Shopping for Sugar Donations in Sunny Singapore’s Shopping Hub


During the yearly Great Love Charity Fair of Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore Branch), the Tzu Chi youth volunteers are often responsible for promoting environmentalism and demonstrating how to produce DIY eco-enzyme, among other things, at the exhibition area. To prepare for the event, the youths ventured into business districts to seek donation of brown sugar (an ingredient of the enzyme) from grocery shops. Much to their surprise, they hit their target within merely half an hour!

(Photo: Zhou Wei Chao)

Many shop owners responded favourably with their donations. (Photo: Zhou Wei Chao)
Apart from soliciting brown sugar from the shop owners, Tzu Chings also took the opportunity to publicize the charity fair and the advantages of the eco-enzyme. (Photo: Ou Yang Wei Wei)
The Tzu Chings posed for a picture after achieving their target. (Photo: Ou Yang Wei Wei)

This year's Tzu Chi Great Love Charity Fair is scheduled to be held on 15 and 16 Jan 2011.

While brown sugar is an ingredient of the eco-enzyme, to prepare for their booth demonstration in advance, the Tzu Chi youth volunteers, or Tzu Chings ('Ching' means youth), decided to seek donation of brown sugar from grocery shops prior to the charity fair.

Although brown sugar does not cost much actually, the main purpose of the Tzu Chings was to inspire the public to be philanthropic at the same time, to promote the charity fair to the masses. In the morning of 18 Dec 2010, a beautiful Saturday, 16 Tzu Chings gathered outside Bugis MRT station first before setting off on their mission in groups. Every one of them was seen holding copies of the Tzu Chi magazine and bottles of eco-enzyme to be given away to the shop owners as tokens of appreciation.

At the first grocery shop they visited, after having introduced themselves to the lady shop owner, the Tzu Chings told her the objective of the donation drive and introduced the charity fair to her.

The shop owner was very enthusiastic and volunteered to donate 10kg of brown sugar. Bearing in mind that their main purpose was however to inspire kind thoughts in the public, the Tzu Chings accepted only 2kg of brown sugar from the shop.

While conversing with the shop owner, they learnt that she had heard of Tzu Chi before, and her friend had even given her the enzyme to try out. She also happily gave an instruction sheet for eco-enzyme making to the team.

Next door, at the dried seafood wholesale shop, though not carrying any brown sugar, the lady shop owner pressed on and asked if the Tzu Chings needed anything from her shop. The team was extremely touched by the philanthropic intention manifested by the shop owner though they couldn't get what they need from the shop,.

The teams of Tzu Ching continued to come across such enthusiasm from the many shops they visited subsequently. Most shop owners would pay attention to the Tzu Chings' explanation; some even stopped their busy work totally to lend their ears.

At one shop, due to the large number of customers, the shop owner took out 1kg of dark brown sugar right away without hesitation. At one point when he could take a break, he turned his head to ask the Tzu Chings what activity they are going to use the sugar in. His friendly smile lent strength to the team and helped dispel their tiredness. A granny at the shop was very supportive of promoting the making of eco-enzyme ever since she tried using it in a camp she participated in. She also shared her experience of using the eco-enzyme with the Tzu Chings, recognizing fully their endeavour to “turn uselessness into usefulness”.

Within an hour, the teams hit their target of collecting a total of 30kg of brown sugar. To publicize the upcoming Tzu Chi charity fair and to share more about the advantages of the eco-enzyme, the team decided to continue and visit more shops.

Upon hearing about the charity fair, the lady owner of a department store noted that the motivation for one to travel to Paris Ris, which is at the north east end of Singapore, to support the event would not possibly be just to enjoy the vegetarian food, but also to lend support to the concept of environmentalism and charity, as "one could have tasty vegetarian food anywhere".

At a tailor shop, the Tzu Chings discovered that the shop owner couldn’t communicate verbally. So the team communicated with the owner in writing to explain the purpose of their visit.

The youths also used sign language to share with the owner a Master Cheng Yen's aphorism: keeping a kind heart at all times and everyday will be a good day, with which they wished the owner well every day. In return, the owner formed a heart shape with his hands and pointed his finger towards the Tzu Chings. It was a very nice feeling for each of the team members and it was all written on their faces. It was truly a 'good day' for them.

After giving away the last copy of Tzu Chi magazine and the last bottle of enzyme, the donation drive also came to an end.

The Tzu Ching leader for the eco-enzyme exhibit, Guo Yiting, shared, “Though there are many shops in Bugis, we were worried that the response today might be poor as the shop owners might not know much about Tzu Chi. Quite unexpectedly, we have managed to collect enough brown sugar within just 30 minutes! We are very grateful to the donors!”

A total of 44kg of brown sugar was collected that day. Apart from meeting their target, the Tzu Chings have also experienced for themselves the social warmth demonstrated by the shop owners, and that there are always bodhisattvas among the public waiting to lend their help and support.

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