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Sunday, 02 December 2018 00:00

My Future Is No Longer a Dream

Written by  Tan Kim Hion, KL & Selangor / Translated by Lim Wen Xin

A precious moment with her dad after Tan Lai Ho received the “Academic Progress Award” from Tzu Chi. [Photograph by Ong Siew Geok]

“Perseverance, determination, faith” these are Lai Ho’s favourite and self-reminding motivational words. Despite the uneasy road to learning, she deeply believes that as long as she progresses forward, her future is no longer an impossible dream.

Seventeen-year-old Tan Lai Ho, a student of SMK Danau Kota, Kuala Lumpur, has a dream to study hard, get good grades, build her career in the corporate world, and do something to benefit the people with her knowledge. With that, her dad can enjoy old age and does not have to stress over life, family and her.

Knowing that a dream kept in the heart and not put into action remains a dream, she made a positive change and started afresh.

Failing primary school syllabus

“When I was in primary school, I was rejected by my classmates, and without encouragement from my teachers, I was disinterested in learning. I had no friends, hence was very lonely,” admitted the slightly tan girl. In the past, her performance was bad, and her exams averaged around 40%. After going to secondary school, she had to enter preparatory class, but the results remained unsatisfactory. At the year-end holiday of Form 1, her disinterest in learning took a different turn.

It turned out that her father, Tan Kar Chai, had to ride a motorcycle to carry the buns for sale, come rain or shine. The filial girl could not bear to see her dad working so hard every day just to raise her, let her eat and dress well, have money to study and for tuition. She said, “My father had a heart surgery. I really can’t bear to see him working so hard. But our family is poor; even the money for my father’s surgery was paid by Tzu Chi. If my father stops working, our life will be a problem.”

Although Kar Chai is not her biological father, he loves her as his own; and she grows up in an environment full of love. In order to take care of her, he stopped indulging in alcohol and never considered marrying, preferring to live only with his daughter.

Lai Ho was very concerned that her dad could not understand letters sent by banks or government departments that were written in English or Malay. They often had to get others to translate. Whenever she saw this scene, she felt particularly uncomfortable, feeling that despite her attending secondary school, she was still of no help.

The effort behind success

She also began to have sleepless nights worrying that if her father could not work in the future and she could not do anything because she had neither skills nor knowledge, what would happen to them? In order to find the right direction, she read the stories of successful people online and found that they were constantly working hard and had struggled before achieving success.

No one is destined to be successful at birth. The teenage child realized that she had been wasting her life all these while. There and then, she recalled that every time she showed her academic transcript to her father, he always looked forward to seeing her good grades, but she repeatedly disappointed him. Despite the disappointment, Dad had never blamed her. Instead, he would encourage her by saying, “Do better next time.”

Lai Ho remembered that she had been receiving Tzu Chi Study Grant every year since Primary 4, and each time volunteers visited her home, they would encourage her not to give up, to put in more efforts and work hard. With the urge to seek improvements, she was determined to change herself.

She knew that as her foundation for primary school syllabus was not strong, she could not keep up with the secondary school curriculum. Therefore, she used the year-end holiday of Form 1 to repeat the subjects of the entire primary school, especially her weakest subjects – English and Malay.

When she encountered new grammar problems, she would go online to find a learning channel and through the teaching of these websites, she gradually grasped the way of learning and increased her confidence in continuing her efforts. In order to improve her memory, she asked her father to buy a whiteboard to hang in the room. She would then do her homework on the whiteboard daily; and when she could not sleep at night, she would copy notes on the board and read them aloud.

In order to revise her studies, she abandoned her favourite TV series, and more and more reference books and extra-curricular readings appeared in the cabinet. She spent an increasing amount of time burying herself in the books, day and night, determined to make up for lost time.
When Form 2 class started, she found herself understanding and absorbing the contents taught more quickly. In the first semester exam, she was fourth in the class, passing all subjects. She even scored 60% for Maths, a subject she usually failed.

