Work for Buddhism and for All Living Beings
Just before her monastic ordination, Master Cheng Yen was given this simple instruction by her refuge master: “to always work for Buddhism and for all living beings”. Since then, the Master has faithfully dedicated her life to this vocation. This is how the world of Tzu Chi we know today came into being.
Master Cheng Yen established Tzu Chi from scratch on 14th May 1966, in the rural east coast town of Hualien in Taiwan. With the conviction that the Dharma is found in daily life, the Master hopes to nurture the spirit of sincerity, integrity, faith, and steadfastness, and the Buddhist values of loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and giving in people. Under her compassionate guidance, Tzu Chi now has countless volunteers worldwide actively working to serve the needy in their communities, turning the power of compassion into practical actions.
From the Lotus Sutra, Master Cheng Yen discerned that there is much suffering in the Saha World (the transient world we live in). People’s suffering can be physical, mental/emotional or a combination of both. The Sutra also speaks of the Buddha ceaselessly working to purify living beings’ minds, which are the source of all afflictions and suffering. Hence, the Master believes that the only way to eliminate the suffering of the world is to guide people to direct their minds towards goodness and purity.
In the early days of Tzu Chi, the Master and her Monastic disciples lived an austere lifestyle, faithfully practising the traditional values of self-discipline, frugality, diligence, and perseverance. Despite living in hardship, they were determined to raise funds for their charity work. Thus each nun made an extra pair of baby shoes daily, and the Master led 30 housewives (her lay disciples) to save 50 NT cents into their bamboo coin banks each day, to kick-start their work of relieving poverty. Today, the “Bamboo Bank Era” is regarded internationally as the origin of the organisation’s humanitarian spirit.
From its humble beginnings in the rural east coast of Taiwan, Tzu Chi’s footprints of Great Love have spread to more than 90 nations worldwide, and it is now an international NGO with Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC). The organisation focuses its efforts on its Four Missions of Charity, Medicine, Education, and Humanistic Culture, which have further extended to include Bone Marrow Donation, International Relief, Environmental Protection, and Community Volunteerism.
Volunteer-based and funded by public donations, Tzu Chi is committed to the betterment of humanity in the spirit of Great Love. Its global network of volunteers work directly with people in need, providing care and aid with a selfless love that transcends race, nationality, language, and religion. This has brought about a positive cycle of love and goodness around the world.
In the current era of climate change, with increased frequency of natural disasters, Master Cheng Yen believes that the cause of disasters is rooted in people’s hearts and minds. Hence, she hopes that many more people in the world can uncover and tap into the wellspring of purity within their own hearts. As more wellsprings are tapped into, more water will flow forth. With an abundance of water flowing forth, it would be possible to cleanse the hearts of all around the world.
Charity is the cornerstone of Tzu Chi. This Mission comprises the primary programmes of long-term care, emergency aid, home repair and renovation, winter relief distribution, as well as disaster relief. Besides helping beneficiaries to get back on track in life, Tzu Chi volunteers accompany them on their journey, providing them with ongoing support and helping them become financially independent so as to escape the poverty cycle. The aid recipients are also encouraged and inspired to give to help others in need, to pass their love forward.
Illness is the greatest suffering in life. In order to break the cycle of illness and poverty, the Mission of Medicine started with a free clinic, followed by fundraising to build the first Tzu Chi hospital. Today, there is a comprehensive Tzu Chi medical network around Taiwan, inclusive of six hospitals, free clinic and home medical care services, etc. In addition, the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) has established its presence in various countries, to serve in areas where medical resources may be lacking, thus safeguarding people’s lives and health at the same time.
Education is a long-term mission of nurturing the mind and spirit. The Mission of Education encompasses a full range of educational institutions, starting from preschools and elementary schools to high schools and universities. Tzu Chi strives to nurture a whole new generation of young with aspirations, sound character, and healthy minds and bodies, through the teaching of moral values and living skills, and providing a holistic education.
The spirit of Humanistic Culture is about living out the greatest value of one’s life with joy, and attaining personal growth and character refinement. With the rapid advancement in information technology, Tzu Chi leverages on printed and 3D broadcast media to spread its inspiring news and messages around the globe, with the hope of purifying people’s hearts and minds. By providing truthful and positive news that bear witness to kind people and good deeds, it aims to create a virtuous cycle of love and charity.
