“Come do recycling, be healthy, be worry-free!” The air was filled with joy as everyone chanted the catchy and powerful slogan, celebrating the opening of the Tzu Chi recycling centre at the Selangor King George V Silver Jubilee Fund Care Centre.
At the unique ribbon-cutting ceremony, long strings of PET bottles and aluminium cans took centre stage. Residents, guests, and volunteers alike enthusiastically stepped on these recyclables, creating a symphony of clicking sounds that echoed the spirited slogan of “Come do recycling, be healthy, be worry-free!”
This lively and heartwarming scene marked the opening of the Tzu Chi recycling centre at the Selangor King George V (SKGV) Silver Jubilee Fund Care Centre on June 11, 2023. The establishment of this recycling centre within an elderly home was a pioneering effort, offering the residents an opportunity to experience something different and meaningful while promoting environmental consciousness.
◎ A long-awaited wish comes true
“I am so touched that a recycling centre is finally set up here, after years of waiting,” expressed Dato’ Sri Yong Seng Yeow, SKGV trustee and executive committee chairman, during his heartfelt opening speech.
Reflecting on the history of this special home, established in 1937 to provide shelter for jobless and aged Chinese women, Dato’ Yong recalled the enduring commitment to caring for these elderly women without dependents, a commitment that remains steadfast even to this day.
While the material needs of the residents have been adequately met with contributions from the public, they inevitably experience feelings of loneliness and solitude in their hearts, having lived in the care centre for an extended period. Hence, when Dato’ Yong visited Taiwan in 2013 for a Tzu Chi event and witnessed some elderly joyfully engaging in recycling work and finding new meaning in life, an idea sparked. He was inspired to help the residents at the SKGV Silver Jubilee Fund Care Centre to lead a more meaningful and fulfilling life.
Upon his return to Malaysia, Dato’ Yong reached out to Tzu Chi KL & Selangor Chapter, expressing his wish for the volunteers to visit the care centre and provide care for the residents. He also dreamed of leading the residents in recycling work one day. In February 2014 and at Dato’ Yong’s invitation, Tzu Chi volunteers organised a get-together session to celebrate Chinese New Year with the residents. Since then, the volunteers have been visiting the care centre monthly, bringing the residents different activities during each visit.
Despite a 33-month hiatus starting in December 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the bond between the residents and the volunteers remained strong. When the visits resumed, the atmosphere was filled with gratitude and joy, as everyone cherished the reunion and moments together.
Dato’ Yong cherished the joy that the volunteers brought to the elderly residents during their monthly visits. However, he held an even deeper passion: he wished for the residents to have the opportunity to engage in recycling, especially because Master Cheng Yen has been emphasising the significance of environmental protection. In 2019, he discussed with the volunteers on the possibility of converting a storage room at the care centre into a dedicated space for recycling work.
However, after several discussions and planning sessions, they encountered challenges in materialising the idea due to space limitations. Subsequently, the plan was put on hold due to the onset of the pandemic. It was not until the end of 2021, when the pandemic situation had improved, that Dato’ Yong proposed a new approach to utilise the vacant land at the back of the care centre to establish the recycling centre.
Thanks to the involvement of a volunteer, who happened to be an architect, a design plan for the recycling centre came to fruition. Following the acquisition of the necessary permits, and with generous sponsorship of building materials and roof construction by Dato’ Yong’s contractor friend, along with the assistance of volunteers, the recycling centre was swiftly completed.
“This recycling centre is successfully established thanks to the selfless efforts of Tzu Chi volunteers. We also need their ongoing support to operate the centre and lead the residents in recycling activities,” expressed Dato’ Yong, with a radiant smile. He looks forward to visitors from the younger generations joining in the recycling work.
◎ A remarkable initiative for the planet
Balakong assemblyman Wong Siew Ki, who graced the opening ceremony, was gratified to witness the participation of the elderly residents throughout the opening ceremony and to know that they are well taken care of at the care centre.
She acknowledged and appreciated Tzu Chi volunteers’ pioneering effort in establishing a recycling centre within an elderly care centre, and commended them for setting an excellent and creative precedent with this meaningful initiative.
As aging is inevitable, Wong could not help but visualise her life during old age. She felt that it is important to have someone to provide care and rely on in one’s elderly years; and having the opportunity to contribute at this stage of life is even more precious.
She said, “Elderly people often have limited opportunities for activities and social interactions. Now, with the establishment of this recycling centre, the elderly residents have a dedicated space to engage in activities and learn. On one hand, it allows them to stay active, and on the other hand, it promotes lifelong learning, where they can learn about recycling and caring for the Earth, and pass on their love for the environment to future generations.”
She was touched seeing the elderly residents’ faces radiate with joy as they engaged in recyclable sorting under the guidance of the volunteers. She emphasised the importance of recycling, especially considering the alarming climate changes, unchecked land development, and rising trash levels. She firmly believes that active participation in recycling is essential to coexist harmoniously with the Earth.
She envisions a future where recycling centres are established in more old folks’ homes and orphanages across Selangor, fostering a heightened environmental consciousness and collective efforts towards sustainability.
◎ A lasting aspiration in recycling
At the opening ceremony, Tzu Chi volunteers demonstrated their creativity by attaching recyclable items like bottles, cans, paper, battery, clothes, and 3C products to a pair of long sleeves for easy explanation of the “Ten-Finger Mnemonic”, a formula for remembering the different types of recyclables. Among the attendees, 87-year-old Chan Yoke Lan was no stranger to these items. She said, “I am aware that all these items can be recycled and sold for money.”
As it turned out, before Grandma Chan moved into the care centre, she used to collect recyclables around Petaling Street and donate all the proceeds to an old folks’ home managed by Christian nuns. Hence, she was familiar with what items can be recycled and reused.
Despite her desire to join other attendees in stepping on the recyclables during the ribbon-cutting ceremony, her legs were too weak to do so. “I am aged, and I don’t have any family members. So, I can only stay here. I don’t even have the strength to step on the PET bottles now…,” Grandma Chan shared with some efforts, expressing a sense of loss. In response, the volunteers encouraged and comforted her, suggesting that she could still play a role by teaching other residents to segregate recyclables from waste, as some of them were still unfamiliar with that.
Instantly cheered up, Grandma Chan expressed that she had not forgotten about recycling. She would pick up recyclable items she came across in the care centre, including the cardboard cores of toilet paper rolls, and hand them over to the centre’s person-in-charge.
The establishment of the recycling centre brought back fond memories for Grandma Chan, of the time when she engaged in collecting recyclables for a charitable cause. With a slightly trembling voice, she exclaimed, “This is great! This is great! Come do recycling, to stay healthy and be worry-free!”
“This is my first time joining a Tzu Chi recycling activity, and I find it meaningful,” expressed Looi Seng Loong, who accompanied his father to the opening ceremony. He was pleasantly surprised to be inspired at the event.
His company had not only sponsored scrap materials to build the recycling centre, but also helped to construct the roof, providing shade and shelter for the elderly while they engage in recycling. He felt a sense of honour for his company’s involvement, and was deeply moved witnessing the residents, even those using wheelchairs or walking aids, fully embracing recycling and learning the sorting process from the volunteers. Reflecting on this experience, he said, “If these elderly are willing to do recycling, then the young ones like us should do it too, and do more.”
The sight of the elderly residents diligently learning to sort recyclables despite their age was a beautiful scene to behold. It left a lasting impression in everyone’s heart, reminding them to care for Mother Earth and contribute to a sustainable future.