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Sunday, 01 July 2018 00:00

Love across Borders

Written by  Boo Ying Ting, Tan Hooi Chien & Sim Lee Meng, Kuantan / Translated by Lim Rui Lin

A dentist from TIMA carefully checked the child’s teeth. [Photograph by Poi Xiao Yan]

On July 1, 2018, Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) collaborated with Tzu Chi Chapters of Pahang and Kuantan to organize a medical outreach mission for the Rohingya refugees at Dewan Orang Ramai Balok.


According to UNHCR, there are 150,000 registered refugees in Malaysia, however, the number of illegal refugees is estimated to be triple the number. Currently, there are some 400 Rohingya refugees residing in the outskirts of Kuantan.

In December 2013, Kuantan experienced severe flooding; UNHCR officials had contacted Tzu Chi KL & Selangor, in the hope that Tzu Chi would lend a helping hand to the Rohingya refugees in Kampung Seberang Balok, Sungai Ular, Kampung Permatang Badak and Sungai Isap. After the flood relief aid, Tzu Chi volunteers kept in touch with the refugees and found out that many of them still struggled to meet their daily needs. Hence, Tzu Chi conducted an emergency relief and began to care for the refugees regularly.

On July 1, 2018, a team of 251 medical professionals and volunteers from Kuantan, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Penang organized a free clinic for the refugees at Dewan Orang Ramai Balok in Kuantan.

Working together for one mission

The free clinic provided healthcare and consultation services for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Western medicine, paediatrics, dental and gynaecology as well as tuberculosis examination and head lice treatment. Health supplements were also provided in addition to education on personal hygiene. The mission benefitted a total of 304 refugees and 19 local residents.

“The Universe will respond to you if you are determined on the path of spiritual cultivation and have a great selfless vow!” said Tey Kiang Fong, a TCM practitioner, who has just completed his Master’s degree in the UK. He believed that a doctor’s responsibility is to relieve patients’ suffering regardless of their financial status. He felt that Master Cheng Yen has done as much as she can for Buddhism and for all sentient beings, and he hoped that he too, can do his best to help those in need.

Tan Choong Lin, main coordinator of the event, had conducted several home visits to refugees who received Tzu Chi’s aid in 2017. She could not bear to see their living condition. Families with many children depended solely on the husband to earn a living and struggled to make ends meet. When one of the family member falls sick, they would need to raise funds for their medical bills from their countrymen. For this reason, she hoped that there are regular free clinics to help them.

With the support of volunteers from Kuala Lumpur and Penang, the medical mission was successfully completed. “Master has always advised us to support one another. I feel very happy when I saw volunteers coming forth to work with one another, and that 300-plus refugees overcame difficulties to receive treatment at the free clinic,” Choong Lin remarked happily.

The medical mission was also supported by the village chief of Balok, Mansor bin Makhtar. Before hosting the free clinic, volunteers cleaned and even repaired old fixtures at the venue. Their sincerity touched Mansor’s heart and he decided to provide the venue for free.

Care and Warmth everywhere

“Our kids are unable to go to school and when we fall sick, we dare not consult doctors due to the unaffordable medical bills. We would not have escaped to a foreign land if not for the war in our country.” These are the voices of the Rohingya refugees.

Sahidah Begun binti Adul Rahim came to Malaysia when she was three years old and has been in here for over 30 years. A diabetic patient, she claimed that being ill and having to bear the discomfort as they are not able to afford treatment is tougher than having to starve. At times, her sleep was affected. She was grateful to Tzu Chi for providing free medical check-ups and medications to the refugees despite it being a Buddhist foundation. Her only wish was to receive continuous protection from UNHCR in terms of basic assistance in their lives and educational opportunities for their children.

“Many refugees do not understand the Malay language so they do not understand what people are talking about most of the time.” Refugee Hason bin Sultan Ahmad said. While he visited the free clinic, he translated for his countrymen and the medical professionals in order to bridge the communication gap between them. He felt very happy to be able to contribute his service and was deeply grateful for the medical aid provided by volunteers.