Based on the disaster relief principles of timeliness, directness, priority, respect and gratitude, and practicality, Tzu Chi provides relief supplies, such as food, rice seeds, clothing, blankets, medical supplies, etc. to disaster-hit nations. It has also developed long-term relief plans, such as the rebuilding of houses and schools, developing water sources, etc. Although the type of relief it provides may differ depending on the situation, Tzu Chi serves all who need aid with the same humanitarian spirit.
Bone Marrow Donation
Hematopoietic stem cell donation, which enables one to “save a life in a harmless way”, may give a new lease of life to sufferers of blood disorders. Tzu Chi volunteers around Taiwan actively promoted this message to the public, and as a result of their tireless efforts, the Foundation was able to establish a bone marrow donor database, which later became the world’s largest database of registered Chinese marrow donors. The Tzu Chi Stem Cells Centre in Hualien, is committed to the development of the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) testing technology, clinical medicine and research, etc.
Tzu Chi volunteers worldwide actively promote recycling to the public, and set examples for others by taking action to conserve resources and reduce carbon footprint. They also encourage and guide the residents in their community to carry out eco-friendly habits and practices in their daily lives to protect the environment. In addition, Tzu Chi actively advocates a meat-free diet and promotes a simpler and more sustainable way of living, which can help to mitigate global warming.
By building a network of volunteers in each community, Tzu Chi hopes to transform the heartlands into caring communities where people practise good neighbourliness. With such a network of support, not only can those without kin be taken care of, but the volunteers can also mobilise quickly to render help to those in need in times of emergency, creating a society filled with human warmth and love.
With hearts united in love, Tzu Chi volunteers selflessly reach out to the suffering in the world, taking each opportunity to serve those in need. Even though a human life span may be limited, love and charity knows no bounds. We would like to share with you the video, “Tzu Chi Year in Review (2020)”, and invite you to join us in unleashing the power of charity to comfort a suffering world.
Retracing the Journey of Great Love
Spiritual Practice in a Wooden Cabin
Master Cheng Yen attended a monastic initiation ceremony in Taipei, and by chance, she met Venerable Master Yin Shun, an acclaimed scholar of Buddhism. She took refuge under him and was given this simple instruction by her refuge master: “to work for Buddhism and for all living beings”. After she returned to Hualien, she began studying the Lotus Sutra in a wooden cabin behind Pu Ming Temple. As she was too poor to buy flowers, she hand-copied the entire Lotus Sutra once a month and offered it to the Buddha. During the half-year she spent engaging in such spiritual practice, she made a vow to live out the Bodhisattva Path as taught in the Sutra. This photo shows the wooden cabin where the Master had stayed, and it was also the birthplace of Tzu Chi.
The Founding of Tzu Chi
Master Cheng Yen thought of moving to Chiayi County, but her 30 lay disciples persuaded her to stay in Hualien. One day, when she was visiting a patient in a clinic, she saw a pool of blood on the floor left by an aboriginal woman who suffered labour complications, but could not afford the required medical fees. Sometime later, she had a conversation with three Catholic nuns, who commented why Buddhists were seldom seen contributing to society. Feeling deeply for the poor and sick, the Master decided to gather people to work collectively to help those in need. Thus, Tzu Chi was officially established.
The Bamboo Bank Era – Every Cent Counts
In the 1960s, poverty was widespread in Taiwan. To raise funds to help the needy, Master Cheng Yen fashioned 30 coin banks out of bamboo and asked her 30 lay disciples to set aside NT$0.50 from their grocery money each day and save it in the coin bank. Soon, word of this campaign spread to other parts of Taiwan and many more people participated. Charity is thus not exclusive to the rich. When everyone saves a little each day, the money can add up to significant amounts over time and be used to help the poor. The spirit of the “Bamboo Bank Era” has now spread worldwide, with numerous people practising daily acts of kindness.
Tzu Chi Monthly – Establishing Faith and Trust
Tzu Chi published its first monthly newsletter, which served to inform its donating members of its charitable efforts and the amount of donation collected from each donor. The newsletter paved the way for the organisation’s Mission of Culture. Later, it evolved into the Tzu Chi Monthly, which contains inspiring news and stories of Tzu Chi’s missions worldwide and has won much acclaim and earned many awards in Taiwan.
