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Sunday, 20 March 2011 00:00

Selfless Love Transforms The Peng Family

Written by  By Low Siew Lian & Gan Siew Toh, Seremban/ Translated by Ng Chong Seau Horng

The female volunteers taught Peng Ya Mei how to keep their cooking utensils clean.【Photograph by Low Siew Lian】

The Peng family used to throw away any unwanted things out of their house and this had resulted in piles of rubbish in their surroundings. With selfless love, Tzu Chi Seremban's volunteers turned the unsightly ruins into a real home.


"Ah He, Do you like your house this way?" A volunteer asked 19 year-old Peng He after the clean-up.

As he did a few times before, Peng He's answer was "I don't know..."

Peng He and his siblings had no idea what a proper house looked like and that was because their house had been littered with things since they were born. They simply could not imagine a neat and tidy house.

Living on piles of rubbish

During the home visit exercise to applicants of 2010 Study Grant Scheme, volunteers from Tzu Chi Seremban visited Peng Jing Yi in Kadong Jaya Village. With help from the Village Head, they found Peng's house hidden behind overgrown grass.

"Plastic bags of instant noodles, rusty tin cans, old clothes, several torn mattresses and so on, were some of the stuff littered everywhere. I simply don't know where to put my feet..."

"If we were not careful, we might end up stepping on a bag of stale food. They had 16 dogs, so you can imagine how strong the smell was!" recalled Gan Siew Toh and Tan Poh Seng.

Unfortunately, the family did not consider that a problem.

Siew Toh said, "The children told us that they did not know where the rubbish came from. The father told us that there was no need to clean up as the rubbish would decompose with time. To prove his point, he took an axe and hacked on a piece of rotten wood; and then he said, 'Don't you see, it is almost completely rotten!'"

Items made of wood will rot after sometime but the many plastic bags would take hundreds or thousand of years to decompose!

Never give up

On their first visit, volunteers were afraid to enter the house, but after a few visits, they found out more about this family. The family has seven children. The head of the family, Peng Ya Di, has a wife and two children (the eldest son and second daughter) who are mildly mentally-retarded, and a brother who has mental illness. Their second son and eldest daughter are staying elsewhere, so only two boys and three girls are staying with them. Two of the girls are still schooling.

Besides a filthy house, the children were wearing poorly fitted clothes. Despite their situation, Peng Ya Di is not a poor man as he owns the fruit orchard where his house sits, and he also shares a piece of rubber estate with his brothers. In addition, he does odd jobs while his wife works as a cup lump collector.

But, Peng Ya Di is very sensitive when any money issue was mentioned. He would ask the volunteers to talk to his sons instead.

Peng Ya Di indicated that he does not give his sons any money as they are all working. Thirty year-old Peng Xing and Peng He do odd jobs for their own livelihood, as well as, pay for their two sisters' schooling expenses.

Ya Mei, who stays home to cook for the family, said, "I use gas to cook the rice and firewood to cook the vegetables. My father would scold me if I use too much gas."

To save money, Peng Ya Di's wife would pick up discarded vegetables from the night market. They kept their leftover food in a pot until it turned stale; and one could also find ants and worms in the food.

The family's personal and household hygiene were poor. Their house was built with help from another organization, and neighbours would give them supplies occasionally. They would never reject goods given to them but if the goods were of no use to the family, they would be discarded. As a result, rubbish had piled up like a mountain. Peng Ya Di also did not heed advice from his own brother and the Village Head, who said, "They are hopeless!"

But Tzu Chi volunteers simply could not ignore such a family, especially the children. So, they decided to make them their caring case (with no monetary aid) and approved the study grant for the girls.

This is how a proper house should be

After a lengthy negotiation with Peng Ya Di, the volunteers were given permission to clean up his house on January 23 and March 13, 2011.

However, when the 40-volunteer team arrived with tools on January 23, Peng Ya Di was annoyed and asked, "What are you doing here?"

"He thought we were from a cleaning company!" Siew Toh said.

The volunteers first worked on the rotten rubbish on the floor. Some 20 truck-loads of rubbish were cleared out from the house that afternoon. The volunteers also cut the grass covering their access road, mended the wooden walls and installed lights for them. Lastly, they were given haircuts. Peng He was also taught to keep an account for his money.

Facing the dramatic change to their house, the children said, "We are not used to this..."

A volunteer team returned on March 13 to guide the daughters on how to keep the kitchen clean and the sons to sort out the recyclables. The volunteers also brought in beds, mattresses and a cabinet. The youngest girl, Peng Jing Yi was excited with the new furniture.

The volunteers also told the children, "Keep your unfinished food in the cabinet, and..."

This time, when the children were asked if they liked their "new" house, they replied in the affirmative.

I find I am useful

Since then, volunteers have been making follow-up visits every week. The children greatly enjoyed the volunteers' presence.

Siew Toh said, "When we told the children that we would like to see a clean refrigerator on our next visit, we would find it clean on that visit." That shows that the children are heeding the volunteers' advice.

Peng He said, "The others called me 'a useless man', and you called me 'Ah He'. You also taught me many things. I find that I am a useful person now." Peng He would call the volunteers if he encountered problems.

On Tzu Chi's monthly Environmental Day, Siow Yoke Man would bring Ah He, Jing Yi and Ah Xing to a recycling point to do recycling. Yoke Man said, "We hope they would learn how to identify rubbish and recyclables."

Seeing improvements in the children, the volunteers are confident that this family will return to normalcy one day if they are given continuous caring. Such is the Spirit of Bodhisattva.

 

This was a scene of the Peng family's kitchen before the clean-up. The white pail was where they kept their food.【Photograph by Siow Yau Choo】 A volunteer repairing the broken wall.【Photograph by Siow Yau Choo】

This was a scene of the Peng family's kitchen before the clean-up. The white pail was where they kept their food.【Photograph by Siow Yau Choo】

A volunteer repairing the broken wall.【Photograph by Siow Yau Choo】
The 40-volunteer team cleared out 20 truck-loads of rubbish from Peng's house on January 23, 2011.【Photograph by Siow Yau Choo】 Peng Ya Di, who was usually unfriendly, opened his heart to accept a haircut after the clean-up.【Photograph by Siow Yau Choo】

The 40-volunteer team cleared out 20 truck-loads of rubbish from Peng's house on January 23, 2011.【Photograph by Siow Yau Choo】

Peng Ya Di, who was usually unfriendly, opened his heart to accept a haircut after the clean-up.【Photograph by Siow Yau Choo】
The house of Peng Ya Di and family was like a rubbish dump site. Peng Ya Mei (left), Peng He (centre) and Peng Jing Yi (right).【Photograph by Siow Yau Choo】 This is a look of the house after it was furnished with new beds and mattresses.【Photograph by Siow Yau Choo】

The house of Peng Ya Di and family was like a rubbish dump site. Peng Ya Mei (left), Peng He (centre) and Peng Jing Yi (right).【Photograph by Siow Yau Choo】

This is a look of the house after it was furnished with new beds and mattresses.【Photograph by Siow Yau Choo】
Peng He doing recycling on Tzu Chi's Environmental Day.【Photograph by Tan Poh Seng】

Peng He doing recycling on Tzu Chi's Environmental Day.【Photograph by Tan Poh Seng】

 

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