Abdul Rahman bin Rahmat Ullah was one of the refugees who were unable to make it to the free clinic. His case was referred to Tzu Chi by UNHCR at end of May 2018. He was a strong young man who installed air-conditioner for a living. However, he was paralysed on the right side of his body following a fall from the first floor while he was at work. Initially, he received treatment in the hospital, but because he was unable to pay the medical fees, he was asked to be taken home.

At the medical mission, three TIMA members and four volunteers visited Abdul at his home. When they arrived, they found him lying on the floor, he had not showered for days. Without much thought, nurse Choo Yen E and some villagers bathed and cleaned him. Yen E also taught the villagers the proper method to clean Abdul’s wound to prevent infection.

Giving without expectations

A total of 17 doctors volunteered for this mission, including Dr Susheela Balasundaram from UNHCR. Her mission in this trip was to bring together all NGOs that has collaborated with UNHCR, in the hope that they will work together, share resources and improve basic medical care for the refugees.

Dr Kogilavani a/p Muruga from Kuala Lumpur was happy for the opportunity to join this mission. She remarked, “Many villagers do not consult a doctor when they fall sick because they need to pay the high transportation costs and travel to town to get treatment.” This was Dr Kogilavani’s second time participating in the free clinic. She was moved and happy to see the smiles on the refugee faces after receiving treatment. She also praised TIMA members and volunteers for the love and care they extended to the refugees.

Matron Roslina binti Che Cob from Klinik Kesihatan Balok brought along some nurses and other medical personnel to serve at the free clinic. They were responsible to take height, weight, blood sugar and blood pressure measurements, as well as to conduct sputum test for the refugees. Roslina was filled with gratitude when she saw the volunteers did their respective roles. She said, “This is my first time joining a free clinic. I feel very happy seeing everyone working together with joy and I hope that we can cooperate in the long term to help more people.” She and her colleagues expressed their willingness to join other medical missions in the future.

The medical mission has not only benefitted the refugees, but also the medical professionals and volunteers. It is hoped that more people will contribute to good causes like this and help those who are in need.

 

 

Villages patiently waited for their turns for consultation. [Photograph by Tang Choon Khong]   Medical personnel from Klinik Kesihatan Balok also volunteered their services at the free clinic. [Photograph by Tang Choon Khong]

Villages patiently waited for their turns for consultation. [Photograph by Tang Choon Khong]
 
Medical personnel from Klinik Kesihatan Balok also volunteered their services at the free clinic. [Photograph by Tang Choon Khong]
 
Volunteers gave the children head lice treatment. [Photograph by Poi Xiao Yan]   Dr Susheela Balasundaram (left) from UNHCR hoped that the NGOs that has been collaborating with UNHCR can share resources and enhance the quality of medical care. [Photograph by Sam Yi Wei]

Volunteers gave the children head lice treatment. [Photograph by Poi Xiao Yan]
 
 
Dr Susheela Balasundaram (left) from UNHCR hoped that the NGOs that has been collaborating with UNHCR can share resources and enhance the quality of medical care. [Photograph by Sam Yi Wei]
 
Dr Kogilavani said that her biggest joy was to see the patients’ smiles after receiving treatment. [Photograph by Poi Xiao Yan]   Tey Kiang Fong, a TCM practitioner, hoped that he can do his part to help people in need. [Photograph by Tang Choon Khong]

Dr Kogilavani said that her biggest joy was to see the patients’ smiles after receiving treatment. [Photograph by Poi Xiao Yan]
 
 
Tey Kiang Fong, a TCM practitioner, hoped that he can do his part to help people in need. [Photograph by Tang Choon Khong]
 
TIMA members taught the villagers on how to clean the wound for Abdul to prevent infection. [Photograph by Poi Xiao Yan]  

TIMA members taught the villagers on how to clean the wound for Abdul to prevent infection. [Photograph by Poi Xiao Yan]