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My Handiwork, My Contributions

Many who came forward to help out at the Tzu Chi charity bazaar have their own life stories, and be their stories blissful or sorrowful, all of them were single minded in their wish to bring loving kindness to others. Among them were Madam Yang and Madam Ng, who had long been looking forward to the charity bazaar to share their smiles and kindness after having overcame their hardships.

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Madam Yang (left) attracted a lot of attention while promoting her homemade craft bags at the bazaar. (Photo by Huang Si Ni)

At the Tzu Chi charity bazaar held from 7 to 8 February 2015, the Singapore Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) continued their tradition of selling homemade cookies.  However this time medical care recipients and their respective family members also participated in the event to express gratitude for the help they have received.

Homemade Handbags for Charity Bazaar 

Madam Yang aged 71, is a family member of a dialysis patient under the care of Tzu Chi.  Her husband started dialysis treatment in 2011 and since then she would accompany her husband to and from the dialysis centre via public transport thrice weekly.  In 2014 when her husband could no longer walk, Madam Yang sought to receive transportation subsidies from Tzu Chi.  During home visits, volunteers found out that she has a knack for making good quality bags using recycled fabrics and volunteer Chen Ling Yan was quick to suggest that she sell her bags to raise funds for the needy at the charity bazaar. 

“I remember I spent a couple of months to make my first hand carry bag. Though it wasn’t beautiful, I liked it a lot and till now I still use it.” A hint of pride was detectable under Madam Yang’s humility.  Sewing is not new to her as she has over ten years of experience working at a garment factory.  She cannot bear to see leftover fabrics from factories thrown away so she takes them home and has been doing so for more than 20 years. 

Ever since her husband had to go for long term dialysis treatment, Madam Yang had been under tremendous pressure as she could longer go out to work to support the family. In order not to let her mind stray and in trying to adopt a positive attitude towards life, Madam Yang was struck by the thought of creating homemade bags in 2012.  There was no one to teach her then; she had to tear apart old bags and learn on her own. She was able to create different patterns for her bags by patiently patching fabrics together.   Today, she still uses the very first bag she made; apart from actualizing the concept of extending the useful life of resources, she has also trained herself to be good at handiwork.

Madam Yang has made more than fifty bags in the last three years.  “I am very focused while working on my bags. I forget my worries and am very happy while working on them.” She uses her spare time outside of taking care of her husband to make bags, sometimes even working late through the night.  Besides, Madam Yang also gives away bags to her neighbours and good friends as gifts to express her gratitude to them for their help.  Having the opportunity this time to help the others with her handiwork, Yang derived a great sense of achievement from it; her face was full of joy as she handed all her bags to Tzu Chi volunteers without leaving any for herself.

On 7 February 2015, Yang made use of the one hour she had while her husband was undergoing dialysis treatment to help out at the Singapore TIMA members’ stall to promote her bags.  Though some rejected her, she was not discouraged at all and continued to do her part to promote charity cheerily.  “I am very grateful to Tzu Chi for the help I have received, I wish to raise funds to help the others like my husband through my bags.”  Upon hearing that, many Tzu Chi volunteers and members of the public at the bazaar came forward to buy her bags.  Yang was very pleased and said, “I will come again next year if the charity bazaar still needs me.”

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Constructive interaction between Tzu Chi volunteers and Madam Yang inspired her to help raise funds at the charity bazaar. (Photo by Mai Yue Yuan)

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Yang Xiuzhen’s husband needs to receive long term dialysis treatment, she can’t go out to work to help earn income to support the family and her husband’s medical bills.  In order not to let her mind stray and be occupied with unnecessary worries, and to adopt a positive attitude towards life, she uses her spare time to make handbags at home. (Photo by Mai Yue Yuan)

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Madam Yang unreservedly donates all her homemade bags to the charity bazaar. (Photo by Huang Si Ni)

Helping Others Despite One’s Own Illness

Madam Ng, a care recipient of the Tzu Chi Home Care Services, suffered severe damage to her backbone in a car accident when she was five.  She had been sent to different countries for treatment and had undergone close to fifty operations, both big and small.  She had since developed a strong phobia of hospitals, syringes, medications, etc., and she has been wheelchair bound till today.  In September 2014, due to human error, a big wound developed on her back.  Her phobia of medical treatments prevented her from seeking medical help and she only relied on brewing Chinese herbs and applying Chinese medicinal paste on her wound.  Unfortunately, the wound did not heal.  Her Member of Parliament reported her case to the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), knowing that she lives by herself, has a fear of medical treatments and has difficulties moving around by herself.  AIC referred her case to Tzu Chi in November 2014, and the Tzu Chi nursing team has since been making home visits to help clean and dress her wound.   

A member of the nursing team shared Madam Ng’s negative opinion of medical personnel. Before Tzu Chi came to her help, she felt that hospitals had made her pay a lot of money without solving her problems. Besides, though she relies on a domestic helper to take care of her daily needs, she does not trust her current helper too due to a very bad experience with her previous helper.  She was even more adamant about not letting her helper nurse her wound since Tzu Chi came on board to help her.  It was only after much reasoning and encouragement from the Tzu Chi nursing team that Madam Ng became less defensive. The nursing team then started to teach her helper how to care for her wound, step-by-step.  

Madam Ng loves baking; upon learning that TIMA Singapore would be selling homemade cookies at the charity bazaar, she expressed her wish to get well soon to bake biscuits together will then all.  Unfortunately, her wound could not heal in time, but she still looked forward to being at the bazaar and supporting the team. 

On 7 February 2015, after the nursing team helped clean and dress her wound, they took the wheelchair-seated Madam Ng to the charity bazaar to experience the lunar new year atmosphere for herself.  While taking her meal, she noticed the sparse human traffic at the TIMA stall, so she took the initiative to join them in promoting the cookies, despite the fact that she could not sit for long due to her wound. 

“I am very grateful to TIMA for taking care of my wound, for me to endure one to two hours here is really nothing.”  Madam Ng was full of smiles, she wished that a lot more funds would be raised, and for every single drop of loving kindness gather into a sea of great love.  

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Madam Ng (in wheelchair) is grateful to TIMA nursing team for taking care of her wound painstakingly without any complaints, she takes the initiative to help promote homemade cookies at the TIMA stall. (Photo by Huang Si Ni)

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