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Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Saturday, 17 January 2015 00:00

Timely Help Lifted Flood Victims Out of Despair

Written by  Tan Kim Hion, Pahang / Translated by Chew Chiau Ping

Volunteer Chan Bee Peng (1st left) introducing the first Tzu Chi member in Kuala Krau, Yeong Kam Lin (2nd left) to a villager. Kam Lin vowed to set up more recycling centres in Kuala Krau and recruit more volunteers. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]

When the flood hit Kuala Krau, Yeong Kam Lin spent days visiting the victims tirelessly despite being a victim herself. The arrival of Tzu Chi volunteers brought hope to the town and eased the strain on Kam Lin when they started the cash-for-work programme, relief distribution and free clinic.


Volunteer Chan Bee Peng (1st left) introducing the first Tzu Chi member in Kuala Krau, Yeong Kam Lin (2nd left) to a villager. Kam Lin vowed to set up more recycling centres in Kuala Krau and recruit more volunteers. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]
 
“I have been staying here for more than twenty years, and this place has been peaceful all this while until the flood came and destroyed close to 600 homes. Villagers here get along well even though 90% of the population is made up of Malays, and less than 2,000 families are Chinese and Indians. We often mingle around during our spare time,” recalled Yeong Kam Lin.
 
Kuala Krau, a Malay village located near the Pahang River, is made up of approximately 40,000 residents; and there are religious schools and a Chinese primary school in the village. Most of the villagers make a living by fishing, rubber-tapping and running small businesses. They lead a basic, self-sustained and contented life without hoping for much development in their village. 
 
On December 24, 2014, the overflowing Pahang River swept through the town in less than half a day, submerging part of the town. Kam Lin informed, “When the flood came, some villagers helped others to carry their belongings onto a lorry for transportation to the temple and school that were unaffected by the flood. As the floodwaters rose very quickly, I only managed to load the refrigerator and washing machine onto the lorry and brought along a few pieces of Tzu Chi uniform with me.” 
 
Kam Lin informed that in the past, villagers were used to the rising waters of the Pahang River that usually reached up to knee high. This devastating flood, however, caught everyone off guard and submerged streets and buildings. She and her husband spent a night at a friend’s house, which is on higher ground. The following day, they had to evacuate again when the water level rose higher.
 
Upon learning of the flood, her brother-in-law rushed back from Kuala Lumpur to check out the situation. As his house is located on higher ground, Kam Lin and her husband were able to seek shelter there. After the floodwaters subsided five days later, she returned to the village and was shocked to see the vast damage to the town, with streets and buildings covered in layers of mud and debris, and the air was filled with a musty odour.
 
Why hasn’t Tzu Chi reached out to us?
 
Even her home of ten years was not spared by the disaster. It was cluttered with flood-soaked furniture resembling a large garbage dump. Seeing their mud-ravaged house, Kam Lim and her husband felt helpless and frustrated.
 
Before she could regain her composure, some villagers approached and asked her, “Are you not a volunteer of Tzu Chi? Isn’t Tzu Chi supposed to help those in need? Where are they when we need their help?”
 
These voices of despair and anger hurt her deeply. She realized that everyone felt helpless and fearful in the face of disaster, and hoped for assistance from others. She then contacted volunteers in Temerloh and Jerantut, and was told that both towns were also affected by the flood; and that the road leading to Kuala Krau from Temerloh, which is only 30 minutes away, was inaccessible.
 
Kam Lin then related to her villagers, “I have been keeping in touch with the volunteers in Temerloh and Jerantut. They could not reach us now as the road from Temerloh is cut off by floodwaters. Tzu Chi will definitely help us once the road is accessible!”
 
Being a disciple of Master Cheng Yen, and the first member and Tzu Chi Commissioner in Kuala Krau, Kam Lin was determined to uphold the mission and responsibility of a Tzu Chi volunteer. She told her husband that her priority was to help the villagers before tidying up their own house.
 
Kam Lin’s affinity with Tzu Chi started in 2006 when she joined a gathering organized by the Temerloh recycling team. Moved by the Master’s love and compassion for Mother Earth and all beings, she started recycling in Kuala Krau. As soon as she had a car-load of recyclables, she would transport them to the Temerloh recycling point. Eventually, she was convinced by volunteers to establish a recycling point in Kuala Krau.
 
Her push for recycling over the past eight years did not garner much response from villagers. Aware of their suspicions, she did try to explain that all proceeds from the sale of recyclables would go towards helping the needy, but it was to no avail. Then when she invited them to become Tzu Chi volunteers, some turned down the invitation as they felt the monthly donation would suffice.
 
“I felt embarrassed for recruiting only ten volunteers over the past eight years. It is not an easy task,” Kam Lin uttered softly. When she wanted to contact other volunteers in the area after the flood, she was hampered by the lack of volunteers; and some were still trapped by floodwaters. In the end, only three to four volunteers accompanied her on home visits.
 
Dressed in Tzu Chi uniform, they treaded the muddy road to visit victims and assess the flood situation. She sought help from the Village Chief and Member of Parliament to deliver food to those in need. She even arranged a boat to deliver food and water to those facing shortages.
 
Walking through the flood-ravaged area, she felt alone and helpless as the scale of disaster outweighed her capability of reaching out to each victim.
 
Arrival of Tzu Chi volunteers eased the strain
 
One day, she chanced upon a person dressed in Tzu Chi uniform and the familiar face brought her to tears. The person turned out to be volunteer, Lim Chee Keong, who came hurriedly from Jerantut when the road was accessible. Realizing the situation in Kuala Krau was no better than Jerantut, he took photos of the flood-stricken town for onward dispatch to Tzu Chi KL & Selangor.
 
