On a sunny Saturday morning, 68-year-old Meriam waited with anticipation for the arrival of Tzu Chi volunteers who were scheduled to help clean up and repaint her house. It had been her wish to have a thorough spring cleaning of her house for quite some time, and she longed to have a clean house with walls painted in light green as Hari Raya Aidilfitri approached.
Meriam, who lives alone, has two sons staying in a drug rehabilitative centre due to drug addiction, and a daughter who is already married. On this quiet morning, one could hear the vague meowing sounds made by Meriam’s cat. The greyish black cat, which is named “Ah Boy”, is Meriam’s only companion at home. Meriam was seen regularly using an asthma inhaler to relieve her asthmatic condition. She has sought the help from Tzu Chi to clean up her house as her asthmatic condition usually leaves her too weak and tired to do strenuous work.
Volunteer Ken Low happily asked Meriam, “Is this the colour that you want (for the walls)? Do you like it?”
After learning about Meriam’s preferences, the group of 10 volunteers immediately sprang into action, taking out cleaning rags, garbage bags, tins of paint, newspapers, etc. from their vehicle, to commence the day’s work.
The noises from the cleaning process broke the silence of the 1-bedroom HDB unit. Some volunteers even screamed when they saw cockroaches running all over the place. As they were tidying up the house, the volunteers patiently asked for permission from Meriam before discarding any unwanted items from her home.
On this day, which happened to fall in the month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast during the day, a Malay Muslim, Siti Aminah, was seen helping with the cleaning along with the rest of the volunteers.
Siti, who did not appear tired at all, shared, “This is a holy month for Muslims. Not only am I required to fast and adhere to the precepts during Ramadan, I should also help those in need! I wish to give back to the society as I have received help before, too. So, I came here after learning about this volunteer opportunity.”
As a single mother, Siti had received aid from a charity organisation in the past. She never forgets the help she received from others and has been hoping to contribute to the community, but was unable to find such opportunity. She learned about the cleanup activity from her colleague at the National Skin Centre, Kong Kim Yoke, who happens to be a Tzu Chi volunteer. And she agreed to help out as a volunteer without hesitation.
Kong was seen busy cleaning different areas of the house without any break. She appeared to enjoy the work; the task of cleaning the kitchen and bathroom was a piece of cake for her. Her efficient efforts made the initially messy kitchen spick and span, and it gave her great joy to see how clean and tidy the house was after the cleanup.
On the other side of the house, volunteer Ken Low was perspiring as he worked to stick tape at every corner of the house, before the walls were painted. Ken was one of the volunteer painters, and he was the one who chose the tins of paint for Meriam’s house—light green for most part of the house and white for the kitchen.
11-year-old Marken Low is Ken’s youngest son. He had come with his parents to help with the house cleaning, and was seen wiping the dishes and tidying the clothes. Marken joyfully said that he would do more to help his parents with household chores in the future, and he was thrilled to see the new look of the house after the cleanup.
When she saw her freshly painted house, Meriam was so touched that she became teary. She movingly said to the volunteers: “Thank you for helping to clean up my house for me. Tzu Chi volunteers are all kind-hearted people. I just love interacting with the volunteers. You are all like my own family. Your painting skills are not bad at all—very professional. I like the new look of my house!”
Before they left, some volunteers gave Meriam a warm hug to bid her goodbye, marking the end of the day’s cleanup activity.