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First Volunteer Sharing Session in Cambodia

Brother David Liu, the CEO of Tzu Chi Singapore, together with 10 Tzu Chi volunteers from Singapore, touched down in the capital city of Cambodia on 20 Aug 2011 and joined the local volunteers in visiting needy cases in Phnom Penh. The next day, Phnom Penh's first local volunteer sharing session was conducted with inspiring stories in cultivating compassion and humility shared among the volunteers.

(Photo by Lim Chwee Lian)

On 21 Aug 2011, after visiting two welfare institutions in the morning, the Singapore volunteers headed back to New York Hotel to attend Phnom Penh's very first Tzu Chi sharing session. At present were 25 local volunteers and care recipient Mr Chen and his former assistant.

The sharing session began with Brother David Liu demonstrating to the emcee, Brother Su Ying Long, and fellow attendants how to pay respect to the Buddha and Master Cheng Yen with three bows.

When we serve, inferiority subsides

Among the local volunteers who attended the sharing session were more than 10 Gen Y youths who were born in the 1980s and 1990s. Some of them are still studying while some are salaried workers.

Many of them shared that participating in Tzu Chi's home visits and witnessing the hardships of the truly poor had changed their life perspective and made them realized that they should count their blessings.

Noun Pichsoudeny, a 21-year-old English Literature undergraduate who speaks quite fluent English, was one of the young participants.

After taking part in her first home visit in July and being appointed as the emcee for the first Blissful Life seminar then, Pichsoudeny is now actively involved in Tzu Chi's work apart from utilizing her free time to work in a weekly newspaper company to support herself and her study.

Recalling on the visit to the impoverished First Village in Chroy Changvar District with the volunteers, Pichsoudeny confessed: “Although this is not the first time I see the plight of the villagers, my heart still goes out to them. I used to have very low self-esteem, but now I have learnt to count my blessings.”

“I feel that I am truly a lucky person because I am able to be a giver,” shared Ouch Mithona, 25, who signed up to be a donating member of Tzu Chi the day before under the influence of his sister, Srey Ruth. He confided that although he is not very capable, he is glad that he could still help others by donating whatever sum he has.

His 32-year-old sister, Srey Ruth, is a supervisor at the factory of Tzu Chi volunteer Su Ying Long. Being a single mother earning only US$80 every month to raise her three children and support her parents was certainly not easy. Apart from that, she also supports Mithona’s agricultural study with US$50 a month.

Mithona, who followed her sister to the home visits, said he no longer feels sorry about his condition after seeing the plight of the impoverished. Currently, besides participating in Tzu Chi's charity work, Mithona also volunteers with a local voluntary group. He hoped to utilize his time better in contributing in charity works and further thanked his sister for supporting his study. Seated at the back of the hall, Srey Ruth’s eyes had turned red by the sincere testimonial of her brother.

Phan Monirath, 25, is a third generation Chinese. She is very fluent in Mandarin and speaks simple English. She and her friend, Mey Sok Kalyan, both medical students in their final year, shared their thoughts over the home visit experience.

“When I first joined the medical school, I feel inferior when I see that my living condition is poorer than other people. But after taking up the medical courses, I realized that there are a lot of people who suffers a lot because they do not have money to see doctors when they are sick.” Phan Monirath vows to become like the Singapore volunteers, to be able to help the underserved, and wished there would be a Tzu Chi hospital in Phonm Penh in the future to help the needy patients.

Having joined other organization’s free clinics service previously, Mey Sok Kalyan said she is very happy to be able to join the home visits organized by a Buddhist charity like Tzu Chi, and hopes that Tzu Chi will hold free clinics in Cambodia in the future. “I will definitely bring along my friends to participate in it,” she added.

A realization through the Water Repentance Text

Tzu Chi’s care recipient, Mr Chen was very touched by the stories and happiness shared by the volunteers. “Everybody has a Bodhi mind indeed. Let’s hope that it will prevail forever, flourishing Tzu Chi’s compassionate spirit in Cambodia, so that more needy people will be helped,” said Mr Chen.

The 69-year-old Cambodian Chinese is the first care recipient of Tzu Chi in Cambodia. Both his wife and child had passed away during a civil war.

Mr Chen has been very extravagant in the first half of his life when he was still a businessman and caught up in various bad habits such as gambling, speculation and etc. Unfortunately, the result of a gun shot many years ago had left him paralyzed from waist down. Life became difficult for him coupled with the serious bedsore resulting from long hours lying on bed.

Even after becoming a care recipient of Tzu Chi, Mr Chen still continued with his previous lifestyle. It was only until he finished reading the copy of Master Cheng Yen’s explanation on the Compassionate Samadhi Water Repentance Sutra given by Tzu Chi volunteer Yoshikazu Shaku that he discovered the truth about the Buddhist saying of karmic cause and effect. The realization changed his mindset entirely.

“Although I have physical obstacles on my body,” he said, “there is no obstacle in my heart now. This is the lesson I learnt after receiving the many help and concerns from the Tzu Chi brothers and sisters.” His conclusion received a hearty applause from the fellow participants.

Planting the seeds for a happy life

“There were 15 volunteers when I came here last month. But this time, I see more than 20 here. Such growing pace is truly impressive. It’s definitely a good start for Tzu Chi in Phnom Penh,” praised Brother Liu when he addressed the Cambodian volunteers.

“There were volunteers sharing about feeling inferior just now because they are poor. Master Cheng Yen tells us that ‘giving is not the privilege of the rich but the privilege of the sincere’. As a matter of fact, most of our volunteers in Singapore and Malaysia are not wealthy either. What they possess is a kind heart,” stressed Brother Liu while giving encouragement to the new volunteers.

“Master once said, ‘Studying Buddhism is akin to asking for direction, and practicing the teachings will be like walking the path’. It’s only when we walk into the life of the sufferings will we realize how blessed we are. Therefore, we should appreciate that we’re able to meet Tzu Chi in Phnom Penh. If we wish to live a good life in the future, we have to start cultivate blessings now.”

Brother Liu encouraged the volunteers to start participating in charity home visits and monthly sharing sessions. “Each step is a move closer to become an attachment and trainee volunteer and a growing process of your wisdom life,” he said, wishing that everybody continue in creating good karma for their life. He also wished the Cambodian volunteers to be able to participate in the 4-in-1 Cadre Camp that is going to be held in Taiwan in June next year.

The Tzu Chi works in Phnom Penh is just at the beginning stage. The emphasis on charity home visits and its concepts is thus very important. As such, Brother Liu hopes that everyone could start working from their own neighborhoods and, step by step, strengthens Tzu Chi’s spirit in their community.

Pained by the agony of the poor residents in the First Village in Chroy Changvar district, Noun Pichsoudeny wishes to make time to join the Tzu Chi volunteers in helping them. (Photo by Wong Sin Hwa)

Having just became a Tzu Chi donating member, Ouch Mithona (third from right) feels that he is lucky to be able to give to the needy. (Photo by Wong Sin Hwa)

After participating in Tzu Chi’s charity home visits, medical student Phan Monirath vows to learn from the Singapore volunteers and help the needy patients with her expertise. (Photo by Wong Sin Hwa)

Tzu Chi’s care recipient, Mr Chen, attending the sharing session with his former assistant and his family. (Photo by Wong Sin Hwa)

Brother David Liu encourages the participants to participate in charity home visits, get to know more about Tzu Chi, and progress on its path steadfastly. (Photo by Wong Sin Hwa)

Towards the end of the sharing session, the Cambodian volunteers thank the Singapore volunteers using Tzu Chi’s sign language. (Photo by David Liu)

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