Wednesday, Aug 05th

Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Sunday, 05 November 2017 00:00

Finding a Better Self and Joy through Giving

Written by  Julie Yen Yu Chu, Malacca / Translated by Lily Leong

Through his involvement in voluntary service, Wong Jum Tong gradually gained his confidence in interacting with others. [Photograph by Lee Kin Chee]

He used to be a shy teenager, who always stayed at home and had a limited social life. As time passed, he developed social anxiety. Thanks to the Tzu Chi Study Grant & Awards Scheme, he was asked to involve himself in voluntary service. With love and care from volunteers, he managed to overcome his psychological barriers and break through his self-imposed limitations to serve.

Wong Jum Tong is a Form 1 student. Being a shy person, he was always nervous whenever there was an eye contact with others, and would immediately keep his head down. Furthermore, his choice of words, which were at times ambiguous, revealed his lack of confidence. This worried the volunteers who had been caring for him.

Volunteer Chan Geok Hong related, “We noticed through our monthly visits that he seldom left home, let alone going out with his friends. Even during our visits, he would hide away. I am truly concerned about his social and communication skills.”

His lack in confidence is possibly due to his growing-up background. His parents passed away successively when he was in primary school. He and his elder siblings then relocated from Kuala Lumpur to Malacca to stay with their grandparents. Although his grandparents showered their love on him, the loss of his parents and the sudden changes in his living environment had left a deep impact in him.

Study grant built up the child’s ability

In 2016, because of Tzu Chi Study Grant & Awards Scheme, Tzu Chi volunteers paid Jum Tong a visit at his home. Through a year of interaction with the family since then, volunteers noticed that his social life was limited. That, coupled with his introvert character and a lack of proper guidance from others, his weaknesses in personality became apparent.

Even though volunteers tried to offer him care and advice, there were little improvements. This year, when Jum Tong and his elder sister were recommended by their school and volunteers to apply for Tzu Chi Study Grant & Awards Scheme once again, volunteers took the opportunity to encourage him to opt for the newly added option of “taking part in voluntary service”, in place of filling up the self-assessment booklet. This was to encourage him to get in touch with society and improve his social skills, in addition to serving society.

His grandparents, who understood his character well, concurred with the volunteers and encouraged him to go for voluntary service. Although Jum Tong was reluctant initially, but being a filial boy, he accepted the elders’ advice and stepped out of his comfort zone. Thus, since March 2017, he had been joining Tzu Chi’s recycling activity on a monthly basis.

In recollection, volunteer Pang Wee Wee, who had been caring for him shared, “We faced difficulties trying to learn more about him initially. Being in a new environment, he always kept to himself and worked quietly. His narrow social circle and his getting used to a certain mode of interaction with others had resulted in him showing resistance and low adaptability towards changes.”

From passive to active participation

As time passed, Jum Tong changed from being a passive participant to an active one in recycling. From merely answering questions, he began to take the initiative to approach volunteers for help when he came across recyclables that he did not know which categories they belonged to. After several attempts, volunteers finally succeeded in persuading him to participate in another voluntary service. Wee Wee remarked that although Jum Tong is still rather passive, he has at least overcome his fears within to come into contact with different people. This is his greatest improvement.

Volunteer Choon Choon Tow also shared happily, “He is only required to fulfil 12 hours of voluntary service. But he continues joining recycling after fulfilling the requirement. He really enjoys doing it. This is a great breakthrough for him!”

Hearing that, Jum Tong responded shyly, “I was afraid to deal with strangers and unfamiliar environments. Hence, I did not feel like coming. But the volunteers are kind and friendly. I slowly got used to it and have the intention to join.” He also realized that he had been too dependent on his grandparents, hence, he would be overwhelmed by fear and helplessness in a new environment.

His grandmother, Chin Ah Mui, commented smilingly, “Previously when I asked him to look for his sister in the school, he asked me how to locate her. I told him to just take the courage to ask around. That is him, ignorant and timid.” Ah Mui was helpless with her grandson’s timid personality. But she was pleased to see that he is now willing to follow the volunteers to do recycling and is progressively learning to mingle with others.

