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Friday, 22 August 2014 00:00

Poor Students Persevere in Pursuit of Their Dreams

Written by  BY LEONG IM CHON, BINTULU / TRANSLATED BY KONG PIK HUNG

Jodan Liong Tat Pou,who is planning to quit college despite having only started his class for less than a month, was grateful to be still able to continue studying with the help from Tzu Chi. Volunteer Yong Chee Ing, who also came from a poor family, gave Jodan his support and encouragement. [Photograph by Leong Im Chon]

“We had been poor for years, Tzu Chi was the first organization to give us a helping hand,” the mother, Chiam Chew Hong, poured out her years of grief. For the first time in March this year, Bintulu volunteers ventured into secondary schools to provide Education Sponsorship Scheme to students from low-income families. Christopher Liong Xio Ping, the second son of Chew Hong, who is currently in Form 4, is granted the monthly financial assistance. He spoke with gratitude, “I can use this money to buy reference books and subsidize the cost of petrol.”


The Study Aid Plan to assist the poor students in Bintulu to cover towards the expenses of school reopening began in 2011. It is spread out this year to meet the needs of more children from different strata. The benefiting students will be given the monthly assistance as long as they maintain an above average academic result, giving them peace of mind while studying, without having to worry about quitting school due to financial difficulties.

A ray of hope to get out of the predicament

At 2 pm on August 2, Tzu Chi Bintulu Community Centre organized the Tzu Chi Education Sponsorship Scheme’s humanities course. A total of 24 benefiting students, including Christopher, attended the course. “All my four sons behave well and are the top scorers in the class, only that they were born into a poor family, what to do… Fortunately, there’s Tzu Chi,” Chew Hong, who accompanied Christopher to the course, spoke with tears running down her cheeks.

Only from Chew Hong’s sharing that Tzu Chi volunteers knew about her eldest son, who had just began his study at Politeknik Kuching Sarawak less than a month ago, planned to quit from the college as the family could not afford the fees. Despite struggling to study in such a tough environment, the four brothers had always managed to emerge top in class every year.  These obstacles did not deter their determination to pursue education, yet because of financial difficulties they have to face the possibility of having to drop out from school. On the next day, the volunteers paid a visit to Chew Hong’s home to understand their conditions further so that they can provide appropriate assistance timely, if so needed.

Christopher’s family of six lives in an illegal squatter on Jalan Similajau, about 40-minute drive away from Bintulu town, as the parents are unable to pay to rent a house. The family constantly lives in fear of being evicted as the house was built illegally.

The father, Liong Fok Ming, was admitted to hospital for hypertension a few months ago. He was also being diagnosed with having high diabetes index, which required insulin treatment. It was an irony that after Fok Ming recovered from his illness, he found himself without a job. Thus, he joined Chew Hong to do farming for a living, earning a meagre income. Chew Hong thought that life will continue to worsen but the appearance of Tzu Chi volunteers brought hope to her family and touched her deeply.

Living without running water or electricity

Christopher and his family have been staying in the illegal squatter for seven years. They had survived without running water or electricity, solely depended on rainwater for consumption and water from the river for bathing and washing. After having endured it for seven years, a nearby factory finally consented to let them use the tap water supply from the factory early this year. In order to reduce the burden on the family, only the 10-year-old youngest son, Michael Liong Tat Soon, rides on a school bus; the other three sons usually take an hour walk from their home to reach the school.

“I really pity my children especially on rainy days, their bodies were drenched,” Chew Hong cried helplessly, adding that whenever she is free, she will send them to school on her motorcycle. As she could not bear to see them walk to school, she managed to save more than RM200 this year for Christopher to acquire his motorcycle driving license. This way, they no longer need to endure the long distance walk and ride a motorcycle instead.

After returning from school, Christopher and his younger brothers will try to complete their homework in the dimly-lit living room. Otherwise, they have to resort to candles or lamp during the night to finish off the homework.

