On 3rd November 2019, Tzu Chi volunteers in Singapore were especially busy, conducting charity home visits in the morning and holding the annual Deepavali celebration for their Hindu aid beneficiaries in the afternoon.
At Tzu Chi’s Jing Si Hall in Pasir Ris, many people posed for photos with the colourful Rangoli art display on the floor at the lobby as lively and upbeat music filled the space, imbuing the atmosphere with a joyous, festive spirit. The Indian guests were all clad in their beautiful traditional costumes, with happy smiles on their faces.
“You invited us to the Deepavali celebration every year, so we must come here and give our support. We also have a chance to see Master Cheng Yen (Tzu Chi’s founder),” said Ganesan.
Accompanied by volunteers, he and his wife came to attend the Deepavali celebration at the Jing Si Hall every year with their daughter, who suffers from cerebral palsy.
Ganesan was unable to work after undergoing a heart bypass surgery and the family subsequently fell into financial straits. They were even short of food supplies for a period of time, during which they could only afford a meal of instant noodles a day. Their debt and loan payments were a heavy burden to them, causing them to fall into despair.
Ganesan’s wife recalled how touched she was when she met Tzu Chi volunteers for the first time. She shared that her family situation was really dire two years ago, but after receiving Tzu Chi’s help, they were able to lessen their financial burden, and their lives took a turn for the better.
Currently, Ganesan’s condition has stabilised, and he has started working to earn an income. As the couple’s financial situation improved, they adopted a Tzu Chi Bamboo Coin Bank to save up and help others in need. Ganesan was grateful for the help he had received during the difficult time, and he said that now, he hoped to save a dollar a day (in the coin bank) to donate to the needy.
The first item of the day was a traditional Indian dance performed by children aged 7 to 12 years old. Their dance teacher, Selvi Sanjeev Kumar, was very happy to see their well-rehearsed performance. Heavily pregnant, with her baby due for delivery in four days, she shared that she had prayed hard that she would be able to attend this event as she really wished to watch the programme and see the volunteers as well as the charity work they do.
More than ten years ago, Selvi came to live in Singapore with her husband from India. At that time, she was pregnant with their third child. However, her family sank into hard times and her savings ran dry after paying for some of her prenatal expenses. As she was unable to afford her bills incurred at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, the latter referred her case to Tzu Chi.
During their monthly care visits to Selvi, Tzu Chi volunteers discovered how financially strained she was and sensed her anxiety and worries. Thus, they helped her apply for living allowances from the Foundation.
“Previously, I would be worried about paying for my prenatal checkups. But now, I can go for my checkups with a peace of mind.”
She added that she was able to feel at ease, because she knew that Tzu Chi was always there to help her when she needed assistance.
Another aid beneficiary, Komathy, openly share her life story with the audience. Appearing rather cheerful and upbeat onstage, she said that she actually contracted kidney disease over ten years ago and underwent a kidney transplant in 2016, with the hope that it would be a cure for her illness.
Unexpectedly, her body experienced symptoms of organ transplant rejection and this brought her much despair. She was often crying and suffered from depression for some time, refusing to continue her dialysis treatment. She revealed that she was easily agitated and angered at that time and hardly went out of her home in the last three years.
This year, she finally accepts her condition and has started to undergo treatment again. Thus, her health gradually improved.
“The weekly cost of my dialysis treatment is equivalent to my husband’s monthly salary,” she revealed.
She has applied for subsidies from the government, and while waiting for the aid, Tzu Chi stepped in to cover part of her medical expenses.
A teenage girl and boy came onto the stage to perform a courting dance, which won a rousing applause from the audience. The dancers are actually siblings. 18-year-old alder brother, Shanmuga Piriya, specially chose his mother, Selvi Maniam’s favourite song for the dance, and his wheelchair-bound father was also present to watch his children perform.
Maniam started receiving medical subsidies from Tzu Chi last year. She said that she felt more at ease now as she knew that she was not alone, because Tzu Chi would be there to care for her and help her.
One day, when she mentioned Tzu Chi to her son, the latter recalled that he had received meal and transport allowances from the Foundation before, ten years ago. The teenager was filled with gratitude and very happy to reunite with the organisation on this day.
“Tzu Chi’s help gave me a happy childhood as I didn’t have to go hungry then,” he said happily.
As the event came to a close, the volunteers gave each attendee a lit lamp, symbolising passing on the light to everyone. As everyone held the lamp in their hands, they sang the heartwarming Tzu Chi song, “Love and Care”, and sincerely prayed for all to be free of suffering and for joy and hope for the world.