On the 27th of July 2012, two fellow colleagues from Tzu Chi Department of Religious Affairs, Hualien Taiwan and six volunteers from Singapore arrived in Phnom Penh. On the same day, over 20 of them headed to Srayrom, a province in Phnom Penh, to visit three families under the care of the local Tzu Chi volunteers while another group of volunteers went to the airport to receive Brother David Liu.
In the evening, volunteers from three different territories met up with the colleagues from the Department of Religious Affairs at the New York Hotel.
One of the budding seeds of Cambodia, Sister Su Xiao Hong, started the meeting with a summary of what they have done over the past one year, with Brother Su Ying Long and Hu Yong Jian helping out as translators. After one year of hard work, there are now 44 families receiving assistance from Tzu Chi (39 cases of whom live in poverty, two cases receiving education fund and three remaining cases receiving medical fund), totalling to 127 recipients.
Local volunteers have in fact count their blessings from witnessing suffering and gaining wisdom. Besides developing a more positive mindset, they have also influenced others positively. On the first Sunday of every month, after the home visits to care recipients, volunteers would gather together for team bonding and sharing of their thoughts. In addition, on the third Sunday of every month, there will be a sharing session where volunteers gather to watch teachings by the Master and Da Ai English News.
They would also share their Dharma joy during the gathering. It is through such activities that the local volunteers further strengthen their unity. All these were presented on the screen with Khmer subtitles to make it easier for the local volunteers who do not understand Mandarin to comprehend the contents. Volunteer couple Su Ying Long and Su Xiao Hong are in charge of translating, whilst the younger volunteers insert the subtitles onto the videos. As the volunteers actively pursue the Dharma, they courageously take up this challenging task.
Dharma fate brings 3 territories together
“This is my first trip to Cambodia and I am very grateful for the warm welcome,” Religious Affairs staff Allen Yeh expressed his gratitude to the local volunteers after Sister Xiao Hong had finished her reporting. Brother Allen is grateful to Brother David Liu and the volunteers from Singapore for leading the local volunteers. He added that each time Brother David Liu returns back to Taiwan, he will report to the Master the progress of Tzu Chi Cambodia. The Master is in fact very happy to know about the progress and is very grateful to the local volunteers.
“The Department of Religious Affairs acts as a bridge between the Master and volunteers worldwide,” explained Brother Allen, “currently there are Tzu Chi volunteers in more than 50 countries. Our department serves two purposes, one is to serve the Master and the other is to serve volunteers worldwide. I am extremely grateful that for this opportunity to serve. You are our support and driving force.” Brother Allen is also grateful that because of Tzu Chi, he has the chance to come to Cambodia and meet genuine, sincere and kind people.
“I address everyone as Bodhisattva, because the Master sees everyone as Bodhisattva. A real Bodhisattva is not wood or stone carved, for a true Bodhisattva is not for us to pray to. Indeed, it is not a wood-carved Bodhisattva that can sense and feel for us. For example, today we visited a couple of care recipients, when they are hungry or sick, it is these volunteers wearing blue and white uniform or grey uniform that help them, provide them with food, medication and send their children to school. This is something you can relate to: when a group of Bodhisattva gathers, their mission is to help whoever that needs help and spread the love.”
Brother Allen also brought up the importance of ‘fate’. Tzu Chi first stepped into Cambodia in 1994, however due to the Civil War, the Foundation’s missions in the country was brought to a halt. Thanks to the Su couples and Cambodian-born turned Japanese entrepreneur Brother Yoshikazu Shaku, this fate was rekindled in late 2010.
“We are here today not due to incidental, but due to our affinities that Tzu Chi can continue in Cambodia and the most critical factor is the pool of local Bodhisattvas we have now. The Master first started with 30 housewives, and there are now over 30 volunteers here.” When Brother Allen asked everyone present if they want to continue with the affinity between Tzu Chi and Cambodia, most of the volunteers present replied with a ‘Yes!’.
With this strong affirmative nod, Brother Allen would bring the words of the vows made by everyone back to Taiwan.
“Because we acknowledge and recognize the Master’s philosophy of ‘walking into the multitude’, Brother Allen and I have joined Tzu Chi when we were in school, and up till now, we have not left the organization once,” fellow Religious Affairs staff Wu Cheng Hsien shared his thoughts. He was very happy to see Brother Ying Long and Sister Xiao Hong first participated in the Tzu Chi entrepreneurs’ camp in Taiwan, then returned back to their home country and participated actively in Tzu Chi missions. Furthermore, he was very impressed and touched that the local volunteers made a trip to Singapore in May for Tzu Chi Singapore’s World Peace Interfaith Prayer Ceremony and came back to organize the Buddha Day ceremony in Cambodia using the experience learnt there. Albeit having a tough history, the country is picking up and with Tzu Chi around, Brother Wu believes that the country will keep improving.
