Selasa, 07 Oktober 2008

Who is Pak Ben(jamin) Chai??

MERCY Malaysia, Miri Chapter
Monday, 07 January 2008
Eastern Times
7 January 2008

By Jennie Soh

As a volunteer for Mercy Malaysia, Miri Chapter, I am very impressed by Benjamin Chai’s commitment towards his spirit of volunteerism. He could have just retired and not mind about other people’s business but he has a great deal of compassion for the people in the rural areas. The same goes to the founder, Datuk Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, who risked her life for mankind.

Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation of 28 million comprising different races - Malays, Chinese, Indians and 27 other ethnic groups in Sarawak. Malaysia is blessed with political and social stability and is a fast developing economy. We are very fortunate not to face any major disasters like famine, earthquake, typhoon, war or riots. Natural disasters and poverty are challenges for many people in various parts of the world today. Malaysians in general are very fortunate to be living in a peaceful country despite the different racial and ethnic groups. Malaysia is proud to have Mercy Malaysia Miri Chapter, headed by Benjamin Chai from Miri. He is well known for his generosity in sacrificing his time. He has made Mercy Malaysia, Miri Chapter an eye opener for many people in Miri, Kuching and even Kuala Lumpur to come and offer medical relief to the rural areas in the northern part of Sarawak.

The founder of Mercy Malaysia
When war broke out in Kosovo in 1999, many innocent civilians, especially women and children, suffered. Grieved by the inhuman act of ethnic cleansing unleashed by the minority Serbs, Datuk Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, an obstetrics-gynaecologist, took the initiative to offer her medical services voluntarily. However, she faced a lot of problems in getting support from other established organisations. But she did not give up hope. She and a few like-minded individuals established the Malaysia Medical Relief Society, better known as Mercy Malaysia in June 1999. Jemilah led the first aid mission to Kosovo which was followed by four consecutive missions. The team was made up of Malaysian medical professionals who were willing to sacrifice their time and life to go to a war-torn country thousands of miles away to offer a helping hand. They did not know what to expect but their passion was to help heal the wounds of the innocents. Their compassion was a true sign of inner strength and courage that kept them going withoutrealising that their lives were in danger. This was indeed an inspiration to the people of Malaysia. Although MERCY Malaysia began as a medical relief society, volunteers from other fields and backgrounds soon became a part of the society. This enabled Mercy Malaysia to offer humanitarian relief and to-date, start meaningful projects and programmes in the forms of vocational training centres, food programmes and other humanitarian aid that had become an important aspect of work within Malaysia.

The man behind the scene
Benjamin Chai came from Kuching. He was working as a Hospital Assistant and was transferred to Miri 40 years ago. He settled down in Miri and had been very much involved in medical relief work in the interior areas of Sarawak. Benjamin Chai, 63, has inherited his father and grandfather’s family culture of doing community service. He was introduced to MERCY Malaysia by Dr. Heng Aik Chong in 2002. He signed up as a volunteer and, at his own expenses, served in the international relief mission including Afghanistan war zone, earthquake disaster in Barn, Iran, typhoon disaster in Infanta, tsunami in Philippines and Sri Lanka and Aceh. After his exposure to international missions, he came back and set up the Mercy Malaysia, Miri Chapter, in 2003. The first mission launched was to Long Bedian. Mercy Malaysia, Miri Chapter has its office at No. 54, Paisau Garden, Miri. It is managed by a full-time staffer, Miss Rita Fazline Binti Awang who has a degree in Human Resource Development. It is a challenging job and very meaningful to her, to be able to serve the community.

There are over 20 active volunteers from Kuching, Sibu, Kota Kinabalu, Tawau and West Malaysia. He also gets very good support from the local community, particularly the Pharmacy Department, the Dental Department and the nurses from Miri General Hospital under the leadership of Dr. Uma Devi that made up the basic support team. Other volunteers come from different ethnic groups of other NGOs or individuals from various professions. One of the most committed volunteers is Dr. Tan Eik Wooi, a young medical doctor from Johor Bahru. Despite his heavy duty schedule, he took time off to help out in most of the mission trips. The others are Matron Veronica Wong, a dedicated dental nurse who worked for long hours, and Frances Fam from the Pharmacy Department who prescribes medicine with a lot of patience and dedication in these voluntary assignments. Mercy Malaysia Miri Chapter never had any problem with shortage of volunteers. Some have to wait for their turn as priorities are given to medical staff and the response is overwhelming. I was lucky to join a mission trip to Long Lellang in March, 2007 and a recent one to Long Bedian from November 8 to 11, 2007.

