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Burying the helpless for two decades

  • Tan has buried nearly 100 people during the past two decades. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • Tan shows off the pictures of him taking part in various activities. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • Tan keeps detailed records of people he has buried. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • The wall of his coffee shop is adorned with certificates of appreciation from hospitals, old folks homes and various associations. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

Hulu Selangor, Sept 18 (Sin Chew Daily) -- Tan Sew Sewan, better known by the residents of Kuala Kubu Bharu as Mr Tan, is not only the second generation owner of 99-year-old Sun Sun Nam Cheong Coffee Shop, but is also a very helpful man.

The wall of his shop is adorned with certificates of appreciation from hospitals, old folks homes and various associations.

As the coffee shop is only open for half a day, the 73-year-old will still take part in all sorts of activities after the shop is closed.

Burying the helpless

Besides volunteering at old folks homes and shelters for the disabled, Tan also helps out at the local hospital and was once the Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation (MCPF) Hulu Selangor district branch chairman as well as chairman of Hulu Selangor Retired Police Association.

In addition, Tan also has a very unusual identity, as the burier of helpless departed.

He came to realize that there were many people needing his help during an alms-giving event organized by Chempaka Buddhist Lodge in 1989.

He told Sin Chew Daily, when the old people at the old folks home passed away, the remain would be wrapped in a simple white cloth before burial as no one would sponsor a coffin.

Tan decided in 1993 that he would take out his own money to buy coffins for these helpless people and help handle their funerals.

“Some of them did not have families. Others had but they might be far away or overseas or unable to be contacted. So I would bury them first.

“When their families later went to the old folks home to visit them, they would be told to look for me, and I would check my records and take them to the cemetery.”

Sponsorship of expenses

With more and more old folks homes and disability centers coming to him for help, Tan found himself unable to bear all the expenses. Fortunately Chempaka Buddhist Lodge promised to sponsor him so that he could carry on with the good work.

He took out from his drawer a book that keeps all the records of the 96 people he had buried, including a two-year-old child who died at a home for the disabled.

“Sometimes Orang Asli also will come to me to sponsor a coffin, and I will still help them although I will only help Chinese families with funeral services according to their religions.”

Tan always helps patrol the old folks homes to ensure the safety of the inmates and help the old folks homes look for sponsors to upgrade their facilities. Sometimes, he also helps deliver food to old people who are living alone.

“I have been doing this for 20 years now, but as I can't find someone to take over the work, I will keep doing this for as long as I am able to.”


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