Walking into the multitude
In April this year, Brother David Liu has stepped down from his position of CEO of Tzu Chi Singapore and has returned to Taiwan to follow Master Cheng Yen’s footsteps even more closely. Within one year, he has visited Cambodia many times to lead and guide the local volunteers.
“I remember a year ago, we were recruiting volunteers and at that time 12 locals had responded that they’re willing to volunteer with Tzu Chi. It was a good start and a milestone for Cambodia. Today, there are more than 100 volunteers with us. Finally we see some results,” Brother Liu felt that as the number of volunteers increase, the number of care recipients should increase too. For instance, if a group of three or four volunteers visit the care recipient once a month, it is not sufficient. “We need to increase our charitable reach so that more people can help and be helped. Volunteers walk into the dark corners of the poverty, witness the bitterness and count their own blessings; after the home visits, meetings are carried out and volunteers get to learn to apply wisdom in doing good deeds. This is Tzu Chi’s path of cultivation,” concluded Brother Liu.
He is also grateful to the owner of New York Hotel, Mr Chen Hai Yuan, who participated in the entrepreneurs’ camp in Taiwan this March and since then has been very supportive of Tzu Chi. Mr Chen provides the meeting room in his hotel for the volunteers to gather every month. Currently the local volunteers rent a room at the Cambodia Japan Corporation Centre for their sharing session. Brother Chen has willingly agreed to lend out the eighth floor of the hotel meeting room for the conducting of the monthly sharing session.
Due to successive typhoons in June, three local volunteers were not able to attend the annual overseas volunteer seminar in Taiwan then. “The journey to Taiwan is an important trip for everyone. You can meet fellow Tzu Chi volunteers from different parts of the world and also see how the Master and her monastic disciples work hard for Buddhism and for all sentient beings.”
Brother Liu continued, “I am grateful to the Master for sending our colleagues from the Department of Religious Affairs and her blessings to us. It makes us feel the care that the Master has for us, and it is also a strong showing of support. Because the Master is like a mother spreading her wisdom to all the Tzu Chi volunteers worldwide, we hope everyone will continue to work hard to promote our missions and let our lives be more fulfilled and broaden our wisdom.”
After the Blissful Life Talk, Brother Allen had a sharing session with the younger volunteers on the satisfaction and contentment of contributing to Tzu Chi. He also shared with them the Master’s wisdom and the mission of a Tzu Chi volunteer. It was a fruitful sharing for the volunteers involved. They felt very encouraged.
Cambodia, one year on
In 2011, inspired by Master Cheng Yen’s compassionate spirit, Phnom Penh saw the first batch of Tzu Chi volunteers burgeoning at the local scene. They were led by the volunteers in Singapore to start the mission of helping the poverty and needy. On 10 July 2011, Brother David spoke at the country’s first Blissful Life Talk and shared with 180 participants on Tzu Chi’s spirit of Great Love and its international relief efforts. Through this talk and the hard work of the volunteers, many participants which include housewives, local students and entrepreneurs joined the local volunteers to help the poverty and the needy.
In August 2011, after a series of serious floods that had persisted in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar commune for a few months, Tzu Chi volunteers, both local and Singapore, pioneered a distribution aid and benefited 888 families in the commune. Because of this distribution aid, more local entrepreneur and their employees joined Tzu Chi.
This year, the acceptance of the local community could be seen from the 500-strong audience at the second Blissful Life Talk in February.
On May 2012, several local volunteers and 10 Dharma Masters headed to Singapore to participate in the World Peace Interfaith Prayer Ceremony. After returning, the local volunteers took a step forward and organized the first Tzu Chi tri-celebrations of Buddha’s birthday, Mothers’ Day and the 46th anniversary of Tzu Chi Foundation in Cambodia. 14 Masters and more than a hundred volunteers witnessed the beauty of religion and it also gave some fresh look to the Buddhism in Cambodia.
Under the leadership of Brother Ying Long and Sister Xiao Hong, who also serve as good role models to emulate, they have inspired volunteers and influenced their friends to realize the mission of Tzu Chi to carry out the function of “Seeing by one eye, a thousand eyes see simultaneously, and with one hand in action, a thousand hands work together”.
*Note: In the spirit of “Great Love Without Borders”, the volunteer team from Tzu Chi Merit Organisation (Singapore) utilised their personal leave from work and participated in this humanitarian mission at their own expense.