Tuesday, Oct 16th

Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Sunday, 05 November 2017 00:00

Adversity Is a Great Teacher

Written by  Loh Siew Chien, Malacca / Translated by Joseph Lau

Zunaida’s four children attended Tzu Chi Study Grant & Awards Presentation Ceremony on November 5, 2017, and were all presented with Academic Progress Awards. [Photograph by Ng Hai Ming]

While an unexpected misfortune forced the young children to grow from their carefree world to cope with the agony in life, human warmth has walked them through the darkness into light.


Located in Malacca, Tanjung Kling is a good place for a leisurely and relaxing day, feeling the caress of the breeze. In the evening, it is a common scene to see the local residents catching fish and shrimps to make ends meet.

Fourteen-year-old Muhammad Haziq bin Omar recounted the tragedy which took place in 2012: “That day, dad went to the sea to catch shrimps as usual. But, because the waves were probably too big, someone saw him slipped into the sea… and he never returned home again…” Despite the lapse of five years, he remembered vividly the time when someone conveyed the devastating news that his father had drowned. His father’s demise left a great impact on his family.

His mother, Zunaida binti Yusof, who was pregnant and still mourning over her loss, was diagnosed with breast cancer two weeks later. Doctor advised her to abort the baby and undergo treatment. However, she chose to risk her life at a 50 percent chance of survival, for she did not want to lose her child. Fortunately, she managed to give birth to a baby girl safely.

However, without a breadwinner, and with Zunaida unable to work due to her illness, the family of six, with the eldest child aged 11, could only rely on social assistance and live in a hand-to-mouth existence. At the National Cancer Society Malaysia’s recommendation, the helpless family turned to Tzu Chi for assistance. Following that, a group of Chinese volunteers visited the family and a friendship that goes beyond religious border grows. As the baby was born preterm and was malnourished, volunteers made it a priority to subsidize the milk powder so that the baby could grow healthily.  

Children share the house chores

Although the family’s dire financial situation was solved, it was still a great burden on the mother to cope with the children’s school fees for a new school year. So, since 2014, the three school-going children were made recipients of Tzu Chi Study Grant & Awards Scheme. Every month when volunteers pay the family a visit, they would lend them their ears and shoulders, and show their concern on the children’s academic progress.

The eldest son in the family, Muhammad Hazim bin Omar, was only 11 when the tragedy struck. However, he was thoughtful enough to lead his siblings to help their mother in doing house chores under the guidance of their grandparents, thereby lightening their mother’s burden. The role was passed down to his brother, Haziq, when he went to a boarding school for secondary school education.

In 2016, Zunaida had a recurrence, with the cancerous cells spreading to her bones. Although her health deteriorated and she could not sit for too long due to the unbearable pain and had to use a wheelchair to move around, she was optimistic and continued to devote her energy to her children’s education.

Her home is always clean and filled with warmth, as her four elder children would work together in taking care of the house chores, from sweeping and moping the floor, to doing the laundry and dishes. Even her 5-year-old daughter would keep the toys and books herself. Whenever the volunteers visit, the children would gather at the living room and chat with them. A check on their self-assessment booklets (see Note) would always prove satisfactory, with almost all checklists fulfilled.

Volunteer Chua Wee Wah testified: “The children not only excel in their studies, but would also help in house chores. Their mother doesn’t have to worry about them, and she cherishes every moment spent with them.”

Volunteer Cheong Chin Chon Cin, who treated the children as her own remarked, “The mother is sick but the children are well-behaved. For her children, she fights on with a strong willpower. Still, it pains me to see the children going through such unfortunate events at a young age.”

Independent children put their mother’s mind at ease

Being thoughtful boys, Haziq and his brother, Muhammad Hazlam bin Omar, always take care of their mother with tenderness. They would help her apply lotion on her hands and feet, and put on socks to keep her warm. They would also snuggle up to their mother and share their thoughts.

Zunaida could not stop thanking the volunteers when she talked about her illness. She said, “Tzu Chi has given me a lot of help, be it financial aid or emotional support. I am very grateful that people of different ethnic backgrounds are willing to lend me a helping hand. The increasing aid over the years has allowed me to recuperate with ease of mind.”

