
 
Paid spring cleaning
 
On January 5, the second day of the cash-for-work programme, YB Dato’ Haji Ismail bin Mohamed Said had mobilized fire engines to clear the thick mud and wash off the mud stains on high building walls. The fire fighters also helped to connect the pipes, and taught the residents how to use the hose. However, as the water pressure was very high and difficult to control, some residents looked like drowned rats! But, they had a fun time.
 
Roslan had invited a group of students to join the cash-for-work programme as well. He was shocked when he heard all of them would be paid after the cleaning. For the first time in his 40 years of life, he and all those on the work relief programme were paid for cleaning their own neighbourhood. Usually, only meals were provided.
 
He kept emphasizing that, “If it weren’t for Tzu Chi, we really do not know when we can finish cleaning. Although we are of different race, language and belief, this would not stop us from solving problems together. In times like this, we should be more united.”
 
As Teacher Sharifah hugged the volunteers, she said excitedly, “Thank you Tzu Chi for launching the cash-for-work programme. Now, there is hope of commencing the new school term. Although the government had postponed the 2015 school opening for a week, this school still needed a fortnight to be ready with assistance from all. Otherwise, it may take a month.”
 
Seeing hope again
 
A week later, on January 11, Tzu Chi volunteers once again returned to Kuala Krau to hold a free clinic and aid distribution. Volunteer Ng Cheng Wee, who still kept in touch with Roslan, returned to the religious school to check on the teachers and students, who will be starting school soon. As he entered the school compound, the silts previously shovelled had dried up. He took a deep breath as he observed every corner of the school from higher ground. Although there were still traces of the flood, the school was ready for the new semester.
 
When he met Roslan, the two began to chat like long lost friends. Roslan’s acknowledgement of Tzu Chi had given Cheng Wee the opportunity to promote environmental protection to him. He also suggested that Roslan use the flood as a reason to encourage students to learn to sort out recyclables, support recycling and save the Earth. In future, when the amount of recyclables increases, the “thrash” could be turned into “gold” and the money could be used to help needy students.
 
Roslan fully concurred with the idea, and would propose a recycling initiative in the school to the Headmaster when the semester begins. He also sent a student to invite another teacher, Khairul Azizibin Budin, to listen to Cheng Wee’s suggestions. They also enquired further on recycling and Tzu Chi’s philosophy on environmental protection. Volunteers also took out their eco-friendly utensils and encouraged everyone to adopt the practice.
 
Timely arrival of help
 
Khairul, who has seven years of teaching experience at the school, also agreed to the promotion of recycling in the school. He shared that it was his first time hearing about Tzu Chi. He informed that when disasters happened in the past, many NGOs came to help, but most of them focused at certain phases only and left after that. However, Tzu Chi stayed on and continued with their efforts in the affected areas.
 
He hoped to see more charitable organizations contributing in today’s society, as this was no longer an era where we just wait for the government’s aid. It is encouraging when everyone can contribute, regardless of their races, religions and beliefs.
 
Roslan said, “It is like a person, who fell into the river and reached out for help with his hand; and a Tzu Chi volunteer would grab his hand, saving him promptly, and allowing the victim to breathe a sigh of relief.” He repeated, “Wherever there is a disaster, Tzu Chi is always there.”
 
During his time in the disaster area, Roslan was very touched with the volunteers’ sincerity in their willingness to sacrifice their own time to help those in need. He had endless gratitude for Tzu Chi’s contribution.
 
 
A financial loss can be earned again, but children’s education cannot wait. With the villagers’ help, the religious school, which was painted chocolate by mud earlier, slowly regained its colourful hue. It looked good to start operating again soon.
 
The cash-for-work programme has brought the villagers together, creating a rare scent of humanity in the air; and, there is also a beautiful collaboration between different religions that will be etched in the children’s memory.
 
 

 
On January 5, Roslan (walking in front), a religious teacher, led the locals to clean the religious school. [Photograph by Tee Kim Wooi]   The school was in a big mess with mud all over the place after the flood. [Photograph by Tee Kim Wooi]

On January 5, Roslan (walking in front), a religious teacher, led the locals to clean the religious school. [Photograph by Tee Kim Wooi]
 
The school was in a big mess with mud all over the place after the flood. [Photograph by Tee Kim Wooi]
 
All the furniture and teaching materials were ruined. Villagers are seen here moving the big objects from the classrooms on the second floor. [Photograph by Tee Kim Wooi]   Tzu Chi volunteers had creatively used wooden planks as cleaning tools. [Photograph by Ang Cheng Peng]

All the furniture and teaching materials were ruined. Villagers are seen here moving the big objects from the classrooms on the second floor. [Photograph by Tee Kim Wooi]
 
 
Tzu Chi volunteers had creatively used wooden planks as cleaning tools. [Photograph by Ang Cheng Peng]
 
Roslan walked around to check on the progress. He was very grateful to Tzu Chi’s help beyond religion and race. He felt this was an arrangement from Allah, and that the human race should help each other. [Photograph by Tee Kim Wooi]   Teacher Sharifah (right) was very touched seeing so many people helping to clean the school. Photo shows her putting donations into the Bamboo Bank. [Photograph by Tee Kim Wooi]

Roslan walked around to check on the progress. He was very grateful to Tzu Chi’s help beyond religion and race. He felt this was an arrangement from Allah, and that the human race should help each other. [Photograph by Tee Kim Wooi]
 
 
Teacher Sharifah (right) was very touched seeing so many people helping to clean the school. Photo shows her putting donations into the Bamboo Bank. [Photograph by Tee Kim Wooi]
 
Teacher Khairul hopes more charitable organizations would contribute for society, irrespective of race, religion and belief. [Photograph by Gan Cheah Teck]   Volunteers could tell the big difference upon returning to the religious school. The school compound has become much cleaner. [Photograph by Gan Cheah Teck]

Teacher Khairul hopes more charitable organizations would contribute for society, irrespective of race, religion and belief. [Photograph by Gan Cheah Teck]
 
 
Volunteers could tell the big difference upon returning to the religious school. The school compound has become much cleaner. [Photograph by Gan Cheah Teck]
 
Roslan and volunteer, Ng Cheng Wee, gave each other’s blessings, and hoped for better days after the flood. Roslan mentioned that everyone should come together as one regardless of race and religion. [Photograph by Gan Cheah Teck]    

Roslan and volunteer, Ng Cheng Wee, gave each other’s blessings, and hoped for better days after the flood. Roslan mentioned that everyone should come together as one regardless of race and religion. [Photograph by Gan Cheah Teck]