the first step

Christmas is coming soon and I’ve started listening to Christmas songs again. As usual, Silent Night’s my favorite! I’m really looking forward to my office’s Christmas party where we’ll feast on delicious food and (hopefully) play games ( Mafia )!  =)

Coincidentally, I also got the chance to help out in a church event. Actually, it just so happened that the program that I wanted volunteer in was taking part in the church event so I ended up attending the Christmas Carnival. Short story: One day I was feeling really down and I was pouring my heart out to DCSY and by the end of the long rant, she suggested that I try out volunteering. I am open to that idea and thus, she recommended me to a fellow friend who is running a volunteer program under Malaysian Care – Bumblebee.

Volunteering in this event is like my first official move in getting out of my comfort zone. I was thinking, for 2017 – my theme will be ‘Getting Out of My Comfort Zone’. One of my plan is to do volunteer work. Therefore, by a stroke of luck, this volunteer event became the first volunteer work – and it is not even 2017 yet! It’s a great warm up activity!  =p

The church location is about 25 mins drive from where I stay and it is in a totally new environment with people I have never met before. This really fits the theme of getting out of my comfort zone. So, initially, I did not know that the Bumblee program was taking part in the church event. I just assumed that it was a church event and someone should know my supervisor. Hence, it came as a surprised when nobody knew who my supervisor was. Fortunately, someone knew what was going on, and my supervisor came with his truck of books and games! I met 2 other Malaysian Care people who welcomed me and made me feel that I am really in the right place.They were mostly Mandarin speaking which struck me. What if I can’t get along?  This language issue has somewhat consistently bug me ( especially when I am in a new situation ) but I just went along. It all went well in the end though, with me speaking in Mandarin and occasional English words to fill in.

My task was to man one of the games booth – where we’ll play Angry Birds and Tic Tac Toe. Honestly, Angry Bird is a crowd-favorite of all time! Kids and adults alike find it interesting and addictive. We had an Angry Bird catapult( made from recycle items) where you put one of the ‘angry birds’ and then you try to flip it into one of the plastic pots. It was really creative. We set it up on the table with 3 Angry Bird soft toys as deco. It was an instant hit! The kids were all scrambling to play them and it was quite tough trying to get them to queue and to pick up the fallen Angry Birds. Then, I forgot to keep track of how many times they attempted because I need to tell them to stop and give way to the other kids waiting in line. Oh, the dilemma! Also, the kids come in groups. It’s either no one or they all come together! Time passes pretty fast and I had a lot of fun picking up the fallen Angry Birds and cheering for the kids who practiced persistently.

There was a time where I thought the proud daddy is trying to video his kid’s attempt and was disappointed when I realized he was just replying his texts. Bummer! I haven’t been around young children for a very long time so it was pretty refreshing. They are so innocent and have only one goal in mind, which is to play! There is a kid who takes her time choosing which Angry Bird to catapult and slowly experimenting using different forces. I can’t help but to think, maybe this kid will be a scientist some day.

Games aside, I tried out the other games as well and it is quite remarkable how one can make simple games using recycled stuff. There is one where two 1.5L bottles are taped together with small balls inserted inside. The goal is to make the balls flow from one bottle to the other in the fastest time. It looks really easy but it is in fact very tiring.  There is a technique to shaking the bottle so that the balls will fall out and my arms tired out after a while. Time passes by really fast and it is then lunch time! We had nasi lemak with spicy sambal sotong and delicious ayam kunyit. It was then time to go and I get to bring back the Christmas Santa Hat ( ho ho ho ). All in all, a great volunteer experience! =)

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what can i do to make this world a better place?

It so happened that I joined Tzu Chi’s charity event this morning and I am glad I did. Ban and I (non members) joined at JC’s invitation. Brief info: Tzu Chi is a volunteered-based non-governmental organization which focuses mostly on medical, education, environmental and humanitarian aid programs. That’s my take on it. So far, I have helped out at their recycling point a few times and this time, I will be volunteering in one of their charity events. What they do is to assist the needy by providing aid, be it in terms of medical, material or monetary aid.

We gathered at Tzu Chi’s Kelana Jaya Headquarter and put our shoes into a shoe cabinet. Other Tzu Chi members wore black socks with rounded solids at the base for added friction as the floors were smooth wooden panels. After registration, we went to our seats which are based on location. The chairs and tables are low and looks as though it is designed for kids. I assume that the low height serves as a reminder to be humble. We were introduced to one of the Tzu Chi seniors. They wore dark navy polo tees with white pants and have their hair tied up neatly in a bun. The other members wore a grey polo tee with white pants as well. There is a large white screen where the projector displays footages of previous Tzu Chi events.

The first 90 mins is a talk and some videos where they share a little about what they do, and discuss some of the practices. As mentioned earlier, they helped the poor and the needy by supplying aid in terms of monetary, material or medical aid. Learning from their past experiences, they would conduct follow up sessions to assess the recipients’ livelihood and welfare to determine if there is a need to increase, reduce or stop the subsidy. Besides providing help, they also try to comfort and encourage the recipients to improve themselves and help others once they can stand on their own feet.This was all said and done in Mandarin so it is quite difficult to understand at times. JC translated whenever he can but I got the gist of it.

Besides that, they also pointed out that this charity act is not so much about us helping the needy but rather, being thankful and blessed that we are able to help those in need.
We started and ended the talk with 3 salutations to the Buddha. Ban and I are placed with a senior tzu chi member group whereas JC is with another group. We were then given the Tzu Chi volunteer vest to wear. Our group of 5 headed to the first stop and the senior gave us a brief history of the person we will be visiting. Unfortunately, my shabby Mandarin could only pick up the bits and pieces and form a very vague idea. So, the guy lives alone in a rundown flat. I’ll skip his background.

Ban and I mostly observe while the most senior tzu chi member did most of the speaking. The tzu chi lady with us is a nurse and she was able to assess his health condition. How awesome! I had this idea of her as the medical ninja in the team. In case you are confused, I am referring to the Naruto anime/manga where every ninja team has a medical ninja who can assist to heal the wounded. So, the tzu chi senior mostly chatted about his health and welfare. Whenever the conversation topic turns negative, he will skillfully steer the conversation topic to something more positive and conducive. Such an admirable communication skill! After about 30 mins, we left and went back to the headquarter.

JC’s team was just about to leave so Ban and I joined his team. This time, we went to a house where a mother was worried sick about her son. Her son has a medical condition where he needs to be operated and she is afraid that he will not make it through the surgery. She broke down and wept as she shared her fears and described her son’s condition. The Tzu chi seniors mostly comforted her and asked about the family welfare. I honestly think that it is good that we have someone to pour out our worries and troubles. It has a cathartic effect where releasing it helps to calm one down. Having someone caring for your family in times of need is also quite healing, I would think. She requested repetitively that we pray for her son and we gave our assurances that we would. I sincerely wish that her family will be able to make it through this hardship.

We then met up with 3 other Tzu Chi seniors for lunch at a vegetarian place. Naturally, we shared our experiences and thoughts about today’s visit. To me, the experience is very eye opening and humbling. Seeing their house conditions, health state and poverty level makes me feel as though I am very healthy and wealthy. We really have to be thankful and grateful that our life has been good. Having observe the Tzu Chi seniors’ interaction with the people, I felt that I do not have a heart big enough to take in everything nor do I have the communication skills required. There is still so much to learn and I will be back for my second round. Hopefully, I can cultivate more empathy, compassion and loving-kindness in my interactions with anyone.

Sadhu sadhu sadhu.