The girl became more and more confident in her learning methods. Other than paying attention in class, she attended tuition and used online platforms to self-study. In the second and third semester, she came up top in the class. When she went from the eighth class (for low-performing students) to the second class (high-performing students) in Form 3, her teachers and classmates were impressed.

To practise speaking Malay and English, she talked to Indian and Malay friends whose English and Malay are good, to pick up the correct pronunciations. Now, she could speak both languages fluently.

“The most comforting thing for me is that students who looked down on me would now turn to me for help with their homework. I don’t blame them for their bad attitude in the past, and will tell them all that I understand. The happiest thing is that I can now read every single letter for my father, be it in Mandarin, English or Malay. It is no longer an issue to me.”

With her dedication, Lai Ho got rid of the stigma of being labelled the “poor-performing student who fails everything”. She proved that with “perseverance, determination and faith”, she could change herself and be a better person.

A mother’s love for a lonely soul

Lai Ho’s unbeatable learning spirit touched volunteer Lim Ah Lian, who visited from time to time. Every time she made progress, the volunteer would give her a hanging ornament with a motivational quote or blessing phrase, or a little gift, to encourage her to strive on.

As a mother of two, Ah Lian felt sorry for the girl, who was without the care of a mother. Therefore, she has taken Lai Ho under her wings and treated her like her own. She would take her out for walks and meals. When the girl had issues, Ah Lian would encourage her to speak about it and share her feelings. Lai Ho felt the love of a mother from Ah Lian and gradually, she opened up to her.

Ah Lian knew that Lai Ho spent most of her time studying, hence rarely participated in extra-curricular activities. Although the girl would seek advice from the school’s counsellor whenever she had an issue or doubt, Ah Lian was worried about her non-existing social circle and its possible effect on her. Thus, she encouraged Lai Ho to participate in after-school activities and mix with other students.

Sometimes, when Lai Ho had difficulty with her homework, she would complain to Ah Lian about it. The latter would then get for her relevant reference books and remind her not to fear but to consult her teachers when she encountered a problem. Lai Ho was grateful for the reminders, which had enabled her to learn more. Ah Lian’s heart of a mother also touched Lai Ho. For example, when she learnt that Lai Ho was unwell, she took her to see a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, and encouraged her to exercise more. Lai Ho was truly touched by these little caring actions.

On December 2, 2018, and accompanied by her dad, Lai Ho attended the 2018 Tzu Chi Study Grant & Incentives Presentation Ceremony at KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall. It was a joyful and meaningful day for both of them because on this day, the child was awarded “Academic Progress Award” to recognize the improvement she had made academically. When she walked up the stage to receive the certificate, her dad smiled happily.

From the father’s point of view, his daughter was well behaved. Although he was previously worried that her future may be tougher without the interest to study, he never wanted to increase her mental burden and had turned his worry into encouragement. “This year, she scored A for eight subjects, and hit an overall average of 73%. It is an achievement. I am overjoyed and relieved. As long as she continues her efforts, her future will no longer be tough,” he shared cheerfully.

Upon receiving the Award from the volunteer, Lai Ho was over the moon. To her, this certificate not only has Tzu Chi’s blessing and encouragement, but is also a token of recognition that will support her to move forward into the future.



Tan Lai Ho was focused in her studies to make up for lost time. [Photograph by Ong Saw Tin]   Volunteer Lim Ah Lian (1st left) has treated Tan Lai Ho (middle) as her own daughter. She and Lai Ho’s father (right) were both gratified for her good grades. [Photograph by Ong Saw Tin]

Tan Lai Ho was focused in her studies to make up for lost time. [Photograph by Ong Saw Tin]
Volunteer Lim Ah Lian (1st left) has treated Tan Lai Ho (middle) as her own daughter. She and Lai Ho’s father (right) were both gratified for her good grades. [Photograph by Ong Saw Tin]
Tan Lai Ho was overjoyed to receive the “Academic Progress Award” of Tzu Chi Study Grant, which meant a lot to her. [Photograph by Chan Boon Huat]

Tan Lai Ho was overjoyed to receive the “Academic Progress Award” of Tzu Chi Study Grant, which meant a lot to her. [Photograph by Chan Boon Huat]