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A Dazzling Smile for the MINDS Beneficiaries

21 August 2011 marked a special day for Tzu Chi Redhill Free Clinic as Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) members and Tzu Chi volunteers welcomed a group of beneficiaries from The Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) who were there for a dental checkup. The volunteers gave their utmost support by arranging for sign language performance, cartoon programmes, magic show and various games, so as to give the beneficiaries and their parents a memorable Sunday afternoon.

Dr Eugene Tang had specially planned the games to educate the MINDS beneficiaries on personal hygiene, (i.e. correct way to brush teeth) and letting them learned through having fun.

An appointment with the dentist

It was a warm and sunlit Sunday afternoon. The TIMA team members were all prepared and ready to welcome the arrival of 16 MINDS beneficiaries, 12 accompanying parents and 9 MINDS volunteers. Wearing an adorable animal cap and with a huge sunflower toy wrapped around their necks, they greeted the guests with a cheery welcome song.

The afternoon is filled with fun and enjoyment for the MINDS beneficiaries as they participated in the series of programmes lined up by the volunteers, which include a magic show, colouring joy, song and dance, and balloon sculpturing. Even though these beneficiaries might not truly comprehend the magic show, or could not colour without aid; or could not sing to the rhythm, with the ample praises and encouragement of the volunteers, they could temporarily forget their fear of seeing the dentist. Through the interesting games, Dr Eugene Tang also specially taught them the proper techniques of brushing their teeth.

While the other beneficiaries were having fun outside, the dentists and volunteers were busily engaged with those in the dental room as they tried to calm them down and got them to cooperate for their dental treatment. It was no mean feat to keep these beneficiaries still, as they wailed hysterically while receiving dental treatment. The dentists had to coax and encourage them. If necessary, the volunteers had to even get hold of them.

Seeing the wailing beneficiaries was a heartbreaking sight for MINDS Youth Group Volunteer In Charge, Ray Chew. Mr Chew said that he is especially grateful to Tzu Chi for organizing this event for otherwise many of the beneficiaries would be deprived of the opportunity to visit a dentist as they grew stronger and hence more difficult for dentists to control them.

Because we are family

“It is almost impossible to take Bin Bin to other dentists as some dentists do not know how to treat him. Some people even look down on these children with special needs. Even though Bin Bin is an adult now, the dentists here are still very caring towards him.” 21-year-old Bin Bin’s mother, Mdm Zheng, proclaimed. As Bin Bin was an autistic kid and have problems expressing himself,, it led to him having a foul temper and Madam Zheng felt helpless when she tried to bring him to see a dentist.

Dr Ooi Mei Yeen, who was seated at the same table as the mother-son pair, shared with Mdm Zheng some tips on how to take better care and better communicate with children with special needs like Bin Bin, for eg., let the child take part in more group activities, which will give the child a chance to meet and interact with strangers more.

Dr Ooi, who has been a TIMA member for more than a year now, expressed that she felt thankful for the opportunity to volunteer. She said that she has learnt a lot here, and has learnt to count her blessings. Even though she is also helping others in the hospital, she felt she has benefited much more as a TIMA member as she got to experience the joy of unconditional giving.

When the volunteers were singing the song, “One Family”, Mdm Zhang was teary-eyed. She told the volunteers she was truly touched as she could really feel the love and sincerity of the TIMA members and the Tzu Chi volunteers. She had brought her 26-year-old son, Xiang Xiang, to see the dentist today.

This was their first visit to the free clinic but Mdm Zhang already knew about Tzu Chi as she regularly volunteers with the Tzu Chi recycling point in Serangoon during the monthly recycling day. Besides that, Xiang Xiang will also help her to do simple sorting of the recycling items at home.

The Greatest Love of all

When everyone else was laughing and having fun, Sister Feng Li Ying from East 2 zone was silently wiping away her tears. She said, “From this event, I witnessed the greatness of parental love. Taking care of a child with special needs is probably 10 times more challenging than taking care of any other child. When I saw how patiently the parents coaxed and hushed their child who’s throwing temper, I feel deeply touched.

“I should repent as I used to reprimand my children over trivial matters. From today onwards, I will shower them with more love. I am also very grateful to my parents for giving me a healthy mind and body so that I have the ability to reach out to the needy.”

Mission of a TIMA member

This is the first time Dr Loke Shu Yi and Dr Low Li Yong treated individuals with special needs. Coupled with the fact that they just graduated from dentistry school, unquestionably they would feel some anxiety and fear. However, when they received the handmade thank-you card from the beneficiaries, Dr Liu felt that all their anxiety was worth it and the beneficiaries' appreciation gave him a sense of satisfaction.

For Anesthetist Lim Ying Yin, who was also attending the MINDS event for the first time, the service served as an excellent reminder for her on why she chose to go into the medical profession and gave her a lot of motivations to continue her work.

While for Nurse Wang Xiao Na who works at Tan Tock Seng Hospital in the neurosurgical department, she feels that volunteering in TIMA is a great combination of professionalism and having a heart to give. This is a totally different experience from working in the hospital, she added.

Dr Eugene Tang and his assistant Ms Jennifer Ee have been preparing for this event over the past three months. Through the process, they said they have learnt to be more appreciative and less self-centered. With the successful completion of the event, all the hard work and efforts put in were worthwhile.

From feeling anxious to finally smiling, seven dentists from TIMA Singapore successfully treated the 16 MINDS beneficiaries. Besides putting a bright smile on their faces, they also created ripples of warmness in the parents’ hearts.

The TIMA members prepared colouring materials and paper to allay the beneficiaries' fear of the dental treatment and for them to express their gratitude towards the TIMA members.

The spectacular magic show has created a fun-filled atmosphere for the beneficiaries to enjoy and let them temporarily forget the fear of dental treatment.

A nurse patiently guides a beneficiary through the body height and blood pressure measuring.

The TIMA members sometimes have to coax the child for cooperation. If necessary, the volunteers will get hold of the beneficiaries to calm them down.

The TIMA members joyfully receiving the handmade thank-you you cards from the beneficiaries.

Dr Loke Shu Yi (right) and Dr Low Li Yong who had just graduated felt some anxiety and fear as this was their first time treating individuals with special needs. Dr Low felt a sense of satisfaction when he receives a handmade thank-you card from the beneficiaries.

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