Life in the Abode: No Work, No Meal
In 1968, Jing Si Abode, the residence of Master Cheng Yen and her monastic disciples, which also housed the office of Tzu Chi, was built. The Master personally established the rule of self-sufficiency in the Abode, with the motto of "No Work, No Meal". Thus, residents at the Abode support their own livelihood by doing various works, such as growing vegetables, making candles, soap, bean/multigrain drink mix powder, instant rice, pottery, etc. They also do book editing, conduct guided tours around the Abode and help organise training camps for volunteers. Every nun carries out her duty with dedication and to the best of her ability.
Overcoming Challenges to Help the Poor
While enroute to Fenglin to visit some aid recipients, the bus carrying Master Cheng Yen and a group of Tzu Chi commissioners became stuck in a stream. The volunteers thus got down and began pushing their bus. These early commissioners were truly undaunted by difficulties and challenges, persevering in their mission to bring relief and aid to those in need, especially those living in remote areas. Their courageous spirit and unwavering determination to serve as living bodhisattvas are exemplary to all future Tzu Chi volunteers.
The First Tzu Chi Free Clinic for the Poor and Sick
Six years after Master Cheng Yen began charity work, during which she witnessed the unfortunate cycle of poverty and illness, she realised that the access to medical care is the key to the prevention of poverty. To help the needy and sick, she set up a free clinic in Hualien City. By combining the Missions of Charity and Medicine, Tzu Chi was able to address the root cause of poverty and illness, and to help prevent the perpetuation of this cycle.
Typhoon Nara - The First Disaster Relief Operation
In 1973, Typhoon Nara struck eastern Taiwan, causing much devastation, and Master Cheng Yen immediately set about raising funds for the disaster victims. The amount needed for the relief operation was estimated to be six times the total amount of donations Tzu Chi collected monthly at the time. For over three months, the Master, who had a heart condition, worked hard to organise the relief efforts and even suffered a heart attack during a visit to the disaster area. Tzu Chi distributed aid to 671 households that were affected by the typhoon, providing cash assistance totalling over NT$600,000. The relief experience also helped the organisation establish its disaster relief model, which includes disaster survey, fundraising, compiling the list of aid recipients, and aid distribution.
A Leprosy Home Fundraises for the First Tzu Chi Hospital
Tzu Chi helped rebuild a ward for handicapped residents at the only public leprosy home at that time, and also provided monthly subsidies for food and care services. Five years later, the home’s residents requested Tzu Chi to stop its aid to them and responded to Master Cheng Yen’s fundraising appeal for the first Tzu Chi hospital in Taiwan. Mdm Song Jin Yuan, a visually impaired resident at the home, together with fellow residents, Jin Yi Zhen and Lin Ye (in the photo), actively promoted the cause. Their fundraising campaign caused a great stir throughout the society, and the residents raised over a million NTD for the hospital.
Tzu Chi Establishes its First Office in USA
The first Tzu Chi overseas branch was established in the United States. It became the US headquarters of Tzu Chi in 2001, and is responsible for the overall planning and organisation of the work of all other branches in the country. By 2015, Tzu Chi has established offices in 52 countries and regions worldwide, and their efforts have earned the recognition of many local governments. To show their support and appreciation for the NGO, 40 cities in 7 countries have designated a Tzu Chi Day.
The First Tzu Chi Hospital in Hualien
After several obstacles and challenges, the first Tzu Chi hospital was finally built and inaugurated in Hualien in August 1986. Local patients with critical illnesses and needy patients were able to receive quality medical services at the hospital without having to travel long distances to seek treatment. Unlike most other hospitals in Taiwan at that time, the Tzu Chi hospital did not require a deposit from patients and provided medical assistance to needy patients. As there was no national health insurance in Taiwan in those days, the hospital had to absorb a loss of NT$40 million each year. Master Cheng Yen thus established a committee to raise funds to support the operation of the hospital.