Financial support
For each mission, Mercy Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur and Pharmaniaga have been very supportive in giving financial aids to all the mission trips organised by Benjamin. Each mission costs about RM10,000 for medical supplies, transportation and food. Chai Chin Khiong and his assistant, Marcus Lee from Jee Kwong, gave free prescriptions of glasses. Other donations in kind were in the form of used clothes, toys and cash which came from individuals and volunteers themselves. Support also came in formerly from FAX who provided free transportation during one of the mission trips to Long Lellang. Hopefully, MasWings can continue to support Mercy Malaysia to bring more benefit to the people in the interior regions.

Mission trips
Since its foundation, Mercy Malaysia, Miri Chapter, has completed 12 mission trips and nine special projects which included support for family with invalid mothers, two fire relief funds at Long San and Sungei Nak, pre-schools for penans in Long Lellang and Long Main, Family Adoption and Flood Relief activities in Long Panai and long Bemang, mission trip to Long Bedian. Each mission usually takes two days of travel and two days’ clinical work. Before each mission, Benjamin Chai would personally check every village for basic needs, the accommodation, water, toilet facilities, etc. Before the trip, every volunteer would be expected to attend the briefing and to be clear about what to expect. Medical supplies were already pre-packed, including food supplies and even their own cooking utensils. One mission trip would usually have three medical doctors, two dental doctors, one or two eye specialists and non-medical volunteers as support team to make up at least 20 in a group. The mission’s main objective is to bring awareness of health-care and basic personal hygiene to the children and the villagers. Patients could number from 100 to 300 per day. Clinics are usually set up early in the morning for two days and the workflow set-up is as follows:-

Registration (usually 2 or 3 non-medical staff to record personal data, give patients numbers to queue for the doctors to attend to them.)
Medical Department (1 or 2 doctors would be stationed, taking turns to serve)
Eye Department (2 eye specialists to test and give prescriptions)
Dental Department (2 dental surgeons)
Pharmacy Department (usually 2 to attend, to prescribe and to explain)
Donation Department (Non-medical volunteer to distribute toys and clothing to the villagers)

What does Mercy Malaysia Miri Chapter need now?
A shelter near the Miri Hospital. This is an urgent need for the people from the interior coming to Miri Hospital. Benjamin Chai has already started discussing with a big private corporation in Miri in connection with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). What is needed is a house with rooms, kitchens and basic facilities like beds for people from the rural areas, especially when their loved ones are being hospitalized. The main problem the Penans and other ethnic groups from various rural areas face is that the jungle tracks they use may not be passable through rainy seasons. Thus, a shelter is really needed if these patients have to come back to the hospital for regular follow-ups checks so that their family members have a place to stay for a while.

‘God sent gift’
The arrival of Mercy Malaysia Miri Chapter to each village is like a “God sent gift.” If every individual can commit a little time to get involved or contribute a little financial aid to Mercy Malaysia Miri Chapter, you can put a smile on each child or each individual in need of help. As one volunteer said, “It’s an eye opener when you find that there are still many out there in need of help. You can appreciate life better when you help others and realise the luxuries we are so accustomed to in our daily lives are not within the reach of many in society.” Volunteers for Mercy Malaysia from various professions and different ethnic groups have established a bond of friendship and good teamwork besides having fun towards the end of the day. And they keep coming back for more mission trips. “One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the lives of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion”, a saying goes.

Mercy Malaysia Miri Chapter, being a non-profit organisation, depends solely on donations in kind or cash. Those who wish to contribute can contact the following address :-

Rita Fazlin Binti Awang
MMSC Base Camp Miri
54 Piasau Garden, 98000 Miri
Office Phone/ Fax :085-663000

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