“I believe there is love worth waiting for in this world, a long-closed heart will eventually open up…” At the 2013 Seed of Hope Bursary presentation ceremony, while Tzu Chi volunteers and students from East Coast and Bedok Green primary schools performed with sign language, Rakin sang fluently in both English and Chinese the Tzu Chi song, “There is love in the world”. This was not the first time Rakin performed in activities organized by Tzu Chi Singapore branch.
It was the Seed of Hope bursary programme that has brought Rakin and Tzu Chi together.
A tough life stricken with poverty and sickness
“I can’t choose my destiny, but I can choose to change myself.” These words come from the 18 year old Rakin. He was born with ventricular septal defect (hole in the heart), and later on he also developed diabetes, high blood pressure and hereditary obesity, etc.
Hailing from a low income family, his father is a truck driver and his mother a part time cleaner with a bank. They rent a low cost public flat and part of the furniture in the household was donated to them by their relatives and neighbours. There are only one living room and one bedroom in the flat, Rakin and his two younger brothers have to sleep on the hard and cold floor as they can’t even afford mattresses. At the lowest point in their life, this five member household had to live in a simple and ugly tent they set up by the seaside.
Poverty and sickness always strike together. Rakin is supposed to take a lot of medicine every day, but as his application for medical subsidy from the government isn’t successful and his family is in a tight financial situation, he has to control his intake of food so as to minimize his medicine intake frequency. Both his parents suffer from diabetes and have to inject insulin every day. Not only that, his mother, Hamidah, also suffers from acute hereditary obesity and can’t stand for too long. In order to make money to support the family, the parents still strive to go to work no matter how sick they feel.
Acquiring spiritual wealth through the Seed of Hope bursary
Rakin started to receive bursary from Tzu Chi under the Seed of Hope programme two years ago, covering his expenditure on transportation and food. Rakin recalled his school days before he had been granted the bursary, “the school would also issue me food vouchers, but sometimes the food was not enough and I had to wait till I got home for more food.” And he continued contentedly, “now at least I can have a complete meal at school, and I can also use the vouchers saved to purchase textbooks or stationery.”
Rakin’s father leaves for work every day before the day breaks. “When he gets home, all of us have already turned in. My mother is not fit for work but in order to support the family, she insists to work as a part time cleaner at a bank.” Feeling sorry for his parents, Rakin’s eyes were shining with tears.
To relieve his parents’ burden and to support the family, a thoughtful Rakin has been working part time at a western restaurant since he was 17. His mother, Hamidah, said with gratification, “he is a very good son, he leaves for his part time job after school and he hands all he earns to me to support the family.”
As human beings, we share the goods and bads. Though life is tough, this family isn’t short of spiritual wealth. “I am very grateful to my parents, they never give up on me though I have been suffering from so many medical conditions since young. Despite the financial difficulties then, they still opted for giving me medical treatments,” Rakin shared with much sentiment.
Hamidah, who has just recovered from her illness, disclosed that when she was sick, it was Rakin who looked after her whenever he was at home. She said jokingly, “in the past I looked after him, now it is his turn to look after me.” This is how the family members support and help each other.
Spreading love through expressing one’s gratitude
Rakin loves music a lot, and he currently teaches members of the public how to play percussion instruments at a community centre near his home. Besides, he also joins a Malay organization and participates in voluntary performances regularly. Rakin indicated that he felt very satisfied when he saw how his performance had brought happiness to his audience. “It is my joy to see the other people in happiness.”
“Because we are one family, we support and trust each other, we are grateful to each other…”
Since 2011, Rakin has been singing the Tzu Chi song, “We are one family”, with perfect pronunciation at Tzu Chi social functions and Seed of Hope bursary presentation ceremonies. “Though he can’t contribute through monetary means, he contributes to the society in his own way. His performance has deeply moved many.” A Tzu Chi volunteer who has long been overseeing Rakin’s case said.
“I couldn’t choose my parents and the family that I was born into, but I can choose to be a better person.” Rakin declared confidently. He accepts the situation he is in steadily, time and again overcomes the challenges that come his way; he uses his love and his songs to reciprocate his parents and the society for raising him and giving him an opportunity for education.
Harbouring a grateful heart will lead to a better tomorrow. Tzu Chi’s Seed of Hope bursary programme enters its fifth year in 2013, and the subsidies for transportation and meals have benefitted many families, giving needy students their peace of mind. As a matter of fact, these kids have also given us much food for thought, “a chipped cup, when seen from a different angle, still looks perfect.”