The Establishment of Tzu Chi College of Nursing
Equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, the Tzu Chi hospital in Hualien was able to provide high quality medical services in rural eastern Taiwan. Qualified medical professionals were also needed to staff the hospital. Therefore, Tzu Chi started constructing a nursing college in Hualien, which would provide education and job opportunities for local young women. In September 1989, the Tzu Chi Junior College of Nursing was inaugurated, with an enrolment of only 100-plus students. However, its opening ceremony was attended by some 20,000 people. The nursing college was the start of Tzu Chi’s Mission of Education.
The Beginning of the Mission of Environmental Protection
Feeling deeply about the worsening environmental problems, Master Cheng Yen called on the audience to use the hands they were applauding her with to do recycling to protect the Earth during her speech at central Taiwan, on 23 August 1990. Tzu Chi volunteers around Taiwan subsequently began promoting recycling in their communities to conserve resources, thereby kicking off the Mission of Environmental Protection.
First Overseas Disaster Relief Effort
In 1991, the US-Iraq war broke out, and Tzu Chi’s chapter in the US collected donations from the local Chinese community to help children who had lost their parents in the war. In April the same year, Bangladesh was hit by a cyclone, which killed almost 140,000 people. Tzu Chi USA held a donation drive to raise funds for the disaster survivors, and this marked the beginning of Tzu Chi’s Mission of International Relief. As of 2015, Tzu Chi had provided aid to some 92 countries and regions worldwide.
Providing Flood Relief in China Despite Strong Opposition
In 1991, China was devastated by serious floods, which affected more than 200 million people. At that time, cross-straits relations were tense and often hostile. Despite strong opposition from the Taiwan public, Master Cheng Yen was determined to help the mainland flood affectees, believing that the spirit of Great Love could help bridge the gap between Taiwan and China. Tzu Chi thus set up a disaster relief team, which provided direct aid to the flood victims while adhering to political and religious neutrality. This helped clear the Chinese government’s misgivings and they even made an exception to allow the residents to have land usage rights. The photo shows the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of housing for those who lost their homes in the flood.
Tzu Chi’s First Seeds in South Africa
After the first Tzu Chi office was established in South Africa, it began its charity work. By 2011, the office had recruited over 5,000 local Zulu volunteers, who actively worked to care for AIDS patients and orphans. From South Africa, Tzu Chi’s work has spread to other parts of Africa. The Foundation has established offices in several other countries, including Lesotho (1995), Mozambique (2007), Zimbabwe (2007), and in more recent years, Botswana, bringing light and hope to the impoverished locals.
Setting Up a Bone Marrow Registry
Taiwan’s Department of Health held a meeting in September 1993, to discuss the possibility of setting up a bone marrow registry. As the majority of the Taiwan public was still unfamiliar with the concept of bone marrow donation and a huge investment was required to establish a marrow registry, Tzu Chi was requested to take on the task. Knowing that bone marrow donation can help save lives and after confirming with medical professionals that donating marrow does no harm to health, Master Cheng Yen accepted the mission and set about promoting it. In October 1993, Tzu Chi set up a “bone marrow database centre” and held donor recruitment drives island-wide. Barely two years later, in July 1995, the number of registered donors had exceeded 100,000. The registry currently has the largest database of registered Chinese bone marrow donors in the world.
Three-Country Collaboration Helps a Blood Disease Patient
With the help of Tzu Chi offices in Singapore, Malaysia, and Taiwan, Tzu Chi Taiwan’s bone marrow bank made its first donation to a patient overseas – a teenage girl from Malacca who was suffering from severe aplastic anemia. The photo shows Tzu Chi representatives from Taiwan with the donor’s bone marrow. The Tzu Chi bone marrow registry is the only marrow registry in the world supported by volunteers, who provide support and assistance to each donor, from the time of the match to the completion of the donation process.
The Silent Mentor Programme
Master Cheng Yen commended the selfless act of a patient who willingly donated her body for medical education after her passing, and this struck a deep chord with many people. Then, Tzu Chi’s medical college became the first medical school in Taiwan where all the cadavers used for teaching were willed body donors. Students of the medical college respectfully referred to the body donors as their “silent mentors”. Starting from the home visits before the start of the Anatomy course to the suturing of the bodies (at the end of the course), to encoffinment, funeral, cremation, and to the final memorial service, great care was taken to show deep respect and gratitude to the body donors and their families. Gradually, many other medical schools in Taiwan were inspired to follow suit.
