After a tsunami hit Japan on 11 March 2011, Tzu Chi volunteers worldwide initiated the “Help Japan with Love” campaign with volunteers in 39 countries and regions taking to the streets to solicit donations from the public in aid of the disaster-hit Japan. Volunteers from Hambantota too took the initiative to consolidate the love of the locals to convey encouragement and support to the Japanese victims.
Back when the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, the Tzu Chi medical team from Singapore was preparing to leave for a cross-border medical mission to Bandaragama, Sri Lanka. The medical team, comprising more than 150 members, conducted a three-day free clinic together with Tzu Chi volunteers and staff based in Sri Lanka from 18 to 20 March and treated a total of 2221 patients.
Like their global counterparts, most Sri Lankans had also learnt about news of the Japan disasters which shocked the global community. Hence when Tzu Chi volunteers urged the free clinic patients to donate whatever little money they could afford, many responded enthusiastically despite being underprivileged themselves as they could feel for the Japanese having suffered the same fate in 2004 when Sri Lanka was hit by tsunami.
The stream of kindness did not stop there though. After the free clinic, staff at the Hambantota office decided to follow up with a neighbourhood fundraising to gather more kindness locally.
As mobile phones are not popular in Hambantota, staff Udeni and his wife Dilrukshi had to make home visits to invite volunteers living in the Great Love Village and the vicinity of Hambantota to attend a meeting on the neighbourhood fundraising.
At the meeting, Udeni explained the situation in Japan and Tzu Chi’s relief mission and aid to the affected areas. The majority of the 15 volunteers at the meeting were Muslims but they were very supportive of the donation drive as they too suffered from the tsunami seven years ago and hence could empathize with the Japanese.
The neighbourhood fundraising would be conducted on two occasions from 29 to 31 Mar and mainly in the Great Love Village and on 18 Apr in small villages and towns near to the Great Love Village. It was decided that the volunteers would take to the streets from 3pm to 7pm on 29 to 31 Mar as those three days were normal working days.
On 29 March, the volunteers were divided into three groups and led respectively by staff member Udeni, Nadeeka and volunteer Dilrukshi. After a short briefing, with the donation boxes and publicity posters in their hands, they went from home to home seeking donations.
With the sun high up in the afternoon sky, the walk on the yellow mud road proved scorchingly hot. It even rained heavily on one of the days, but it did not disrupt the donation activities. Some were not bothered by the sun or the heat, while others carried umbrellas to create some shade for themselves.
To every door opened and every hand extended to make a donation, the volunteers in return expressed their utmost gratitude with 90-degree bows.
Friendly and casual conversations with the residents were part of the canvassing as many of the fundraising volunteers too live in the village. The volunteers capitalized on the opportunity to explain to the villagers that the frequent disasters nowadays actually rooted in excessive human desires which caused many damages to the Earth; they further expounded the need to espouse simple and modest living and urged the villagers to seize every opportunity to give and serve others.
Many of the villagers said that they still remember how many overseas organizations had come forward to offer help when the tsunami hit Sri Lanka seven years ago. As such, be it elderly in wheelchair or young kids carried in arms, many were willing to donate to convey their love and well wishes, hoping that the Japanese victims would have their home rebuilt soon.
Empathy leads to forthcoming donations
Donning the volunteer vest for the first time, Dharshana, 23, sought donation from his fellow team member Fareena Mahamor, 43, respectfully outside the Tzu Chi Hambantota office, to which Fareena immediately dropped her donation into the donation box, making it the very first donation collected for the day.
Both in traditional Muslim black robes and head scarves, it was the first time Fareena and Mudanona served as volunteers and participated in a fundraising. They enjoyed the guidance of their group leader Dilrukshi and reported to her punctually every day over the 3-day fundraiser.
Many of the villagers mentioned that they still remember seeing Dilrukshi following the Tzu Chi relief team seven years ago to conduct home visits and participating in the construction of the Great Love village. Reminiscing about the past, all of them felt even closer to each other.
As soon as Dilrukshi came into contact with Tzu Chi after the 2004 tsunami, she joined as a volunteer and later became a staff when Tzu Chi set up its office in Hambantota. She got to know her husband Udeni in Tzu Chi. Udeni, who used to work overseas, lost his parents and other family members to the 2004 tsunami. He married Dilrukshi and gave birth to their eldest daughter, Sanuli. Dilrukshi then quit her job to look after the child at home but continued to serve as a volunteer for Tzu Chi.
At the end of last year, the couple lost their infant son (the youngest child) to sickness. Having experienced the torment of seeking medical treatment for her beloved child and losing him eventually, Dilrukshi could understand the suffering of poverty and sickness even better. She thus put in even more effort in Tzu Chi’s work. and has since been participating actively with her children tagging along in home visits, cleaning and tidying up care recipients’ home and cultivating a vegetable plantation beside the Tzu Chi Hambantota office.
“Apart from the vegetable plantation at the office and recycling activities, I hope to introduce more people to join our ranks. I hope we could reach out more to the needy residents here and spread the love of Tzu Chi to other regions.”
May her noble wish bring her strength and may she make progress steadily.
Her daughter, Sanuli, at the mere age of three, has taken a serious commitment in soliciting donations from the villagers with the donation box in her hands. Her adorable and serious look helped in bringing in a lot of donations. “She has been following us for the whole day without making any complaints,” said Dilrukshi with a smile. The seed of kindness has obviously taken root in Sanuli.
13 and 14 Apr were New Year holidays in Sri Lanka. The volunteers commenced their second round of neighbourhood fundraising on 18 Apr and this time around, they ventured into nearby villages and towns 20 minutes away by foot. A total of 14 volunteers and four children participated in the exercise from 4pm to 7pm.
On that day, the volunteers visited 70 households and 25 shops in the nearby villages. Both the villagers and the shop owners were generous with their donations; some passing motorists even stopped their vehicles to make donations.
The four-day neighbourhood fundraising which saw a total of 51 shifts of volunteers participating collected a total sum of 30233 rupees (about S$337.53). Though not a big sum, the exercise granted many the opportunity to contribute to a charitable cause and thus planted the seeds of kindness in their hearts. All volunteers too felt the joy of helping and benefitting the others, experiencing for themselves how they have made good use of their lives by making contributions to the world.