Courage to break through

Jum Tong’s class teacher, Lam Yen Nee, who is a Tzu Chi volunteer, had helped him to apply for Tzu Chi Study Grant & Awards Scheme, after learning about his family situation and the reason why he transferred to study in Malacca. And when volunteers discovered the family’s needs during home visit, they made the same application for his elder sister too. That was how Jum Tong met Tzu Chi. Even though he is in secondary school now, his grandmother would still remind him to always remember the kindness.

In fact, Jum Tong is appreciative of the kind gesture. On one occasion, he chanced upon Teacher Yen Nee, and despite being a shy person, he bravely greeted his teacher and chatted with her. Yen Nee noted the transformation in him. She commented, “This boy is well-behaved and disciplined. Although we seldom meet each other since he moved on to secondary school, his growth is noticeable.”

Jum Tong’s grandfather, Wong Yok Yoon, was grateful to Yen Nee for her enthusiasm and admired her for bringing the spirit of volunteering into her work. The monthly visits and constant care from volunteers have also been a source of motivation for Jum Tong. Yok Yoon felt that his grandson has become more mature. He shared that by involving oneself in volunteering service, one watches how others carry out the work and would subtly be influenced to take the initiative to contribute as well. This will slowly become a habit and one would learn the ways to deal with people.

Jum Tong shared his heart, “Initially, when I forced myself to join, I was passive and filled with fears. But through my interactions with others, I gradually gained the confidence and began to interact more with my schoolmates.”

Geok Hong commented that although Jum Tong still has room for improvement, he has at least made the first step to break through his self-imposed limitations, and that is a good beginning. The volunteers will continue to encourage him to join more Tzu Chi’s activities in order to expose him to different people and life experiences to expand his horizons and social circle.

Voluntary work increases self-confidence

Jum Tong found his participation in voluntary work to be more meaningful than filling up the self-assessment booklet, as he did in the previous year. He explained that although the daily self-reflection served as a reminder to him, he would slack off sometimes having filled up the self-assessments over and over again. It is different with voluntary work, which involved direct actions; and he had never imagined that he also has the ability to help those in need.

His grandmother expressed her gratitude, “I am thankful to the volunteers for their regular visits to shower their care on my grandson. He has shown improvements in his conduct and his studies. I am supportive of him doing recycling because his participation in voluntary service has made him a more courteous, sensible and hardworking boy. Otherwise, he hardly interacts with strangers.”

Jum Tong said, “If given a chance to apply for the Study Grant & Awards Scheme next year, I will still opt for voluntary service so that I can explore new service scopes and serve new people. I truly hope to improve my social skills and further develop my self-confidence.”

On November 5, 2017, Jum Tong shared his joy of being presented with the Academic Progress Award with his grandparents and volunteers, thanks to his one year of hard work in his studies and active involvement in voluntary service. His grandfather said happily, “The presentation ceremony is so sedate. I am very happy and grateful to Tzu Chi for solving the plight of my family, and for the care all this while.”

Through his involvement in voluntary work, Jum Tong has expanded his horizons and life circle, developed his ability, learnt to be grateful and show his care for others. Having felt the love and warmth of humanity, he said with a shy smile, “I want to spread the love to more needy people.”



Since March 2017, Wong Jum Tong has been participating in recycling activity held near his house on a monthly basis. [Photograph by Lee Kin Chee]   Volunteers, Chan Geok Hong (left) and Choon Choon Tow, visited Wong Jum Tong at his home and showered their care on the siblings. [Photograph by Lee Kin Chee]

Since March 2017, Wong Jum Tong has been participating in recycling activity held near his house on a monthly basis. [Photograph by Lee Kin Chee]
Volunteers, Chan Geok Hong (left) and Choon Choon Tow, visited Wong Jum Tong at his home and showered their care on the siblings. [Photograph by Lee Kin Chee]
On November 5, 2017, Wong Jum Tong happily shared his joy of being presented with the Academic Progress Award with his grandparents and Tzu Chi volunteers. [Photograph by Ng Hai Ming]

On November 5, 2017, Wong Jum Tong happily shared his joy of being presented with the Academic Progress Award with his grandparents and Tzu Chi volunteers. [Photograph by Ng Hai Ming]