Establishing a Network of Community Volunteers
Typhoon Herb struck Taiwan, causing severe flooding in many areas. Villages in Kaohsiung were affected by landslides, and many roads were blocked as a result. Tzu Chi volunteers and local residents stood on a temporary path to pass relief supplies to the disaster area and worked together to clean up the flood debris. This disaster spurred Master Cheng Yen to think of a plan to organise the volunteers in each community, so that they could be timely mobilised to provide help to people in need in the vicinity, thus paving the way for community volunteerism in the world of Tzu Chi.
Tzu Chi International Medical Association
A group of healthcare professionals came together to form a Tzu Chi medical association, which later became the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA). Many chapters of the medical association have since been established around the world and their multinational members provide medical relief to victims of disasters and needy patients worldwide. The photo shows the deputy superintendent of the Tzu Chi hospital in Hualien and Singapore’s Dr Fong Poh Him, after they had jointly performed a surgery at a TIMA free clinic in Indonesia, in April 2002.
Distributing Aid Supplies in North Korea
North Korea was struck by natural disasters for several years, which caused severe famine in the country. Tzu Chi conducted its first winter relief distribution in North Korea in December 1997; since then until 2009, it had provided nine rounds of aid to the impoverished there. Usually, foreign aid organisations were only allowed to donate their relief supplies at a port in the country. Seeing the sincerity and respect Tzu Chi volunteers had shown to its people, the North Korean government made an exception to allow local villagers to personally receive rice from the volunteers in January 1999 (see the photo).
Providing Relief to Afghanistan Disaster Victims
Afghanistan was struck by a magnitude 6.1 earthquake, which killed nearly 5,000. Snow storms swept across the disaster area, which was 5,000 feet above sea level, and many people died of illness due to the harsh environmental conditions and lack of medical care. Tzu Chi collaborated with Knightsbridge International in Los Angeles and sent 1,370kg of medical supplies to the disaster area (see the photo). The quake survivors shoveled the snow off an area for the relief helicopter to land, and received foreign aid for the first time, four months after the earthquake struck.
Da Ai TV Begins Broadcasting
On 1st January 1998, Tzu Chi launched the Da Ai TV station, which was a milestone in the Mission of Humanistic Culture. It operated from two different rented premises in Taipei before moving to its permanent home, the Tzu Chi Cultural Centre (see the photo), which was inaugurated in 2005. Later, Da Ai TV became the leading TV station in Taiwan that employs digital technology in media production.
The “921 Earthquake” Relief and Recovery Programme
At 1.47am on 21st September 1999, a magnitude 7.3 earthquake shook Nantou County in Taiwan. In the immediate aftermath, local Tzu Chi volunteers mobilised to distribute food and water to those affected and give them comfort. At daybreak, volunteers from other parts of Taiwan arrived at the disaster area to distribute emergency cash aid to affected families. Besides providing emergency aid and emotional support, Tzu Chi also built temporary housing for quake survivors, and rebuilt a total of 51 schools destroyed in the disaster. The three-stage relief efforts helped the Foundation to establish a complete humanitarian aid model.
A Comprehensive and Holistic Education System
On 30 August 2000, the high school and elementary school affiliated to Tzu Chi University were inaugurated, and Tzu Chi’s aim to provide a complete education system focusing on humanitarian values was accomplished. All the educational institutions established by Tzu chi share the common motto of “cultivating the values of loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and giving”, with the goal of “respecting life and affirming humanity”. Special emphasis is placed on the teaching of moral values and living skills, as well as the holistic development of the students. The photo shows Tzu Chi’s Malaysian preschool students during a care visit to an aid beneficiary.
The First Jing Si Books & Café Opens in Penang
The first Jing Si Books & Café opened in Penang, Malaysia, allowing visitors to enjoy coffee, books, and spiritual talks all in one location. Currently, over a hundred Jing Si bookstores have been set up worldwide, offering members of the public a respite from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Every publication and product in the store serves the objectives of purifying hearts, uplifting the spirit, and building a harmonious society.
