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An Unfortunate but Meaningful Way of Counting Down to 2015

On the morning of 28 December 2014, while all focus was on the flood, news on the missing AirAsia flight was flashing everywhere too, alerting everyone. As a Tzu Chi volunteer, my heart weighed heavily even more so.

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One of the key principles of Tzu Chi’s disaster relief work is that volunteers always personally deliver aid supplies into the hands of disaster victims while also offering them comfort and moral support. (Photo provided by Susan Tan)

As Christmas festive preparations began happily for most people who considered themselves to be more fortunate than others, the daily news started with the severe flooding in the east coast of Malaysia. On the morning of 28 December 2014, while all focus was on the flood, news on the missing AirAsia flight was flashing everywhere too, alerting everyone. As a Tzu Chi volunteer, my heart weighed heavily even more so.

It was late Sunday night on 28 December when I received an urgent notice from Tzu Chi Singapore, of a relief mission to the Malaysia flood zone. At that time, the flooding which started around 19 December 2014 had already affected over 160,000 people; it was Malaysia’s worst flood in decades. Due to our time zone difference, I immediately requested leave approval from my boss, Mikael Karlsson, in the event that I really decided to join the relief mission and had to report to Tzu Chi Singapore at 3pm on 29 December.

My boss immediately replied me and gave his approval even though it was Sunday that day, and I was really thankful for his support. His swift response gave me the confidence and drive to go and just do it. Prior to his reply, I was in a dilemma because on one hand, I very much wanted to join the mission as it is my duty as a Tzu Chi volunteer to do relief work, while on the other hand, I was concerned if I was physically fit enough to do the physically-taxing work for two full days.

Being a Tzu Chi volunteer, we always carry this mission in our heart that we must always try our best to be there for the less unfortunate people who need us. Everyone is equal regardless of race, nationality or religion; hence, we should provide our support to whoever needs us in times of difficulty. Their suffering may be beyond our control, but being the more fortunate ones, we can at least offer our support and share in their suffering, thus giving them a little relief.

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We had received news that floodwaters in this village had receded, so we made our way there, wanting to enter the village to provide direct aid. However, the road leading to the village was still flooded and inaccessible, so those affected could not return to their homes from the shelter yet. But we still distributed our aid to them next to the flooded road. (Photo provided by Susan Tan)

For crisis/disaster situations, immediate relief support is very important as our presence - face to face - will provide comfort to the hurt, trembling souls of the disaster victims. In a flood disaster area, there was an old lady who had gone through the heavy rains and flooding alone in the dark for many days. The moment we (Tzu Chi volunteers) appeared at her door, telling her the purpose of our visit, and then reading her the consolation letter from Tzu Chi’s founder, Dharma Master Cheng Yen, she started crying in warm tears as she was very touched by the personal aid sincerely and warmly delivered by Tzu Chi volunteers. She cried even harder when our volunteers gave her a huge comforting hug.

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The flood had receded a bit and trapped victims could walk out of their village to receive aid from us and bring it back to their young children who were anxiously waiting at home. (Photo provided by Susan Tan)

We should count our blessings as we merrily celebrate the festive season while there are other places where people are suffering. The many disasters in the world today are due to environmental issues. Hence, as we merry away, we should also be mindful and adopt an environmentally friendly lifestyle. Being a resident of Mother Earth, we should practice the famous environmental 5Rs ~ Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair & Recycle to minimize further damage to our planet.

Crossing the last few days of 2014 with such a meaningful contribution has set one more strong goal for me in 2015 ─ Living in a stable and safe society, we must always be grateful for what we have and that we always have a home we can return to!

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