The worst flooding in decades to hit Malaysia has progressed into its second week and according to media reports, there are now nine states that are affected, including Kelantan, Pahang, Terengganu and Kedah, as well as the worst-hit areas in the southern and western states of Johor, Negeri Sembilan, and Selangor. Across the peninsula, the number of victims number more than 20,000.
Water and electricity supplies have been cut off in many areas, and transportation routes have been adversely affected. The East Coast Expressway and the old road leading from Kuala Lumpur to Kuantan had to be closed to traffic due to flooding. In addition, many victims were trapped in their homes, with limited supplies to food and necessities.
In the light of the disaster, Tzu Chi volunteers in Malaysia had been hard at work, bringing comfort and relief supplies to their fellow countrymen who have been affected via routes that are still accessible.
Extending a Neighbourly Hand
“We are very concerned with the flood situation in Malaysia and volunteers have been asking me what they can do to help,”said Mr Low Swee Seh, CEO of Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore). Subsequently, he communicated with the CEOs of Tzu Chi KL & Selangor and Penang via telephone, wishing to extend a neighbourly hand across borders to those in distress.
Many transportation routes were inaccessible, but with information provided by Mr Guo Ji Yuan, CEO of the Penang branch, Singapore volunteers were able to make their way to the Kuantan office of Tzu Chi in Pahang, where they could assist with the distribution of relief materials.
On 28 December 2014, word got out that the humanitarian undertaking was underway. By 11am the next day, a 43-member team of volunteers had been assembled and in less than 24 hours, the team was ready to set off. After a briefing at the Jing Si Hall, they left for their destination punctually at 4pm on a tourist bus, fully prepared with raincoats, waterproof shoes, drinking water and rice balls, as the journey was expected to last till midnight.
Transforming Anxiety into Care for Others
Master Cheng Yen was very concerned over the vast area of the disaster zones and kept in frequent contact with Tzu Chi members in Malaysia as she advised them. It was her belief that wherever a disaster occurred, there would similarly be an outpouring of kindness from many others and she exhorted Tzu Chi members Malaysia-wide to reach out with loving sincerity.
CEO Mr Low earnestly exhorted everyone to cooperate with their Malaysian counterparts to the fullest extent. He also reminded everyone of Master Cheng Yen’s advice that safety was the foremost consideration.
“I requested urgent leave from my boss early this morning and hope to render my help as soon as possible,” said early childhood educator Xu Yu Bao, a first-time participant in Tzu Chi’s humanitarian aid efforts. Before she joined the organization, she was moved each time she saw how Tzu Chi volunteers would leap into action once disaster struck.
When Xu later joined Tzu Chi, she told herself that when the need arose, she would surmount all obstacles and be part of the humanitarian mission. Hence, upon receiving news of the undertaking, she had not hesitated even though the new school term was imminent and she would be very busy. Even the long journey to the disaster zone could not dampen her spirit and her gratitude to be part of the undertaking. Indeed, within the team of volunteers, there are many others like Xu.
“I have not been able to contact my family members in Kuantan for six days already. Though Tzu Chi is not going to Kuantan for this humanitarian effort, but to me it feels like I am also helping my own family,” said Wang Yong Zheng tearily, whose father lives in Tamangan, a heavily affected disaster zone in Kelantan. Wang often travels between Singapore and Malaysia and had not visited his father in two months.
He further revealed that he had a 90 year old aunty in the Kelantan disaster zone that had passed on recently; she had been trapped in her house without water and electricity after days of torrential rains, and was unable to take the cold. With the current situation, they had no choice but to hastily organize the funeral.
On the 28 December 2014, the Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) had also applied to the relevant authorities for a fundraising permit for the Malaysian flood disaster. At 4pm in the afternoon of 29 December 2014, a meeting was held to discuss the details of the fundraiser. Even while awaiting the green light for the permit, volunteers had already kick-started the work on poster design and logistical planning. If all else goes as planned, the fundraiser will commence in January 2015 and last for a month.
Natural disasters may be merciless, but in mankind we can find love. The spirit of Great Love is exemplified in the Singapore Tzu Chi volunteers as they seek to offer solace and a warm helping hand across borders, in the hope that their neighbours will be able to rebuild their lives and communities in the shortest possible time.