Eleven-year-old Hazlam listened and quietly wiped away his tears when the mother said, “I know that I have no hope of recovery and would leave my children anytime. I have prepared them mentally for it. I hope that they could be independent and that Tzu Chi would continue to help my family after my demise…” Although he understood the situation, Hazlam still hopes for a miracle to descend upon his mother, so that she could be healthy and stay by his side for as long as he lives.

Bearing in mind his mother and volunteers’ advice that only by excelling in their studies would they have a bright future, Hazlam has been studying hard. His efforts paid off when he was presented with the Tzu Chi Study & Awards Scheme’s Academic Progress Award each year.

Living on with tenacity

On November 5, 2017, all four of Zunaida’s children, who are attending primary and secondary schools, received the Academic Progress Award at the Tzu Chi Study Grant & Awards Scheme Presentation Ceremony.

At the ceremony, Hazim, expressed the family’s gratitude towards the help from Tzu Chi over the years: “Thank you Tzu Chi for the aid given to my family, and for providing me and my siblings with study grants so that we could continue schooling. Although mishaps befell my family, life goes on and we will face it with tenacity…” As the eldest son in the family, Hazim had great responsibilities on his shoulders. Fortunately, with support from his grandparents, relatives and volunteers, he could stay focused in his studies without worries. The study grant from Tzu Chi has not only alleviated his family’s financial burden, but also become a source of motivation for him to study hard towards his goals.

Haziq on the other hand, never felt that it was a burden to share the house chores. He shared, “When mum was in good health, she would always guide me in my homework. Now that she is unwell, I don’t want to burden her. I always try to complete the homework myself and would discuss with my classmates whenever I encounter something that I don’t know.”

Hazim’s ambition is to become an engineer, while Haziq wishes to become a doctor to help patients regain their health.

Life is not always a bed of roses. We may be faced with adversity, but with courage, we could get through them and eventually taste the fruits of happiness. The children know that the challenges they are facing will not stay in their lives forever; and with education, they could alter their fates for the better.

They will continue to work hard and even when the day comes, they know that their parents will bless them from above; and here on Earth, there will still be people who love and care for them and offer them support as they work towards fulfilling their dreams.

Note: A self-assessment booklet includes a student’s attendance records, and self-evaluations of whether or not he/she is proactive in learning, respectful of the elders, courteous, helpful, tidy, and appreciative of resources. The parents and teachers play a role in monitoring the students’ progress and motivating them to make further progress.

 

 

During their monthly visits, volunteers would show their concern towards Zunaida’s health and encourage her children to study hard. [Photograph by Loh Siew Chien]   Three of Zunaida’s children have been recipients of Tzu Chi Study & Awards Scheme since 2014. The financial aid has not only reduced the family’s burden, but also motivated the children to strive for excellence. [Photograph by Loh Siew Chien]

During their monthly visits, volunteers would show their concern towards Zunaida’s health and encourage her children to study hard. [Photograph by Loh Siew Chien]
 
Three of Zunaida’s children have been recipients of Tzu Chi Study & Awards Scheme since 2014. The financial aid has not only reduced the family’s burden, but also motivated the children to strive for excellence. [Photograph by Loh Siew Chien]
 
Haziq and Hazlam take tender care of their mother. They would apply lotion for her and wear socks for her to keep her feet warm. [Photograph by Loh Siew Chien]   At the Tzu Chi Study & Awards Scheme Presentation Ceremony, Zunaida’s eldest son, Haziq, expressed the family’s gratitude towards Tzu Chi for the help rendered, in the presence of his siblings. [Photograph by Ng Hai Ming]

Haziq and Hazlam take tender care of their mother. They would apply lotion for her and wear socks for her to keep her feet warm. [Photograph by Loh Siew Chien]
 
 
At the Tzu Chi Study & Awards Scheme Presentation Ceremony, Zunaida’s eldest son, Haziq, expressed the family’s gratitude towards Tzu Chi for the help rendered, in the presence of his siblings. [Photograph by Ng Hai Ming]