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Sri Lanka’s Growing Volunteer Force

On 15 May, after the Buddha Day Ceremony at Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo, Brother David Liu, who superintends Tzu Chi missions in both Singapore and Sri Lanka, traveled to the southeastern shore of Hambantota with four other volunteers to help organize the local ceremony. The local volunteers of the tsunami-hit coastal town seized the occasion to invite Brother Liu to their get-together to share his experience with them.


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Brother David Liu praising Shanti for bringing her son along while she volunteers.

This is the 59th time Brother Liu has stepped on the teardrop-shaped island in the Indian Ocean ever since its eastern and southwestern shores were hit by tsunami waves caused by undersea earthquake off the island of Sumatra, Indonesia in 2004.

In his brisk and upbeat voice, Brother Liu spoke about how Tzu Chi has been by the side of the Sri Lankans since the Asian Tsunami and how it has reached out to the sick and needy through financial and medical assistance as well as free clinics. The Tzu Chi Singapore CEO also touched on the benefits of participating in case visits and several charity cases that left an indelible impression on him.

Several local volunteers out of the 55 attendants were also invited to share their volunteering experience, of which many mentioned their participation in the house building effort for an elderly couple last November.

Dilrukshi, who lost her infant son a few months ago, is a devoted housekeeping volunteer with Tzu Chi Hambantota office. She recounted seeing a Great Love Village resident who is immobile having lost her legs almost seven years ago while trying to escape from the tsunami helping to weave the rooftop (using coconut leaves) for the new house for H.T. Charlis’s family. The encounter made her related more to Master Cheng Yen’s wise words that “giving is not the privilege of the rich but the privilege of the sincere”. The volunteer thinks that “Sri Lanka will forever need Tzu Chi”, and that sharing sessions like that of today is really good in that it binds everyone’s heart together hearing each other’s experience.

Sharing Dilrukshi’s sentiment on charity is more of a matter of the heart than of financial ability was Shanti who lives in the Great Love Village. The volunteer who came with her husband and two young children recounted bringing her 11-year-old son to help out with the house building last year. Brother Liu complimented Shanti on her move as he thinks volunteering is the best education that parents can give to the young.

Indeed, every human being, even the young, needs to be a part of helping one another. The joy of service was all over young volunteer Priyadarshana’s face when he shared on how he had persevered in picking tree logs for the house construction even though a downpour suddenly struck the woods. His reason was none other than that he could not bear to think of H. T. Charlis and his family not having a safe haven to take shelter.

“To me, there are two kinds of people in this world,” said Brother Liu. “There are those who are wealthy but always feeling lacking inside and those who are poor but spiritually rich. Whether a person is truly rich lies in whether he is contented and generous.

“If I am contented with a simple living and all that I possess, I am already a wealthy person,” he concluded, adding that the Sri Lankan’s keenness to give and to serve was the main impetus behind his incessant visits to Sri Lanka.

Local donating member GA Sunil Shantha was one of the contractors of Great Love village who has witnessed Tzu Chi’s contribution to his homeland since the Asian Tsunami aftermath. The contractor who also runs a rice trading business has been providing white rice to Tzu Chi Hambantota office at special rate since 2005.

It was only after hearing Brother Liu’s sharing today that he realized that Tzu Chi also extends its charity services to the sick and poor apart from building housing village for the tsunami victims. Finding the experience and values mentioned by Brother Liu relevant and inspiring, Sunil Shantha readily accepted Brother Liu’s invitation to join the entrepreneurs’ camp at the end of the year to understand more about Tzu Chi and looks forward to contribute more to its endeavours in Sri Lanka.

Many of the volunteers that came for the get-together today were Muslim residents from the Great Love village. Among them was Nei Roshana who recently participated in the Hambantota community fundraising in aid of Japan’s disasters in mid April. She said she could relate to the pains of the Japanese victims as she also lost her mother, elder sister, and nephew to the Asian Tsunami and she hoped to follow Tzu Chi’s footsteps in helping her countrymen in need.

It is a most pleasant scene to witness the 55-strong local volunteers sitting side by side to share their gains. We hope that in days to come, the seeds of Great Love will propagate and benefit more of the suffering poor on the Sri Lankan soil.

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The get-together was all heartwarming with all 55 participants sitting side by side.

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Having just lost her infant son, Dilrukshi did not sink into depression but instead find strength in serving others.

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The joy of service was all over young volunteer Priyadarshana’s face when he shared on how he had persevered in picking tree logs for the house construction even though a downpour suddenly struck the woods.

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GA Sunil Shanta (centre) readily accepted Brother Liu’s invitation to join the entrepreneurs’ camp at the end of the year to know more about Tzu Chi.

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Nei Roshana (centre) paying attention to the fellow volunteers’ sharing.


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