Huge Turnout for 2010 Year-End Blessing despite Heavy Showers


The annual Year-End Blessing for Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore Branch) was held on Christmas Day at Kreta Ayer People's Theatre. More than 4000 Tzu Chi volunteers and supporters joyfully attended the four ceremonies held first time outside of Singapore branch office.

In a symbolic observance to illuminate the light within, Tzu Chi commissioners, each held up a Lotus lamp, motioned to the theatre with grace and reverence whilst the assembly sincerely prayed for a safe and peaceful year ahead. (Photo: Chua Teong Seng)

The huge attendance was a fruition of Singapore Tzu Chi volunteers after many years of reaching out to the local communities, especially in the aspect of community recycling which gave rise to the present 14 islandwide recycling points. (Photo: Chai Yu Leong)
More than 1000 volunteers attended the volunteers' session in the morning. (Photo: Chua Teong Seng)
Heavy downpours before the start of the last ceremony did not put off the guests' determination to make it to the Year-End Blessing. (Photo: O Kok Kin)
Attendants receiving the Blessing and Wisdom Red Envelope by Master Cheng Yen from Mr David Liu, the CEO of Tzu Chi Singapore. (Photo: O Kok Kin)
Graceful sign language performance by the Harmony Sign Language Team. (Photo: Khor Kim Seng)
Sim Chwee Hoon went back to her community to escort her donating members and families to Chinatown. (Photo: Douglas Lee)
Yeo Kim Ming and his friends each adopted a bamboo coin bank to start saving money for charity every day. (Photo: Chai Yu Leong)
Crowds gathered in front of the Da Ai Technology stall to check out the eco-fabric products. (Photo: Chua Teong Seng)

The Year-End Blessing is the most anticipated annual event among Tzu Chi people. Each year, Tzu Chi's founder, Master Cheng Yen, will utilize her only income derived from the copyright proceeds of her books for distribution of the "Blessing & Wisdom" red envelopes to volunteers and donating members of Tzu Chi Foundation worldwide as an expression of her gratitude for their support and contribution during the year.

The theme of this year's Year-End Blessing encapsulates the earnest call to everyone to conserve the environment and to purify our own mind to give rise to a favourable weather amidst this disaster-stricken era. As Master Cheng Yen often points out, the frequent disasters looming our Earth now originates from mankind's lavish exploitation on Earth's resources; the solution is to get everyone to adopt simple and environmentally-friendly lifestyles for the sake of a healthy environment for future generations. 

Tzu Chi's environmental mission is in its 20th year this year. During the past two decades, scores of Tzu Chi recycling volunteers and supporters have been advocating recycle, reuse, and reduce to help lighten the burden of the planet. Master Cheng Yen has been stressing lately that recycling is the most important responsibility of humankind as only when the environment is taken care of will the Four Elements be in equilibrium, and social stability and prosperity be possible.

Weather challenge tests hearts

In recent years, many residents became acquainted with Tzu Chi through its recycling activities and as they became more committed, the number of volunteers and donating members too expedited, making the space of Tzu Chi Singapore's Jing Si Hall insufficient to accommodate more participants. Hence, unlike previous years, the venue of the Year-End Blessing ceremonies is shifted to Kreta Ayer People's Theatre at Chinatown this year.

Falling on Christmas Day this year, the four blessing ceremonies – one in the morning dedicated for volunteers and three in the afternoon and evening for donating members and families – saw flocks of people arriving to pray for a safe and good year ahead. Shuttle service was provided to escort residents in various communities to the venue; many other carpooled or took public transport, all but to do their part to reduce carbon emissions.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating in the first afternoon ceremony. The volunteers quickly formed a sheltered path under the drizzle holding umbrellas for the guests.

When evening fell and thunder rolled, the volunteers began worrying “what if our guests decided not to come?”

Fortunately, the donating members and their families were undeterred by the heavy rain. The volunteers was very delighted at their appearance; no one bothered about getting wet under the slanting rain; everyone held tight to their umbrellas and sang the welcome song even louder than the rain to show their appreciation.

Mr He Zuo Zuan was one of the participants who were touched by the ceremony’s warm atmosphere and the hospitality of Tzu Chi volunteers. The doctor was full of praise of Tzu Chi’s Great Love philosophy and expressed his wish to volunteer with Tzu Chi’s free clinic service. Mr He also wished for world peace at the blessing ceremony and prayed that “there will be no more religious strife and every human being would treat one another with respect and equality”.

Community volunteers leading by example

After the volunteers’ session, Sim Chwee Hoon headed back to her community to escort more than 30 donating members and their families to Chinatown. Many among them have been following her to do recycling for a while.

Sim Chwee Hoon and her elder sister Chwee Guat run a family-style hair saloon together and are both Tzu Chi volunteers. Be it at home, in their saloon, or walking on the streets, the sisters make it a point to pick up and segregate recyclables whenever possible. When their neighbours commended their deeds, Chwee Guat simply replied: “It's nothing really. We’re simply doing this for the Earth. We have to cherish our Earth, don't we?”