Echo Chien, CEO of Tzu Chi KL & Selangor, immediately initiated the relief effort; and David Liu, Chief Coordinator of flood relief in Temerloh, led a team of volunteers to assist Kam Lin. Seeing the arrival of Tzu Chi volunteers, a much relieved Kam Lin quickly spread the news.
 
Initially, the villagers, especially the Malays, were doubtful if a Buddhist organization could help them. They also misunderstood the cash-for-work programme, thinking they had to pay Tzu Chi for the cleaning work. Despite Kam Lin and volunteers visiting each household to explain that they would get paid to clean up their homes, the villagers were still hesitant. It was only after the Village Head conveyed the message that the turnout improved.
 
On January 4, 2015, the cash-for-work programme was launched for the first time in Kuala Krau. Volunteers expected 1,000 turnouts but only 200 people showed up on the first day. However, after much communication and assurance by volunteers, the turnout improved day by day; and by day four, it exceeded 800 people.
 
Kam Lin witnessed how volunteers broke the racial barrier by offering companionship and conducting home visits to provide care and timely aid to the victims. This selfless love had eradicated the villagers’ doubts, and they started to receive the help with an open heart. Kam Lin finally understood what Master Cheng Yen meant by unconditional benevolence and empathy for all beings.
 
When the programme ended, some 40 volunteers helped Kam Lin to clean up her house. She was moved to tears seeing all the volunteers in action. At that instant, she truly felt the warmth from the help she received had lifted her out of despair. She also felt grateful for the timely arrival of Tzu Chi volunteers, who brought hope to her town besides giving her a shoulder to lean on.
 
A few days before the flood, she had just returned from Kuala Lumpur with her husband, who underwent a heart check-up at a hospital; and she had not rested since the flood hit. Yet, she carried on bravely undeterred by the exhaustion. 
 
Home rebuilt as seeds of Great Love grow
 
On January 11, Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) from KL & Selangor Branch held a free clinic in Kuala Krau to prevent the spread of diseases. Volunteers also organized a relief aid distribution where each family received a survivor kit, blanket and Jing Si multi-purpose folding bed.
 
David Liu shared with the victims that Master Cheng Yen ordered the delivery of the water-resistant folding beds from Taiwan upon hearing that they needed a clean bed and blankets. The bed, which costs RM900 each, was distributed for free.
 
He further revealed that volunteers from Kuala Lumpur, Klang, Singapore and East Malaysia had paid for their own transport and accommodation. Their selfless act and loving care deeply moved the villagers. Not only did they see Tzu Chi in a different light now, but they also started to befriend Kam Lin.
 
In the past, Kam Lin and volunteers were given the cold shoulder whenever they were out collecting recyclables. Now, the villagers would approach Kam Lin about recyclables; and she would urge them to deliver their recyclables to her house.
 
One Indian man also dropped by Kam Lin’s house to hand over his monthly donation. Despite being a flood victim himself, he continued to do his good deed; and his kind thought had deeply touched Kam Lin. This man also revealed that it would take him five years to rebuild his home. 
 
Some Malays have indicated their desire to be recycling volunteers and Tzu Chi members. Kam Lin had taken down their contact details and will be contacting them one by one.
 
“In the face of disaster, I finally understood what the Master meant by collective karma. We can only lead a peaceful life if everyone’s life is peaceful. We need to recruit more volunteers,” said Kam Lin, as she recalled the hardships she endured for the past eight years, but the thought of quitting never occurred. She added, “I do not want to live a carefree lifestyle. Since my children have grown up and have their own families and careers in Kuala Lumpur, I can focus on Tzu Chi.” Now, she is committed to volunteer in Tzu Chi for the rest of her life.
 
When 64-year-old Kam Lin was conferred as Tzu Chi Commissioner by Master Cheng Yen in 2012, she vowed to set up more recycling centres in Kuala Krau and to recruit more volunteers. Now is the right time to fulfil her promise. She is undeterred by the difficulties in rebuilding her hometown, and she will not leave Kuala Krau. Although the homes were damaged by flood, the disaster had inspired kindness in people. She will take this opportunity to push for recycling and spread the seeds of Great Love in Kuala Krau.
 
 
When the water level rose, Kam Lin only managed to bring along a few pieces of Tzu Chi uniform as she had to evacuate on her motorcycle. [Photograph by Thin Ket Yong]   Although Kam Lin’s (right) house was not spared by flood, her priority was to visit other victims before tidying up her own house. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]

When the water level rose, Kam Lin only managed to bring along a few pieces of Tzu Chi uniform as she had to evacuate on her motorcycle. [Photograph by Thin Ket Yong]
 
Although Kam Lin’s (right) house was not spared by flood, her priority was to visit other victims before tidying up her own house. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]
 
Kam Lin (middle) led the participants of cash-for-work programme to clean up the town. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]   Kam Lin rose from despair to console volunteer, Yong Lan Moi (left), another flood victim. [Photograph by Lai Nyok Chan]

Kam Lin (middle) led the participants of cash-for-work programme to clean up the town. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]
 
 
Kam Lin rose from despair to console volunteer, Yong Lan Moi (left), another flood victim. [Photograph by Lai Nyok Chan]
 
Kam Lin was deeply moved to see some 40 volunteers cleaning her mud-filled house. [Photograph by Lai Nyok Chan]   Being a Tzu Chi member, this Indian man insisted on continuing with his monthly donation even though he admitted that he would need five years to rebuild his house. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]

Kam Lin was deeply moved to see some 40 volunteers cleaning her mud-filled house. [Photograph by Lai Nyok Chan]
 
 
Being a Tzu Chi member, this Indian man insisted on continuing with his monthly donation even though he admitted that he would need five years to rebuild his house. [Photograph by Lee Kok Keong]