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Feeling Comfort at Old Age with the Company of Tzu Chi Volunteers

The aged elderly have to face with many challenges in life especially when they live by themselves. With the company and assistance from Tzu Chi volunteers, who live in the same neighbourhood, one elderly volunteer has her home refurbished and her life well taken care of. During the public holiday, Tzu Chi volunteers gathered to spruce up the home of an elderly volunteer, so that she could live comfortably in a clean environment.

SG20200809 GNA FLP 023The volunteers wear masks, raincoats and other protective gears, while fixing and handling the old furniture. (Photo by Michelle Pong) 

"Sister Sim Yit Kin is already 82-years-old and walks in a slow and unsteady manner. She suffers from Parkinson's disease and her right hand is shaky, resulting in her being scalded once by boiling water. She is also afraid to go out. When we learnt that she did not stock up any food at home, we brought some to her home," said Tzu Chi volunteer leader, Sister Ker Sew Hwa, who narrated the current living condition of Sister Sim.

During the circuit-breaker period, Sister Sim was scalded by boiling water on her abdomen and thighs at home. Tzu Chi volunteer leader, Sister Tan Bee Hong was informed of the incident and she immediately brought her to the hospital. After Sister Sim was discharged from the hospital, a nursing staff had regularly visited her to monitor her condition and clean her wounds, as well as arranging meal delivery services for her.

The two volunteer leaders, Sister Ker Sew Hwa and Sister Tan Bee Hong, went the extra mile to ensure that the needs of Sister Sim were always met. With the easing of the circuit-breaker restrictions, Sister Ker Sew Hwa, who lived nearby, would bring vegetables, fruits and groceries to visit Sister Sim regularly.

"Sister Sew Hua is the best. She often surprises me with her loud knocking when she visits!" exclaimed Sister Sim, whom is full of praises of Sister Ker Sew Hwa’s attentive care.

After visiting Sister Sim for a period of time, the volunteer leaders found that the furniture and cupboards in the more than 40 years three-room flat were already in a dilapidated condition. Even the plastic chairs are oxidized, making the living space quite hazardous. Not only that, they also noticed that the old mattress, which had been used for more than 30 years, was flea-infested and had already sagged. Although Sister Sim was often bitten, she could not differentiate between mosquito and flea bites due to her poor eyesight. Unbearable to see her living in such conditions, the volunteers decided to clean up and refurbish her home.

After volunteer leader, Sister Lim Chwee Lian informed Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) about Sister Sim’s conditions, the foundation’s Chief Executive Officer, Brother Low Swee Seh personally led a team of volunteers to visit Sister Sim, sending warm wishes and endorsing the volunteers' proposal to refurbish her home, so that she could feel more settled physically and mentally.

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On behalf of all Tzu Chi volunteers, CEO Brother Low Swee Seh sends his best wishes to Sister Sim. (Photo by Lim Chwee Lian)

In Tzu Chi Volunteers’ company during a Public Holiday

After much planning and coordination within the team, volunteer leader, Brother Lim Chee Wah led a team of volunteers to Sister Sim’s home on the National Day holiday on August 9 for cleaning and home maintenance work. During the second phase of reopening, volunteers adhered strictly to the government's regulations by wearing masks and raincoats and worked within the permitted number of volunteers during the charity activity.  

On that day, male volunteers removed the worn-out mattress and household items before the female volunteers cleaned the floor and packed the unwanted stuff. The volunteers also replaced her old bed with a motorized and adjustable nursing bed. Sister Sim sat at a corner of her house, feeling grateful as the male volunteers dealt with the heavy items, while the female volunteers did the cleaning.

Upon receiving the task information from volunteer leader, the mother-daughter volunteer pair, Chng Ah Neo and Bay Poh Guat immediately registered to participate in the volunteering activity.

"Seeing the brothers and sisters coming together to contribute despite the pandemic, reflects the warmth of people," said the mother-daughter pair in unison. They also brought their own cleaning detergents and tools to clean the house. There was much joy despite being soaked in perspiration.

When clearing out Sister Sim's old belongings, volunteers also let Sister Sim decide what to keep and what to discard out of respect for the elderly. In the process of packing her things, they found more than ten red packets of Year End Blessings that Sister Sim had kept for many years. (Every year, Master Cheng Yen will make red packets from the money derived from book royalties to be given to Tzu Chi volunteers and members around the world as a token of blessing and gratitude.) Looking at the red packets, she recalled how her worries vanished when she met Master Cheng Yen at the Jing Si Abode in Hualien.

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Out of respect for Sister Sim, volunteer leader, Lim Lih Fang lets Sister Sim decide what to keep and what to throw away when clearing out Sister Sim's old possessions. (Photo by Peter Andrew)

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Sister Sim recalls her days in Tzu Chi while looking at the “Year End Blessings” red packets. (Photo by Michelle Pong)

Feeling Settled at Old Age  

Sister Sim became overwhelmed with emotions when she thought of Master Cheng Yan. She said with tears rolling down her cheeks, "Master, I am old and miserable. Fortunately, I have the care and love from Tzu Chi volunteers, otherwise I would be suffering alone."

Sister Sim sold perfumes in her younger days. Under the recommendation and guidance of volunteer, Sister Xu Ci Yu, Sister Sim started serving at the Jing Si Bookstore in Chinatown in those days. Later, due to various reasons including manpower restructure and her health condition, she gradually became less active in Tzu Chi activities. It was not until 2017 that she was encouraged by Sister Tan Bee Hong to re-join Tzu Chi again.

Sister Sim regards Sister Tan Bee Hong as her goddaughter and is grateful for her years of caring and constant encouragement to participate in Tzu Chi activities.

"I have no regrets about coming back to Tzu Chi... I don't know how to thank her enough! " exclaimed Sister Sim. Standing by her side, Sister Bee Hong, leaned forward to comfort her, with tissue paper on her hand. "That's why I must get better quickly and come back to Tzu Chi," Sister Shen said with much hope.

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Sister Sim is overwhelmed with emotions as she spoke of Master Cheng Yen. Sister Tan Bee Hong (right) is by her side comforting her. (Photo by Michelle Pong)

The next thing that the volunteers will do is to look for a pest-control company to deal with the flea infestation problem and purchase some furniture for Sister Sim.  The volunteers also look forward to seeing her again in Tzu Chi activities in the near future.

Michelle Pong, the volunteer in charge of photography, shared about the kindness and beauty she saw through the lens, "It is very touching to see volunteers willing to spend time and energy when one of our volunteers needs help, especially he home is in such dire state of flea infestation."

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