Steven Liong Tat Fook, the third son, wears a pair of spectacles of which the lenses are badly scratched and the frame broken. The volunteers asked him whether he can still see through it, he replied, “Barely can see but I am already used to it.” The volunteers were deeply moved upon hearing it. “Two years ago, it took me a few months before I could save up enough money to buy him a pair of spectacles. Now, with his eldest brother attending college and my husband being sick, I do not have any spare money to get him a new pair,” said the mother.

Timely assistance

Jodan Liong Tat Pou, the eldest son, only went to Politeknik Kuching Sarawak in July to pursue a Diploma in Electronic Engineering. With the heavy responsibility of his family on his shoulder, he has to decide between higher education and earning for a living. “My English is poor, I am worried that I may not do well and waste my parents’ money,” said Jodan, who is planning to give up pursuing the diploma and apply for admission to a local technical and vocational college.

“We want him to continue schooling, this way he has a chance to go to university and not live in poverty like us. But this is so difficult, we have to worry about his living expenses every month and some more, the college is not providing boarding next semester. I am so troubled thinking about this. I have bought a bus ticket to Kuching tonight to settle his withdrawal of study,” Chew Hong sobbed in between words.

“Do you want to continue studying? If you want, Tzu Chi will try to find means and ways to support you.” These encouraging words from the volunteers brought hope to Jodan. He could not hold his tears, nodded that he would like to continue studying. His father on a number of occasions turned his back to wipe his tears, and his brothers too shed their tears. This warm gesture from Tzu Chi has given them strength and hope.

Growth of wisdom

“He does not have the confidence to continue studying because he understands his parents’ dilemma. It is fortunate that we came in time to assist these children who still get good grades despite the hardship,” said the Head of Tzu Chi Bintulu Community Centre, Teng Dung Ngieng.  

Volunteer Yong Chee Ing said with his reddened eyes, “Fortunately we came in time, before they depart for Kuching. I am grateful that they met Tzu Chi, otherwise a talented youth will miss his opportunity to further his study.” Chee Ing, who also came from a poor family, had the same experience. He said, “Like me, he is the eldest in the family and have to bear the hefty pressure. Indeed, he has the ability to study but the decision to study may not be his to make when the family is in a state of poverty.”

He added, “It is not easy to have to make such a major decision at this young age.” The determination of Jodan and his brothers to excel despite the hardship enable Chee Ing to learn to let go of his earlier unhappy life experiences. “I am grateful to them for their help. It may seem that we are helping them but in actual, they are helping me,” said Chee Ing, feeling spiritually fulfilled and grateful for every step he took.

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Through Tzu Chi Education Sponsorship Scheme, children can now study without worry. It brings hope to the poor students in achieving their dreams and their families towards a brighter future.

 

The only valuable assets in the house are the trophies and medals from the children’s outstanding academic performance. [Photograph by Leong Im Chon]   Unable to change a new pair due to lack of money, Steven Liong Tat Fook still wears a pair of spectacles with lenses that are badly scratched and the frame broken. Being a good boy, he smiled and said that he is used to it. [Photograph by Yong Chee Ing]

The only valuable assets in the house are the trophies and medals from the children’s outstanding academic performance. [Photograph by Leong Im Chon]
 
Unable to change a new pair due to lack of money, Steven Liong Tat Fook still wears a pair of spectacles with lenses that are badly scratched and the frame broken. Being a good boy, he smiled and said that he is used to it. [Photograph by Yong Chee Ing]
 
Saddened by the fact that the four brothers have to study without light, the volunteers gave the self-made eco bulbs donated by the general public to them, so as to provide them with a more conducive environment to study. [Photograph by Yong Chee Ing]   Christopher, recipient of the Tzu Chi Education Sponsorship Scheme, is grateful for the assistance. He listened attentively during the humanities course. [Photograph by Kee Wen Ling]

Saddened by the fact that the four brothers have to study without light, the volunteers gave the self-made eco bulbs donated by the general public to them, so as to provide them with a more conducive environment to study. [Photograph by Yong Chee Ing]
 
 
Christopher, recipient of the Tzu Chi Education Sponsorship Scheme, is grateful for the assistance. He listened attentively during the humanities course. [Photograph by Kee Wen Ling]

 

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