In light of the high number of Covid-19 cases, the Government imposed stricter lockdown in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, in an effort to break the transmission chains. As a result of the movement restrictions, 2,450 low-income households in eight localities were at risk of having no food. Learning of their plight, Tzu Chi reached out to them with a week’s food supplies.
A sudden enhanced movement control order (EMCO) imposed on 16 localities in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor from July 3 to 16, 2021, further jeopardized some families who were already struggling to put food on the table.
In the evening of July 4, Tzu Chi KL & Selangor learnt that 2,450 households in eight localities under EMCO, namely Sri Semarak People’s Housing Project (PPR), Kampung Baru Air Panas PPR, Kampung Padang Balang, Kampung Puah, Taman Koperasi Polis (Phase 1), Wangsa Maju Section 1 Flat, Wangsa Maju Section 2 Flat and Desa Pandan 2 Flat, were running out of food supplies. Most of the residents here are low-income daily wage earners. This EMCO means no work and thus no income for them.
After confirming the actual situation with the Kuala Lumpur Social Welfare Department (KL SWD), the CEO of Tzu Chi KL & Selangor and the team had an emergency meeting, and decided to first distribute one week’s food and daily supplies to these families through the KL SWD, while the Government worked out the relief assistance. Immediately after the meeting, the team made arrangements for purchases and transportation of the goods, as well as volunteers staying in the vicinity of the KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall for packing of relief supplies the very next day.
Each set of the relief supplies contains rice, rice vermicelli, flour, sugar, salt, soy sauce, cooking oil, canned baked beans in tomato sauce, condensed milk, coffee and tea. Other supplies, such as baby and adult diapers, baby milk powder and sanitary napkins, were also prepared for the SWD to distribute separately to families who need them.
Bags of relief supplies filled with love
The initial arrangement was for 30 volunteers who have received at least their first dose of Covid-19 vaccines to help with the packing. However, some 50 volunteers responded to the call and turned up at the Jing Si Hall on July 5. All shared the same mission, that is, to deliver the relief supplies to the needy families in the shortest possible time.
At 2 pm, goods started to arrive at the Jing Si Hall in batches. Due to the short notice the supermarket was unable to deliver the goods expediently. A volunteer had to utilize his own company truck to speed up the process. Upon learning the purpose of the purchase, Serba Wangi, a rice wholesaler company, donated 450 bags and offered a special price for the rest of the 2,000 bags of rice.
Despite all the efforts, the delivery of some goods was delayed due to an unexpected downpour in the afternoon. Nonetheless, the volunteers still managed to rush 700 sets of relief supplies to the KL SWD before the 8 pm curfew. The timely assistance from Tzu Chi in easing the predicament of affected families was deeply appreciated by the KL SWD.
Shearil Nadia, a personnel of KL SWD informed that although many NGOs had sent goods over, the supplies were still insufficient to meet the current demand. She explained, “We hope that all the families will receive equal supplies. I did not expect Tzu Chi to get 2,450 sets of relief supplies ready in just one day. I am touched and thankful. With assistance from Tzu Chi and other charitable organizations, we know that we are not alone in this. There are many people across the country who care for the disadvantaged groups. We are all working together to reach out to them. This gives us more courage and hope to fight on for the needy families.”
On July 6, some 40 volunteers continued with the sorting and packing of the relief supplies. After another half day’s work, the rest of the relief supplies were finally sent to the KL SWD temporary relief supply gathering point in a few truck trips. In response to the affected families’ dire needs, the relief supplies were promptly transferred to the Malaysia Civil Defence Force truck for delivery and distribution by personnel fully geared in personal protective equipment.
It is a blessing to give
Sixty-four-year-old volunteer Low Soo Lan was one of the volunteers who had contributed to this mission. As a senior citizen, which puts her at a higher risk of succumbing to Covid-19, she has little chance to volunteer during this period. For example, she was ineligible to serve at the vaccination centre at Jing Si Hall although she had wished to. Although she appreciates that she has more time to learn the Dharma, she longs to serve physically, as that will make her feel more grounded.
She was thankful that the opportunity finally came, and was delighted seeing so many familiar faces again despite the social distancing. To her, it is a blessing to be able to serve as a Tzu Chi volunteer. She is not worried over the physical fatigue for she can just get a good night’s sleep to replenish her energy.
Volunteers Zoe Low Siew Hong and her spouse, were also helping out at the Jing Si Hall. Zoe shared that the pandemic has been a great blow to their beauty business. “We have been suffering losses in these two years, but my husband said instead of worrying about our career, let us grab the opportunity to contribute.”
They saw it as a blessing to be able to give of themselves. Moreover, they knew that the positive vibes at Tzu Chi would sweep away the troubles in their minds.
A middle-aged volunteer, Yap Tien See, who recently suffered a relapse of third stage lung cancer, also seized the opportunity to contribute his effort. He said, “I must actively contribute while I am still able to. I hope these relief supplies can reach the needy families soonest possible.”
Whenever help is needed, Tzu Chi will not hesitate to render assistance in the spirit of humanity and Great Love. To quote Shearil, “This help garnered from many (kind souls) will allow these families to subsist.” Let us continue to light up hope amidst this gloomy pandemic. We will weather the storm, hand in hand.