Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

Jul 25th
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Home Charity Humanitarian Aid In South Australia -- I Saw the Face of Happiness

In South Australia -- I Saw the Face of Happiness

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For most of us, our face consists of normal healthy features, whether we are considered pretty or ugly.  But for fourteen year old teenager, Mahathir, it is a distant dream.  He was born with a very severe cleft palate that extends to his eyes, mouth and nose.  Even his oral cavity and teeth are such affected that indescribable pains are common occurrence.  When he was five years old, he came to Australia for his first surgery.  Nine years later, his attending surgeon still remembered him.  He visited Mahathir during a working trip to Singapore, and urged him to come to Australia for his second treatment.  Mahathir’s mother is a single parent with daily income of MYR10 (A$3.50) from a roadside stall.  With two kids to support, she already struggles to make ends meet.  Luckily, with the help of Tzu Chi Malaysia, their travelling expenses were provided for.  During their stay, Tzu Chi Australia would continue the support.  Thus, a relay of love between the northern and southern hemisphere unfolded.

Since their arrival in April, Tzu Chi Australia has taken on the responsibility of caring for the daily living of this family of three; from picking up at the airport to settling in their accommodation.  Though Tzu Chi has no presence in South Australia, when there is a will there is a way.  The Australian attending surgeon carefully planned preparation for him prior to his corrective surgery.  Orthodontic procedure was done on May 22, followed by a hernia repair operation 2 days later.  Surgery to his face was divided into two stages.  Stage 1 was performed in June which involved the part below his nose.  Bone graft was taken from his hip to replace his lower mandible.  Stage 2, which involves the part above his nose, will be done a year later.  The tumour currently affecting his eyes will be removed.  At present, it has completely blocked his right eye with only a slit of vision left in his left eye, which is his only visual link to the outside world.

The first two months after of his arrival were all spent on operations, orthodontics, and other treatments. One of the complications of bone graft from hip was severe pain in the back.  He had to support his back when he walked and stepped gingerly.  To cheer him up, the volunteers would bring him congee and audiotapes whenever they visited him.  Mahathir is a very polite child; he shakes hands with everyone he met and seems to be very optimistic.  He was not scared and was confident of the operations.  He appeared to have good self esteem and well adjusted as evident in his interaction and communication, and harmony with his family.  At present, he can take care of himself, but it is safer with his mother and sister around.  His sister, Farahin, 15 years old, is of school age.  We suggested that she could make use of this opportunity and learn English while she was in Australia and perhaps become an English teacher when she returns to Malaysia.  This was taken up by the principal of the language school, Sally Collyns, who agreed to help and allow her to study as long as needed.  The ripples of good deeds can make love infectious.  Sally joined rank with Tzu Chi because she was touched by the acts of love of our volunteers.  She planned to upload the story in her website to let more people know, so that more can be inspired to spread love around, creating a more peaceful society.

At 10 a.m., June 29, a gruelling ten hour operation was completed by the surgical team.  After the painful recovery from surgery causing facial swelling and disability to swallow, Mahathir and his family finally returned to Malaysia on July 20.  Before their departure, Tzu Chi volunteers brought flowers to the hospital to thank the medical and nursing staff.  When Mahathir was discharged from the hospital, Tzu Chi volunteers brought him many gifts; one of which was a Malay edition of Jing Si Aphorism. He and his family were very pleased with the gifts and blessings from the volunteers.  Over in Malaysia, the volunteers there were also looking forward to the home coming of Mahathir so that they could all share his joy.  Looking back, Tzu Chi’s first gathering in South Australia was on 4 May, 2003.  After seven years, it has rekindled because of Mahathir.  We hope this would continue and enable Tzu Chi to spread to Adelaide, making it our sixth branch in Australia.  We sincerely hope and pray that Mahathir has a speedy recovery, so that he can step forward for a new life with his new face of happiness.