During the SARS outbreak in 2003, TTSH was designated to be the centre for diagnosis and treatment by the Singapore government. The hospital, established in 1844, was named after Mr Tan Tock Seng, a merchant and philanthropist from a humble beginning. TTSH is currently one of the largest Emergency and General hospitals in Singapore, and also the research centre on new infectious diseases.
There are actually a number of TIMA volunteers working in the hospital. There are also several doctors and nurses who have previously participated in Tzu Chi’s activities, especially at the large scale free clinics held in Sri Lanka. However, many of these medical personnel do not really know each other and only learnt that they also know Tzu Chi during occasional conversations. In order to gather more medical staff and introduce Tzu Chi to them, TIMA volunteer and nurse by profession, Wang Xiao Na, teamed up with several active TTSH TIMA volunteers to organize the first Tzu Chi welcoming session for the hospital.
Held at the Tzu Chi Free Clinic in Redhill in the afternoon of 26 May, the session started off with Prof Fong Poh Him, convener of TIMA Singapore, introducing the history of the founding of TIMA to the participants. Prof Fong’s plastic surgery clinic is located right in TTSH and he is delighted that the welcoming session is finally linking up the hospital’s staffs who are interested in getting to know Tzu Chi.
Following that, Dr Edwin Lim, the medical consultant of Tzu Chi Singapore’s Free Health Screening and Medical Clinic (FHSCMC), provided a thorough introduction to the establishment of Tzu Chi’s medical mission and its humanistic characteristics in terms of the reputable body donation programme known as Silent Mentor programme where body donors were treated with respect and dignity during the entire simulated surgery process, as well as TIMA’s medical support in various international relief works of Tzu Chi. Dr Lim also touched on the mission and vision of the local TIMA group before showing participants videos of TIMA Singapore reaching out to Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) beneficiaries by offering them free dental service and the FHSCMC team conducting house calls for immobile and needy patients.
During one of their conversations, TIMA member and TTSH nurse clinician Derek Tan learnt that fellow colleague Dr K. Palaniappan have participated in a free clinic organized by TIMA Philippines in Smokey Mountain, a large rubbish dump in Manila, last November. That was the first time the physiotherapist saw so many slum dwellers stricken with diseases yet could not obtain treatment due to poverty. It was only until the arrival of the TIMA team there that the people could slightly pull themselves out of their misery.
The experience prompted Dr K. Palaniappan to appreciate his blessings in living in prosperous Singapore and not take it for granted, and to reach out to people from poorer nations. Through the invitation by Derek to attend the session, he had a deeper understanding of Tzu Chi and the genuine sincerity of its volunteers.
“In future, what I want to do is to take part in more Tzu Chi volunteer work because they have already shown they are the real deal. They are sincere, honest and it is best to join them and help out other fellow human beings and show compassion.” The physiotherapist showed he meant it by registering right away to help out in the Tzu Chi community health screening in Yuhua Community Club this July.
Ms Sui Huang Bo, a fellow nurse, also joined the session through an invitation of her colleague. Although she has to juggle between career and family, she thinks it is not totally impossible to make time for volunteering because “if one has the will, one can definitely spare time to participate.”
Ms Sui had personally attended a Tzu Chi activity with her husband before and strongly approved of the Foundation as “an organization that promotes kindness and charity”. Her recognition that “the activities in Tzu Chi are suitable for the entire family” was proven by her husband who brought along their child that day. The fact that he offers to chauffeur the TIMA team to patient’s homes during their house calls was also very heartening.
TTSH Nursing Director Mr Yong Keng Kwang thanked his colleagues who invited him to the session because the event has provided him with many insights. The new nursing director, who was just promoted to the position last October, felt that his colleagues who joined TIMA were especially enthusiastic in their work.
“When I read one of your magazines and just now by their introduction, I found that most Tzu Chi volunteers have capability, the most important of which is their passion. I can tell that when they come here, their passion drives everything and their capability is secondary because when you are together, you bring together team capability, team spirit and everything is possible. I’ve seen it today.”
Mr Yong stated that Prof Fong has previously shared with him on his experience in applying for license for the Tzu Chi Free Clinic in Redhill, which was then short of medical volunteers during weekends. In order to have the application approved without hassle and to ensure the sustainability of future clinic operations, Prof Fong signed up for volunteer shifts for all 52 Sundays of the year, only to find out later that the TIMA volunteers have proactively registered for the weekend shifts. Their enthusiasm and spirit of giving amazed the plastic surgeon and made him further appreciate Master Cheng Yen’s motto of “Just do it”. As a nursing leader, Mr Yong is also trying to think of ways to encourage his nurses to adopt the spirit of Tzu Chi, participate in more charitable activities and practice recycling in the hospital.
The first welcoming session managed to bring together 38 medical staff including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and nutritionists. Hopefully in the future there will be more caring medical staff who will join the ranks of TIMA to spread the passion and spirit of Tzu Chi, and through recycling further promote Tzu Chi’s medical and humanitarian culture amongst the hospital community.