As visitors walked in through the main entrance of the Tzu Chi Festive Charity Fair, they were greeted by a variety of fresh flowers in an array of colours.
“Many people came to the fair early in the morning to buy the flowers. Orchids are the most popular and saleable variety,” commented Tzu Chi volunteer Shen Seng Ping.
Shen had been in charge of the flower stall at the Charity Fair for three years. After the fair ended, he and other members of the Tzu Chi Entrepreneurs’ Association served as delivery men, transporting flowers to customers who ordered them.
Organized by Tzu Chi Merit Organization (Singapore), the annual Festive Charity Fair was held on 14th and 15th January this year in the open field next to Pasir Ris MRT station. Apart from a wide variety of tasty vegetarian fare, CNY goodies, and fresh flowers, also available was a selection of bags made by residents of Tacloban City in the Philippines.
Affordable Western Vegetarian Delicacy
One of the vegetarian food stalls at the Charity Fair was “Casa de Funghi”, which sold baked Portobello mushrooms with basil, a Western delicacy. The stall holder is Tzu Chi volunteer leader Joyce Goh, a professional chef and a former Culinary Arts instructor at Temasek Polytechnic.
“Vegetarian food often gives people an impression that it is unhealthy as they thought that it’s mostly mock meat made of gluten,” said Goh.
She hoped that the healthy and tasty mushroom dish she had devised would change the general impression people have of vegetarian food and encourage more to go vegetarian. She even printed out the recipe in English and Chinese and displayed it at the front of the stall. With the help of fellow volunteer Zhong Li Juan, Goh gave two half-hour cooking demos a day to show how the dish was prepared.
In a show of support for the Charity Fair, Bhante K Gunaratana, a Dharma master from Sri Lanka who has lived in Singapore for more than 30 years, specially made some unique Sri Lankan vegetarian food to be sold at the fair, to contribute to the fund-raising effort.
French national J.L Charrier, a colleague of Tzu Chi volunteer Chen Bi Hui, shared that he liked the fair very much and was impressed with how clean the venue was, thanks to the volunteers who went on rounds to pick up litter on the ground and to clear the tables. He also praised Tzu Chi for successfully implementing recycling efforts at such a large-scale event and shared that he also sorts out his trash at home for recycling purpose.
Holding placards in their hands, Tzu Chi’s collegiate volunteers and students from its teenager class went around the fair venue to promote zero food waste. Volunteers also promoted the Ethical Eating Day 111 campaign to go vegetarian for a day on 11th January 2018, and their effort inspired 204 people to pledge their support.
Loving Contributions from Home and Afar
Another highlight of the Charity Fair was a stall selling bags made by residents of Tzu Chi Great Love Village in Tacloban, Philippines. These residents are survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan who currently reside in temporary housing provided by Tzu Chi.
Tzu Chi volunteer Lin Guo Quan, together with a few of his businessmen friends, visited the Tzu Chi Great Love Village in Tacloban last year, and came out with an idea of helping the typhoon survivors – they flew back to the city in the Philippines to purchase the handmade bags and resell them at the fair. The sales of the bags not only went towards helping the needy in Tacloban but also helped support Tzu Chi’s charity programmes in Singapore.
There was even a Filipino couple who helped promote the bags at the fair. They are Tzu Chi volunteers in the Philippines and had come to Singapore to visit their relatives. After learning that Tzu Chi was going to hold the Charity Fair, they specially extended their stay to help out at the event.
“The drawings are really beautiful!” exclaimed some of the fair’s attendees who were impressed and delighted upon seeing the colourful paintings done by two art teachers and a few of their students from the Tzu Chi Continuing Education Centre. These “artists” were stationed near the booth selling Jing Si products, and those who had bought the reusable cups and bowls at the booth could have the utensils turned into works of art with the free art services.
Among the volunteers helping out at the fair was Mr Ye, the brother of one of Tzu Chi’s aid recipients. He works as a taxi driver and specially took half a day off to help sell cakes at the fair, hoping to repay Tzu Chi for the aid and care it gave to his family.
For many years, he has been taking care of his sick wife and sister as well as his elderly father. This has taken a toll on him physically and emotionally, and left him financially drained. Last year, his family started receiving aid from Tzu Chi, which helped alleviate his financial burden.
Mr Ye also watches Tzu Chi’s Da Ai TV programmes and listens to Master Cheng Yen’s Dharma talks. Inspired and touched by the Master’s aspiration to work for Buddhism and for all living beings, he hopes to do what he can to help others in need, too.
“In life, we must give with love so as to bring about a continual cycle of love in this world,” said Liang Jia Jian, one of the first recipients of the Tzu Chi ‒ SMU (Singapore Management University) Bursary. The monthly visits by caring Tzu Chi volunteers warmed his heart, and the tall, young man seized every opportunity to help out at the Charity Fair, washing dishes with his back bent and a happy smile on his face.
The two-day Charity Fair was made possible by the united efforts and kind hearts of many people, who all worked joyfully to usher in the Year of Rooster with goodwill and blessings.