In the afternoon of the 11th of November, 2011, which was a Sunday, TIMA medical personnel and Tzu Chi volunteers lined up in front of the Tzu Chi free clinic to welcome 15 students from the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS), who would be visiting the clinic for their annual dental check up. When the students arrived in a bus, Tzu Chi people broke into the “Welcome Song”, extending their cordiality and friendliness to the MINDS students and their parents.
An event well planned and executed
To help the kids overcome their fear of seeing dentists, every year TIMA and volunteers prepare a fun filled programme for the kids which includes magic show, coloring exercise, mass games, balloon sculpting, etc., and new and creative games and performances are also introduced every year. For this year, two TIMA members disguised as pandas “Tzu Tzu” and “Chi Chi” to entertain the kids in an effective ice breaking endeavor!
Tzu Ching members also led the mass games and sign language performance, interacting closely with the kids. Su Peifang, a medical student with NUS, had taken care of kids suffering from muscular dystrophy before. This was the first time she came into contact with kids from MINDS and learnt that these kids’ brains do not develop normally and they have weaker survival skills, hence they can’t socialize properly like the normal kids do. “As the kids have short span of concentration, we have to observe them carefully to find out what they like and dislike, and then use some creative means to help them stay focused.”
Another Tzu Ching from NTU, Chen Huien, said, “I hope that through our initiatives, they can break free from their molds and make friends with people around them.” She added with a smile, “I feel that we are successful this time around in helping them overcome their fear of seeing dentists.”
Playing magician, a Tzu Chi volunteer, Bai Zhencai, entertained the kids with his wonderful magic shows. He also took pains to incorporate elements of Tzu Chi humanitarianism into his performance and made a special introduction of the Tzu Chi bamboo bank era to the audience, prompting on the spot several parents to encourage their kids to drop their donations into the bamboo bank, inspiring kindheartedness in the kids.
A happy and relaxing birthday celebration
“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…”
Kaikai’s birthday falls on the 19th of November, TIMA members specially prepared a birthday cake for him. Kaikai had attended dental check ups before but never had his teeth polished. Today his parents brought him to the clinic to have his teeth polished for the first time. From the look of his eyes, one could tell that he was a little scared.
His parents tried to help him relax by sweet talking and playing music to him, so that he wouldn’t be so frightened when seeing the dentist.
“I noticed that he was calm when we sang the birthday song earlier. He always likes to listen to songs, music helps him to relax…”The mother shared, “most dentists don’t understand the special needs of kids like Kaikai. We have to be very patient and allow more time for the kids to feel at ease, as they don’t know how to express their feelings and with so many people and the medical equipment around, they too feel intimidated. Thanks to Tzu Chi for making this special dental check up for the kids!”
Worry no more about anaesthetization
It was like a kids’ playground outside the treatment room, but in the room dentists and volunteers were busy checking, polishing and filling teeth for these kids who don’t like to open their mouths.
This was the third time the mother of Jiji brought him to the clinic for a check up. The free clinic doesn’t normally administer general anaesthetization for its patients, and in order to make the kids open their mouths for examination the medial personnel and volunteers resort to sweet talking and pacifying the kids and if necessary, to hold down their limbs to calm them down. The mother of Jiji looks forward to their annual visit to the Tzu Chi free clinic, and she especially likes the feeling of being warmly greeted and welcomed by the Tzu Chi volunteers the moment she alights the bus. Her heart is always filled with gratitude at that moment.
Jiji’s mother had taken him to hospital for tooth extraction and apart from a high fee, the kid had to undergo general anaesthetization to prevent him from struggling while receiving treatment from the dentist. She confessed, “he is already a special kid with brain impairment, we are worried that anesthetics will bring about adverse side effects. Here at the free clinic, we can have our peace of mind and we are very happy and full of gratitude at the same time. Thank you very much, the Tzu Chi medical team and volunteers.”
After the checkup, the kid presented a greeting card drawn by himself to the dentist to express his gratitude, the dentist laughingly reminded him, “do remember to take good care of your teeth!”
Grateful for the opportunity to make contributions
One of the two who disguised themselves as pandas, who was also the coordinator for the event, Dr Eugene Tang Kok Weng, has been participating enthusiastically all these years without missing a single event. Dr Tang said thoughtfully, “we see how the kids grow up over the years, it is seemingly a long journey for them. We are only making small contributions here.”
Through his yearly participation in the event, Dr Tang has also gained some enlightenment, “I have grown spiritually, I didn’t understand the Tzu Chi spirit in the past and now I have learnt a lot about it. The Tzu Chi people have made a lot of contributions, I have benefitted from them and I know that I myself have only made a small contribution.”
The Tzu Chi humanitarian spirit of “Treating the sick, curing illness and healing the minds” has helped Dr Tang adjust his mentality accordingly. “When we see a patient, it is not just to treat his illness but also to enhance our own psychological wellbeing. When we see the patients in agitation, we have to remind ourselves to stay composed and only then can we have a calming effect on the patients. So it is a learning opportunity for me too when I take part in the MINDS event. I was very nervous myself for my first participation in the event, now I have learnt how to maintain my composure while in service…I am growing spiritually.”
The six dentists from TIMA, together with medical assistants and Tzu Chi volunteers, successfully conducted dental check ups for 15 MINDS students. The kids had their check ups amidst laughter in a relaxed environment, much to the relief of the parents. And the dentists and volunteers themselves also grow spiritually through their participation in the event, isn’t this the case of “being grateful for having the opportunity to make contributions unconditionally”?