Tzu Chi Merit Organization (Singapore) celebrated the triple occasion of Buddha Day, Mother’s Day and Tzu Chi Day on 12th of May 2019 at the Bukit Gombak Stadium. A solemn event as such required the support from everyone, including a group of volunteers who worked quietly to prepare for the event behind the scenes.
Tzu Chi began inviting people to join the group formations for the Buddha Bathing Ceremony two months prior to the event. Some volunteers even multitasked, helping with the preparations and joining the group formations on the actual day. There were also some elderly volunteers who managed to fulfill their duties despite not being able to stand for a long period of time due to physical limitations.
Backing each other up
Volunteer Chen Shu Chu has been serving in the Food and Beverage team at the Buddha Day Ceremony for many years. This year, she not only helped to prepare food and drinks, but also participated in a group formation. Another volunteer, Teo Geok Yong, who had always been part of the group formation in the previous years, was unable to stand for long after undergoing a surgery in her leg in November last year. Therefore, Chen replaced Teo as a participant in a group formation this year.
A day before the ceremony, Chen (pictured below) was not only involved in the cleaning work but also the final rehearsal for the ceremony at night. Despite being worried about her physical capacity, she changed her perspective and was glad that she was still able to stand and serve others together with so many people. She told herself that she would be able to do it and took a rest whenever she was able to, in order to preserve her energy to join the group formation the next day.
Teo, on the other hand, took up the duties of food preparation and cleaning up without demur so that Chen could join the group formation with a peace of mind. Teo said, "I used to arrive only when it was time to enter the group formation in the past. Now, I realised that the volunteers in charge of cleaning up the venue have to be here very early to sweep and mop the floor, as well as wash the washrooms.”
"This year, I saw that everyone was soaked in sweat as they worked hard to prepare for the ceremony. As I was mopping the floor just now, I didn't feel any pain in my leg. I did the work with a happy heart," she shared.
On the day of the Buddha Bathing Ceremony, 64-year-old volunteer Koh Thong Eng was seen limping towards the Buddha Bathing altar to guide the electricians on how to install the power sockets. Due to the wearing off of the cartilage in his right knee, Koh suffers pain in his knee. He shared, "I could barely walk for a week previously. After seeing the doctor, I knew that I must undergo a surgery.”
Koh experienced a sudden pain in his leg while doing the electrical work. His work partner, volunteer Boh Thye Pat, who was next to him, immediately laid him down on a multi-purpose foldable bed and gave him a massage to soothe his pain.
"I am here because they (fellow team members) are not familiar with the work. Setting up power supply is no child’s play. A wrong connection may lead to an explosion. So, no matter how in pain I am, I have to come and take a look," said Koh.
Unfortunately, the weather was not on their side on that day. A downpour earlier that day led to a short circuit in power supply.
"I expected that the work could be completed at 5 o’clock, but we were still at the stadium last night when everyone else had gone home, and we did not expect it to rain," said volunteer Gek Yong Hou.
Gek used to just be a team member. In order to lessen Koh’s workload, he bravely served as the team leader of the electrical team.
“It is different when Koh is around. I can ask him whenever I have any question in mind," said Gek.
Gek felt more at ease with the presence of his former team leader, Koh, at the site, to help solve whatever issues that arose.
Volunteer Tan Keng Hock, who was in charge of transportation and was also a participant of the offering team at this year’s Buddha Bathing Ceremony, helped to drive volunteers from the Jing Si Hall in Pasir Ris all the way to Bukit Gombak Stadium and to deliver meals for the volunteers there. There were many challenges with transportation matters as well, such as directing 60 large buses in a small carpark. These buses were hired to transport the volunteers and participants to and fro the venue. Fortunately, Tan had done some planning with his fellow volunteers in advance and also invited about 16 volunteers to assist at the site.
Just do it
"Whenever there is an opportunity to contribute, we should just do it. Nobody knows when the opportunity will be taken away, and I do not know how long I can live as well. I’m really willing to do the work,” shared Tan, who seized the opportunity to contribute the best he could.
He added that he often injured himself when he was younger and had even went through two major operations, pointing at his left hand which had two metal pins inserted in it. He met with an accident at the age of 39, and had a 5-inch metal pin inserted in his left leg during an operation. Having gone through various trials and tribulations in life, Tan deeply realised how impermanent life is.
Pok Siew Chin, a Tzu Chi staff who has been in charge of general affairs for 21 years, is also responsible for “general affairs” at the annual Buddha Bathing Ceremony and various other activities. The years of experience have made Pok very familiar with the ins and outs of her job.
As she believed that the general affairs volunteers were now able to stand on their own, this year, she decided to serve as the team leader of the food and beverage team for the first time.
With no prior experience, Pok ( pictured below) had to start learning and doing everything from scratch. She said with a smile, “I have been spending a lot of time communicating with people and making inquiries.”
“I seldom participate in Tzu Chi activities in the community. I feel very happy to serve as a volunteer this time!” exclaimed Pok with joy.
It is truly not easy for volunteers to juggle between their family and career and their volunteer work. As the volunteers are unable to plan for Tzu Chi activities and communicate with other volunteers while they are working at their jobs, Tzu Chi staff members can step in to help. Pok came to know many volunteers during the event preparation, and she could feel that everyone treated one another like family.
The sincere and selfless efforts of the volunteers contributed to the success of the solemn Buddha Bathing Ceremony, presenting to the world the beauty of Buddhism and Tzu Chi.