The 911 Attacks: “Spreading Love Around the World”
On 11 September 2001, four American passenger airliners were hijacked and crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The 110-story towers collapsed, resulting in the loss of some 4,300 lives. The following day, Tzu Chi volunteers entered Ground Zero, providing the rescue workers with water and medical supplies. It was the only foreign charity providing assistance and distributing emergency funds to the affected. In October, Tzu Chi initiated the campaign, "Spreading Love Around the world”, with the hope of inspiring kindness and compassion in people worldwide. The photo shows Tzu Chi volunteers conducting a prayer session in New York City, to pray for the 911 victims.
The “Miracle” Transformation of Angke River
In 2002, Indonesia was hit by its worst flooding in decades; 80% of Jakarta was under water and its heavily polluted Angke River burst its banks. The illegal shanties along the banks were inundated for almost a month. Tzu Chi’s Indonesian volunteers implemented a five-pronged relief strategy suggested by Master Cheng Yen: to pump out the water, clean up and disinfect the disaster area, hold free clinics, and rebuild homes. In 2007, the governor of Jakarta renamed part of Angke River “Tzu Chi Angke River” to thank the organisation for its selfless efforts. Angke, which means “red stream” and was once the site of a racial massacre, became a bridge of friendship between different races.
Surgery Simulation Course Starts in Tzu Chi University
Tzu Chi University’s medical school collaborated with the Tzu Chi hospital in Hualien to employ rapid freezing technology to preserve donated cadavers and started offering a surgery simulation course to sixth-year medical students. In 2006, the Medical Simulation Centre was inaugurated, and it is where the medical students practise basic clinical and surgical skills, and where the advance surgery simulation course for house physicians is conducted. The students could thus practise different types of surgeries on the body donors without the fear of risking patient wellbeing.
The SARS Outbreak: Providing Assistance and Promoting Vegetarianism
During the SARS epidemic in 2003, Tzu Chi offices around Taiwan set up centres for disease control and prevention. The nationwide operation involved a manpower effort equivalent to 14,000-plus volunteer shifts, and provided 87 institutions and quarantined individuals with medical supplies and vegetarian meals (see the photo) until mid-June. The Foundation also produced a health manual to help people deal with the epidemic as well as started a vegetarian campaign, which the volunteers continue to promote till this day.
Extending Aid to Sri Lankan Tsunami Victims
A magnitude 9.1 earthquake, which struck off the west coast of Sumatra, triggered a series of tsunamis that devastated 12 countries around Indian Ocean. In the aftermath, TIMA members swiftly rendered aid in Sri Lanka, distributing relief supplies and holding free clinics for the injured and sick. Many locals joined the ranks of volunteers, bringing care and comfort to the affected (see the photo). In addition, Tzu Chi built permanent housing for those who lost their homes in the disaster and constructed a secondary school in Hambantota, a hard hit area. It also established offices in Hambantota and Colombo, which recruit volunteers to carry out charity work locally.
Developing and Producing Humanitarian Aid Products
The Tzu Chi International Humanitarian Aid Association (TIHAA) was inaugurated in 2004, producing the equipment and supplies needed for disaster relief operations. TIHAA creates everything with recycling and the environment in mind, including its first humanitarian aid product, the eco-blanket, which is made of recycled PET bottles. In 2008, five TIHAA members set up the DA.AI Technology Company, which not only produces eco-blankets but also other green products. All of the company’s profits are donated to the Tzu Chi Foundation.
Global 3-in-1 Celebrations
Tzu Chi celebrates its anniversary on 24th March (lunar calendar) every year. As the organisation grew internationally, Master Cheng Yen designated the second Sunday of May each year (also Mother’s Day) as Tzu Chi Day. Subsequently, Taiwan’s government fixed the Buddha Bathing ceremony on the same day, and from Year 2000 onwards, Tzu Chi Taiwan began celebrating Buddha Day, Mother’s Day and Tzu Chi Day together on the same date. Since 2006, global Tzu Chi offices have been holding Buddha Bathing ceremonies on this day, so as to raise the profile of Buddhism internationally and to encourage devotees to show gratitude to the Buddha, their parents as well as all sentient beings.