The living room of their family-style saloon is always full of various Tzu Chi’s publication and news clippings while one of the rooms is set aside for storage of tidied recyclables. When there’s business, the sisters find pleasure in promoting Tzu Chi and the concept of recycling while serving their customers; when there’s no customer, they would sort the old newspapers, bottles, and cans brought in by neighbours and customers. Hairdressing and recycling simply became the most interchangeable part of their live.

When it comes to collecting monthly donation for Tzu Chi, Chwee Guat makes it a point to visit her donating members regardless of distance and time. “I just couldn’t bear to see their affinity with Tzu Chi stops,” reasoned the volunteer.

The two sisters now have more than 100 donating members altogether. “When I dress my customers’ hair, I’d tell them about Tzu Chi’s work, and many of them are willing to join Tzu Chi as donating member,” added Chwee Hoon. “With these continued contacts, they came to understand our Master’s philosophy and further shared it with their family members and even got them to join the line.”

Volunteering induced sense of gratefulness

Another Tzu Chi volunteer, Lim Rong, brought 20 of her donating members to the blessing ceremony. A young man named Yeo Kim Ming was among the procession. Yeo’s family members in Malaysia are all Tzu Chi volunteers while his elder brother and sister are members of the Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association. Yeo, being in his early youth, has been rebellious until he came to Singapore and met Lim Rong who brought him to volunteer at one of Tzu Chi's recycling points, where he found his life purpose.

Many young people would prefer to hang out late with friends on a Christmas Day but Yeo, who just completed volunteer training and got his grey Tzu Chi uniform, invited seven of his friends to attend the blessing ceremony with him instead. “Being with Tzu Chi taught me about gratefulness. Moreover, my parents are not so worrying about me knowing I’m part of Tzu Chi now.”

After the ceremony, Yeo’s friends expressed with one voice that they’re touched by what Tzu Chi has done and they intend to donate regularly to support its cause. The group of youths even adopted a bamboo coin bank each, hoping to remind themselves to save money for charity every day. They even decided to join Yeo to volunteer in future Tzu Chi activities! 

Inspiring friends & neighbours in community

Up on the screen, volunteer Low Siang Kheng was featured in the video recap of Tzu Chi Singapore’s activities in 2010, showing her doing recycling in front of her house. Off stage, Low was seen sitting together with her neighbours and donating members whom have been following her in doing recycling. Among them were her capable assistants Teo Lay Beng and Teo Lay Hoon.

The two sisters were very helpful to Low while she promotes recycling in their neighbourhood. Furthermore, the entire Teo family not only contribute to Tzu Chi monthly through donation and recycling work, they also introduce Tzu Chi to their friends and relatives, which touched Low deeply.

There were nine Teo family members who attended the blessing ceremony that day. Teo Lay Hoon, the younger sister, said that their family loves to participate in Tzu Chi’s activities because Tzu Chi volunteers are “very amiable and down to earth” and that the Buddha’s Day ceremony and Year-End Blessing ceremony organized by the Foundation are unique compared to other Buddhist organizations.

Her elder sister, Lay Beng, added, “Tzu Chi's recycling work is truly enjoyable to be part of. You'll know what I mean when you get down and do it yourself. ”

Indeed, community recycling has been an ideal "fortune field" that attracts people from all walks of life to come forward for the common good of the society and environment. Neighbours who previously only greeted one another with nods now share common topics on environmental conservation; with the increased interactions, everyone is no longer shy to show their loving-kindness with the sense of neighbourliness and unity gradually formed.

Bonding technology and humanity

Outside the theatre, guests were responding well to the promotion of eco-friendly and easy-to-bring utensils as well as eco-fabric products made from developed by Da Ai Technology Co. Ltd., a company established and ran in Taiwan by five Tzu Chi entrepreneurs with profits channelled to Tzu Chi’s charitable work.

"There's just so much variety! It's really surprising that recycled PET bottles can be reproduced into yarns to make these fabrics!" exclaimed a teacher named Wan Suet Yue who thinks that the creations are perfect teaching materials to inculcate environmental awareness amongst students. Ms Wan was very impressed by both the assortment and quality of the products and immediately purchased a few to bring back to show to her students.

As the New Year is approaching, the assembly of each blessing ceremonies prayed in unison that may all minds be purified, may the society be propitious and peaceful, and may the world be free of disasters and conflicts in the year ahead. Mr David Liu, CEO of Tzu Chi Singapore, was happy to see the huge turnout and harmonious ambience amidst the ceremonies. He commended the effort of all of the Singapore Tzu Chi volunteers and urged all to spur one another on towards upholding the spirit of Jing Si Principles and walking the path of Tzu Chi diligently.

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