As they entered Mdm Zhuo’s flat, the volunteers’ eyes were greeted by an unsightly scene of a living room piled high with assorted materials, clothing, books, electronics etc. The walls and table tops were coated with thick layers of unwiped dust.
49-years-old Mdm Zhuo was once an active volunteer who often participated in the activities for the elderly at a Family Service Centre. Five years ago, she contracted thyroid cancer, and was under the doctor’s prescription for anti-coagulation medication after a leg surgery.
At the beginning of this year, she was hospitalized after she fainted in the bathroom at home. In March, she started going to a nursing home to undergo physiotherapy, and is presently reliant on nasogastric tube feeding. As she is no longer able to work and her husband earns a meagre salary, their son and daughter had to work part-time while studying to help with family expenses. The family not only ran into financial difficulties but also had difficulties tidying up and clearing the piles of accumulated trash at home.
In May this year, Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) opened a case for this beleaguered family, and began providing Mdm Zhuo with supplies of nutritional milk, protein powder, and adult diapers. In order to allow her to recuperate in a comfortable environment, volunteers decided to clean up her home on Sunday, 27th May, after obtaining approval from her family.
Strength in Unity
On the Sunday morning, a team of 20 Tzu Chi volunteers brought an assortment of empty carton boxes, cleaning equipment and house paint to Mdm Zhuo’s flat. After Mdm Zhuo left her home for her hair appointment, the volunteers started working. They quickly divided the work up among themselves to clear the debris out of the cramped house, and patiently asked Mdm Zhuo’s husband and their two children what items they wished to discard, before carefully sorting out the trash from the belongings they wanted to keep.
“Come, let’s form a human chain to move these things out of the house.”
After clearing the unwanted stuff out of the living room and bedroom, three of the volunteers started painting the bedroom. While the rest of the team was helping to tidy up the living room, another group of volunteers below the block took charge of trash disposal.
“Do you still have use for items in this box? Can they be disposed?”
Faced with a multitude of goods, some as big as home furniture while others as small as tabletop ornaments, volunteers patiently asked Mdm Zhuo’s son and daughter if they still wanted them, to avoid wrongly disposing important items that the family might want to keep.
We Are One Family
At around 11am, the volunteers had finished painting Mdm Zhuo’s bedroom and cleaning the tables and bookshelves. Then they moved the furniture and articles back to their original positions in the house.
Volunteer Chee Juat Nghi became aware of the importance of choice while taking part in the home clean-up. She said, “When we were cleaning up, we had to be clear with what items were still needed and what was no longer needed --this is very important.” Her daughter, Janice Tan, who had come to help out, saw Mdm Zhuo daughter’s book collection, and could not help but praise her for being well read. She arranged the books neatly according to height and breadth, giving a fresh new look to the originally messy bookshelf.
As it was a warm day, all the volunteers were drenched in perspiration, and some even felt faint in the heat. But they pressed on after replenishing their body fluids and resting a short while, to continue with the clean-up. Everyone wore smiles on their faces and worked without a single complaint, and were filled with joy because they could help to create a comfortable and clean home environment for Mdm Zhuo.
The clean-up wrapped up by around 12 noon. Mdm Zhuo’s daughter expressed her heartfelt gratitude to the team of volunteers: “We are very thankful to everyone! Because there were too many things at home, on top of my mother’s medical condition, we couldn’t really keep it clean and tidy.”
The volunteers in turn presented the family with the heartwarming Tzu Chi song, “One Family”, as an expression of their heartfelt well wishes for this family.
Then, Mdm Zhuo and her husband returned home from their trip to the salon and were warmly greeted by the volunteers. Before they left, the volunteers wished Mdm Zhuo a speedy recovery. They sincerely hoped that the family would safely navigate through their present difficulties.