A heavy downpour on the morning of 9th June 2019, which stopped at around noon, made the air fresh and cool for the afternoon. In the afternoon of this day, 42 Muslim aid and care beneficiaries of Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore), with some bringing along their families, attended the annual Hari Raya Celebration held at the Jing Si Hall.
The arriving guests were greeted by friendly and cheerful volunteers as the popular Malay folk song, “Rasa Sayang”, played in the background, adding a lively festive mood to the occasion.
Then, the guests and volunteers entered the Buddha Hall with another Malay song “Senyuman Terindah” (which means “the brightest smile”) playing in the background. Before the event’s programme began, Tzu Chi volunteers invited the aid and care beneficiaries to pen their gratitude on the Thank You cards placed on their table.
Audrey Koh, the principal of Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool and her husband, Rizal, were the emcees for the event, hosting the programme in English and Malay respectively. They went around the tables to invite the aid and care beneficiaries to read out what they had written on their Thank You cards.
“Thank you, Tzu Chi, for accompanying my mother as she went through a difficult period in her life,” said a beneficiary.
“I wish everyone the best of health, and I will repay the society and help those in need when I’m able to,” said another beneficiary, with teary eyes.
I am not facing life’s challenges alone
Muhammad Dzulkifly, a Tzu Chi beneficiary, sang the Malay song "Dari Jauh Ku Pohon Maaf" (which means “from afar, I seek forgiveness”), to kick start the programme.
Next, a group of Tzu Chi volunteers staged a skit in Malay, which depicted the real life story of an aid beneficiary named Tan Yew Hock, who suffered from a variety of illnesses. Tan used to be a smoker and an alcoholic who had to take a lot of medicine every day, and this led to his bad temper. After interacting with him over a long period of time, Tzu Chi volunteers managed to persuade him to quit smoking and drinking. Now, Tan donates his spare cash into a Tzu Chi Bamboo Coin Bank to give back to society.
Muhammad Alwi, who had courageously recovered from a low point in his life, shared on the stage about how Tzu Chi volunteers gave him a lot of help. Whenever they visited him, the volunteers would bring many books and share inspiring real life stories with him. When he heard the stories of aid recipients whose situations were worse off than his and yet they were able to overcome their hardships one by one, he would ponder why he could not overcome his own difficulties and setbacks.
Deeply motivated by the stories shared by the volunteers, Alwi said, "(The stories have convinced me that) it is not the end of the world and I can live a normal life like an ordinary person, too."
Two months before his wedding, 31-year-old Alwi was told by his doctor that he required dialysis treatments for his failing kidneys. He was so devastated by the sudden news that he was at a lost as to what to do. The expensive costs of the dialysis treatments and housing loan significantly increased his financial burden.
Alwi was thankful to the Tzu Chi volunteers who visited him monthly to give him care and support, treating him like a family member. He revealed that there was not much furniture in his home, and he was touched by the volunteers, who didn’t mind sitting on the floor to chat with him and his family.
In fact, what touched him the most was not the financial assistance from Tzu Chi, but the emotional support he received from the volunteers. The sharing and encouragement from the volunteers made him feel that he was not fighting the disease alone. Now, he has transformed his lifestyle and undergoes treatments regularly. He lives his life positively and even hopes that he will be able to help others someday.
"The volunteers are not biased towards me because of my young age. Instead, they always listen patiently to me as I speak of my difficulties," shared Nursaliza, who suffers from liver disease.
This single mother, who recently became unemployed, needs to take care of her two young children. The monthly home visits by volunteers have not only given her encouragement and support, but also the strength to carry on with life.
On this day, she had brought her mother along to attend the Hari Raya Celebration. The festive atmosphere, food and programme made her feel welcome and the absence of religious barriers. She hoped to improve her situation and transform from being an aid recipient to someone who could help others in need.
The aid and care beneficiaries enjoyed the interesting performances on stage while partaking the delicious snacks painstakingly prepared by Tzu Chi volunteers. The volunteers also did a sign language performance of the Malay version of the Tzu Chi song, "There is Love in the World", which brought everyone closer together.
After viewing a video on the Bamboo Bank Era, the beneficiaries were touched and inspired to donate what they could into the Bamboo Coin Banks, to show their support for Tzu Chi’s charitable causes. (The Bamboo Bank Era refers to the early days of Tzu Chi’s founding in Taiwan, where Dharma Master Cheng Yen led her 30 lay disciples, who were all humble housewives, to save NT$0.50 in a Bamboo Coin Bank every day to help the needy.)
Soon, it came to the final segment of the event, i.e. distributing Raya gift packs to the beneficiaries. The latter went on stage to collect their gift packs from volunteers, and the event ended with everyone bringing home an abundance of blessings and gratitude.