As the Mid-Autumn Festival coincided with the Muslim’s Hari Raya Puasa celebration, many Malay families arrived in their traditional costumes with each member of the family dressed in exact same vibrant colours as a mark of closeness. Among them, dialysis patients Timah and Sali even brought along some Malay traditional cookies to thank the volunteers for the care and support they have rendered them.
Unlike the past, about 29 dining tables were set up at the third level’s Dharma Hall for care recipients to have their lunch after watching the warmhearted variety performances by volunteers on stage. Two volunteers were assigned to each table as table masters to accompany the guests.
The celebration began with Brother Tang Boon Chong singing two famous Chinese folk songs “The Moon Represents My Heart” and “Autumn Cicada” to the audience. His performance and interaction with the floor was overwhelming as four care recipients were invited upstage to sing along.
“Because we are a family, …” Tzu Chi song “We are Family” was sang by care recipient Rakin, who dressed in purple Malay traditional costume. As there were many Malays and other races attending the event, he sang the song in both Mandarin and Malay, drawing warm applause from the floor.
Rakin is a beneficiary of Tzu Chi Singapore's “Seeds of Hope” bursary programme while his family received additional financial assistance from the Foundation.
Accompanying volunteer, Brother Alfred Ong, shared that it is because Rakin has a good voice and loves to perform on stage that they invited him to sing in the event. It was most heartwarming to note that Rakin, in appreciation of Tzu Chi's unconditional love for his family, had actually set aside his other activities of the day just to perform for the celebration.
Riddle guessing is yet another traditional Mid-Autumn Festival game prepared by the event hosts that day. The Dharma Hall was instantly immersed in lively festive atmosphere with care recipients competing with quick rising of hands and providing correct answers for the contest.
Besides sharing festive joy, health issues of the care recipients were a matter of concern too. Tzu Chi's full time physician Dr Edwin Lim was invited on stage to share on health knowledge, particularly the right concept and benefits of a vegetarian diet. Dr Lim reminded the care recipients to get into the habit of having the 'Three Lesses' diet (i.e. less sugar, less salt and less meat) and to do exercise regularly. He concluded by inviting those who wish to know more about their health condition to make appointment for free health screening with the Tzu Chi Free Health Screening and Medical Clinic at Jurong East as chronic diseases is best discovered as early as possible.
While everyone was enjoying the stage performance, Mr Chia, sitting on his wheelchair, was patiently painting a picture with a paint brush in his mouth. He named the picture consisting of warm sunshine and a bird flying in the sky “Hope”. He said that the sun symbolizes hope while the bird is a symbol of freedom.
Unable to move his limbs, Mr Chia refused to give in to his disability and chose to live his life to the fullest. He started painting with his mouth for about a year ago, and likes to encourage others with positivity. “Even one is physically disabled, one ought not to be bound by such incapacity. He should be like birds and move ahead as hope is within reach.”
Sitting beside him was Mrs Chia who has been patiently accompanying him all these years. The couple told the volunteers that they had not been celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival and had not eaten mooncakes for years.
After tasting the mooncakes served on the table, Mrs Chia said that the special “sweet” taste goes right into her heart.
According to Master Cheng Yen, our thoughts are closely connected with the well-being of our planet. In these momentous times with increasing natural disasters and human conflicts, Master Cheng Yen believes that only repentance can change the tide.
At the end of the programme before lunch was served, the event hosts explained the lyrics of the “Great Repentance” song and encouraged everyone to take the opportunity to repent for any bad habits they have committed, cleanse their minds with good resolution and pray for world peace.
With solemn singing of the song along with guided sign-language, waves after waves of hands were raised with conviction of everyone in the Dharma Hall.
Lastly, Master Cheng Yen urged all to respect and care for life by fasting and refrained from eating meat through her video teaching of 31 July 2011: "We create hell if our thoughts are bad, so living in these times, we really need to have wisdom and take up the heavy responsibility (to take care of our Earth). We need to first have gratitude, and out of this gratitude, do good deeds and be filial to our parents. At the same time, we need to respect life.
Respecting life means not to harm other creatures by not eating meat.”
Thanks to the hospitality of 183 volunteers, 235 care recipients and their family have enjoyed a special Mid-Autumn Festival that day. Besides keeping them accompanied and entertained, festive gift packs containing mooncakes, biscuits and other sundries were also presented on their way home to wish them well.