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A Better Future Awaits

It may take time to overcome hardship. However, with support and company from others, it may feel less overwhelming and more hopeful that a better future awaits.
Puaneswaran and his mother, Hemah, felt that his education path would have been much harder without the support from Tzu Chi. Puaneswaran is seen here showing a certificate of the Tzu Chi Study & Awards Scheme presented to him when he was in Primary 5. [Photo by Low Siew Lian]

In October 2022, when universities and colleges in Malaysia were welcoming their new students, Hemah a/p Manugaran was struggling to fork out extra money for his 19-year-old son, Puaneswaran a/l Arumugam, who would report to Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) in Johor.

Albeit feeling proud of her son, she faced financial constraints and had no time to accompany her son to prepare for his enrolment. She could not help but asked a volunteer who rang her up: “I have no idea what to prepare. Can aunty volunteer help me?”

The “aunty” volunteer she mentioned was Lee Chew Yee. Upon learning that Puaneswaran had only two sets of clothes, Chew Yee quickly invited volunteer Ng Ton Leong to drive Puaneswaran from Alor Gajah, which is 21 km away, to the Tzu Chi Ayer Keroh Recycling-cum-Education Centre to choose some clothing from the pre-loved item section.

After selecting a few shirts, t-shirts and jeans for him, volunteers took him to town to buy him trousers, black shoes and other items. Three days later on October 8, volunteers brought him necessities, like multi-purpose boiler, iron, bedsheet and luggage bag, which they managed to find for him after much effort.

Puaneswaran expressed that without the volunteers’ help, he would probably just report to the university first and get what he needed after his PTPTN loan application is approved. “But then, it may cost me a lot,” he said.

Volunteers brought Puaneswaran to the pre-loved item section at the Tzu Chi recycling centre, where he picked some clothing items to bring to the university. [Photo by Low Siew Lian]

◎ Facing the sun

Hemah originally lived in Tangkak, Johor. After her marriage ended in divorce, and troubled by her ex-husband, she took her three children to live in the suburb of Alor Gajah, Malacca, in early 2018.

It was a fenceless house with leaking roof, a missing main door, and surrounded by overgrown weeds. Hemah borrowed some money from her friend to rebuild a wooden door in monthly instalments, and moved in after a hurried clean. They lived there for a year.

Puaneswaran took the volunteers to visit the fenceless old house he once lived in. [Photo by Low Siew Lian]

Back then, Puaneswaran was in Form 3, and he felt for his mother’s hard work. He would often have only breakfast and starve until he went home for dinner. This way, he could save his RM1 pocket money to buy reference books. Thankfully, some good friends knew of his situation and would share meals with him after school or invite him to their homes for revision.

Chew Yee recalled that she only managed to meet Hemah on her second visit. At that time, they waited until 8.30 p.m. to finally see Hemah coming home on a motorcycle. There was only a lamp with faint-yellow light in the house, and the dim atmosphere gave an eerie feeling. As it turned out, not only did the family live in a harsh environment and lack food, but they also had long-overdue debts. Their dire situation pained the volunteers, who then swiftly brought them emergency material supplies.

As Diwali was approaching, volunteers delivered a gift box to Hemah’s family to share in the festive joy. [Photo by Hong Geok Hui]

With assistance from Tzu Chi, the family rented and relocated to the opposite house. They finally had a place that felt like home with mattresses, tables, chairs and other items that the volunteers later delivered to them. Following that, the volunteers advised Hemah to plan her finances so that she could settle her rental and utility bills in time. They also helped her children to apply for the Tzu Chi Study & Awards Scheme since 2019.

Even after the family’s conditions had improved, the volunteers continued to pay them monthly visit, and extended help as needed. When they found that she had outstanding utility bills for months, they silently increased the subsidy. They also sent the family food supplies during the MCO, and worked together with the teachers to bring them a second-hand computer, a free mobile phone, data SIM cards, and so on, to enable the children to attend online classes smoothly. 

Volunteer Lee Chew Yee, who has been caring for Hemah’s family, encouraged Puaneswaran, who was going to the university, to study hard and turn his family’s situation around through education. [Photo by Low Siew Lian]
Volunteers brought a luggage bag and some necessities to Puaneswaran, besides arranging the transportation to send him to the university. [Photo Low Siew Lian]


In 2021, Puaneswaran was offered a matriculation course in mechanical engineering with his excellent results of 7As and 3Bs in the SPM examination. A year later, with a CGPA of 3.75, he successfully enrolled in UTM to study petroleum engineering. Volunteers helped him with the preparation, applied for a one-off allowance for him, and arranged for his transportation to the university. 


Puaneswaran said that his education path would have been much harder without Tzu Chi. Feeling grateful, his mother reminded him to reciprocate the kindness when he can.

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