Relief for Cyclone Nargis Survivors in Myanmar
Cyclone Nargis caused catastrophic destruction in Myanmar. Although, the local Junta government restricted the entry of foreign humanitarian groups, Tzu Chi’s tireless efforts saw its disaster survey team gain access to the disaster areas, and its volunteers were thus able to provide aid to the disaster victims. In addition, the organisation provided two baskets of rice seeds and a bag of fertiliser per acre of land to over 7,000 farmers. In the spirit of Tzu Chi’s “Bamboo Bank Era,” many of the farmers who received Tzu Chi’s quality rice seeds began saving a handful of rice every day, to donate to others in need (see the photo), to pass the love forward.
The Great Sichuan Earthquake: School Rebuilding Project
A magnitude 8.0 earthquake devastated Sichuan, China, in May 2008. Tzu Chi volunteers arrived at the disaster zone within 50 hours after the earthquake struck, and a TIMA team served the sick and injured for 108 days. Subsequently, Tzu Chi rebuilt 13 schools, 91 homes, and established two community service centres. In 2011, all the 13 schools were operationally ready, with spacious and bright classrooms, and the children no longer had to endure the elements while attending classes.
Tzu Chi Granted Official Presence in China
In 2008, Tzu Chi Foundation became the first overseas non-profit organisation to establish a nationwide presence in China. In August 2010, the Foundation was granted an official presence in China, with an inauguration ceremony held at its bookstore in Suzhou City (see the photo).
Gaining UN Consultative Status
On 19 July 2010, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC) officially recognised Tzu Chi as an NGO with Special Consultative Status. The CEO of Tzu Chi USA, Zhang Ji Duo (see the photo), was present in the meeting, and conveyed the good news to the Taiwan headquarters.
Go Vegetarian to Save the Earth
In conjunction with the 40th Anniversary of World Earth Day, Tzu Chi started a campaign advocating people to do five things daily: go vegetarian, use reusable utensils, switch to greener transportation modes, save water, and conserve electricity. Carrying out these practices would help to mitigate global warming by reducing carbon output by about 1.53kg each day. Tzu Chi’s collegiate volunteers across Taiwan initiated a vegetarian campaign to reduce carbon footprint and gave out “vegetarian passports” to encourage the public to participate. Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and US Tzu Chi volunteers responded warmly to the campaign by promoting vegetarianism in their respective countries.
“Dharma as Water” Stage Adaptation
During its 45th anniversary, Tzu Chi launched the Repentance Practice in Taiwan, encouraging everyone to participate in the Dharma as Water Stage Adaptation (see the photo). The participants practised vegetarianism, repentance, and deepened their understanding of the Dharma in the process. Dharma study sessions were organised in communities around Taiwan with the aim of encouraging people to purify their hearts and to eliminate their negative traits and habits. Subsequently, the same model was followed in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia as the stage adaptation was rolled out in these locations.
Super Typhoon Haiyan: Cash-for-Work Relief Programme
After Super Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the Philippines, Tacloban, a hard-hit area, was described as a “ghost town”. Tzu Chi leveraged on its disaster relief experience, and with its cash-for-work relief programme, engaged the locals in post-typhoon cleanup efforts. The programme was the largest such exercise of its kind in the world. After a month, the “ghost town” saw signs of rebirth, and this news was covered by the United Nation’s Relief Web and The Wall Street Journal. The photo shows Tzu Chi volunteers briefing residents before a cash-for-work session.
Nepal Earthquake Relief:
Returning to the Homeland of the Buddha
A 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal, causing widespread destruction. Tzu Chi deployed 11 teams of volunteers to render emergency aid, and aid supplies were distributed to 105,526 disaster survivors (see the photo). As Nepal was the birthplace of Sakyamuni Buddha, Master Cheng Yen stressed on the importance of “returning to the Buddha’s homeland” to revive Buddhism through concrete actions to help those in need.
Providing Care and Aid for Refugees
At the close of 2010, the Jasmine Revolution in North Africa and the subsequent civil war in Syria drove millions of refugees to flee their war-torn homelands. Half of these refugees were innocent children, and Turkey alone received about a million refugees. Tzu Chi volunteers from Europe, Jordan, and Turkey provided daily necessities, medical care, educational assistance, and emotional support to suffering refugee families after conducting prior evaluations of their most urgent needs. In particular, Tzu Chi volunteers in Turkey provided educational opportunities for refugee children (see the photo), with the hope that education could empower them and help resolve their underlying resentment as a result of being exposed to violent trauma at such a young age.