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The reborn of a former street wanderer

  • From a dirty street wanderer, Xi-le has transformed into a social worker with ready smiles. She is holding the Metro news clipping which reported on her plight in 2003. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • Being skillful at folding clothes, Xi-le can complete the task very quickly and neatly. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • Xi-le especially loves it when people hug her, show her warmth and care. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

Translated by Chan Li Lin
Sin Chew Daily

Her name is Xi-le, a very warm name indeed as it means happiness and joy in English.

In her life, the days of joy appear to be far far away but at the same time, she seems to be having all of them in her heart.

She is a 38 year-old mentally-challenged woman, who had been abandoned by her family and met with unfortunate events when she was a street wanderer. In the darkest period of her life, she met her saviour Wendy Yap, the person in charge of Kajang’s Rumah Caring and who would eventually lead her out of a miserable life.

Under the guidance of Yap, Xi-le, who is fondly called Ah Yu in Rumah Caring, has changed a lot. Though Xi-le still loses her temper regularly, tends to toss and break things, as well as shouts at others, Yap knows that Xi-le has been improving as a person.

Sleeping on Kajang pedestrian bridge

Compared with eight years ago, the reborn Xi-le is now a healthy woman featuring fair skin with reddish tone. She had abandoned her previous rude behaviour and made it a habit to sit with her legs crossed in the presence of people, or even when she is alone.

Xi-le first met Yap at end of 2003 when she was 30 years old. At that time, she was homeless and stayed on the Kajang pedestrian bridge.

As she had not taken bath for several days, her body was covered with dirt while her disheveled hair had a bad odour. Wearing a loose shirt, many pedestrian had mistaken her for a man.

One day, a pedestrian discovered that she had been harassed and treated terribly by a drunken man. The pedestrian immediately sought help from a Metro reporter, who contacted Yap, a social worker serving the area. Subsequently, Xi-le was saved from the living hell.

Yap can still vividly remember the first time she met Xi-le because she was happily having a birthday celebration with her family in a restaurant on that day.

After receiving the reporter’s call, Yap rushed to the scene. Her first impression of Xi-le was that she looked like a man.

“I still remember Xi-le was my first passenger as I just got the key to my second-hand car at that time. After arriving at the welfare home, I spent almost two hours removing and washing away dirt from her body.”

Putting in efforts to change bad habits

Yap later sent Xi-le to another welfare centre, where she also worked. In the centre, Yap put in a lot of efforts to take care of the physical and psychological health of Xi-le.

Firstly, Yap wanted Xi-le get rid of her rude attitude and taught her the basic etiquettes of a woman, including sitting posture and the way to communicate properly.

At that time, Xi-le was clueless about the basic knowledge of being a woman. She didn’t know how to use sanitary pads and wear undergarments. She would speak loudly and when she sat down, she opened up her legs. Worse still, she was easily irritated and threw temper tantrums regularly without any reason. Therefore, she couldn’t get along well with other people.

Having over a decade of experience as a social worker, Yap didn’t give up on Xi-le. Instead, she used various methods to teach and guide Xi-le.

For Yap, there are no secrets or shortcuts to interacting with Xi-le or others with disabilities. According to her, only by putting in efforts to get to know them can we understand the different behaviours of each individual.

“Xi-le is no different from a sheet of white paper and her world is very simple. She throws things around and kicks the doors to show her unhappiness. Sometimes, she even shouts at and scolds others for several hours in a row. As a result, many people around her find the behaviour intolerable and hate her. In fact, you only need to go to her, gently stroke her head, give her a hug or some compliments to appease her,” Yap said.

As a social worker, patience and the attitude of doing things whole-heartedly have been the secrets of Yap. She still holds on to the values after she founded Rumah Caring. She never questions the residents’ past and she is concerned about whether they manage to stay comfortable in the future.

Carnival on July 31 to raise fund for new centre

On July 31 (Sunday), Rumah Caring will hold a fundraising carnival at Kajang’s Metro Plaza so that money can be raised to fund the construction of a new welfare centre. Yap calls on kind-hearted individuals and companies to sponsor items for sale so that the dream of Rumah Caring having its own building can be realized in near future.

Rumah Caring now occupies two double-storey lots measuring 4,200 square feet in Taman Muhibbah, Kajang. Currently, three social workers and 28 residents, including five mentally-challenged adults, are staying in the welfare home.

As the limited space of Rumah Caring can no longer accommodate additional needy old folk and orphans, Yap wishes that people with a golden heart can donate a tract of land at Ulu Langat, on which the new welfare centre will be built in the future.

Xi-le starting to show concern for others

Not only does Yap feel comforted over the changes made by Xi-le in the past few years, but she also feels a sense of satisfaction. She is especially touched when she discovered that Xi-le has started to show concern for others. Earlier when Rumah Caring was facing a shortage of manpower, Xi-le took the initiative to help with the chores, as well as take care of the elderly residents in the home.

“If I’m said to have saved her, then she is saving me at the moment. In the past, I took care of Xi-le but when Rumah Caring is in trouble, Xi-le is the one who lends a helping hand to overcome the crisis.”

Apparently, it turns out that the maid undertaking the task of caring for the elderly had run away several months ago. Due to insufficient fund, the home couldn’t afford to hire another maid and thus, Yap was caught in the wrong foot. At that time, Xi-le started to help with some chores, take care of residents who became ill, as well as shower old residents who couldn’t move around easily.

Xi-le is especially skillful at folding clothes as she is able to do it very quickly and neatly. Every evening, she washes and folds the clothes before returning them to respective wardrobes.

It is learnt that Xi-le’s parents had passed away a very long time ago and she was brought up by her maternal grandmother. Yap is treating Xi-le like her own family members, saying that they are just like a pair of sisters. “Rumah Caring is my home, it is hers too,” said Yap.

“3107 Caring carnival”
Date: July 31 (Sunday)
Time: 10am-4pm
Venue: Metro Plaza, Kajang
Programmes: Performances involving local singer, lion dance, dance, kung fu and harmonica
Objective: Raising fund for Rumah Caring (currently houses 28 senior citizens aged between 50 and 92, four mentally-challenged adults and a 13 year-old mentally-challenged kid)
Contact: Wendy Yap 012-238 0043

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