“Hello, Auntie! Here’s wishing you a Happy Chinese New Year in advance!”
“We’re sure there would be extra can, bottle and container trash in your home during Chinese New Year. Would you be kind enough to keep them aside to be recycled at our recycling point after the New Year?”
These pleas from the young faces attracted much attention from stall owners as well as patrons at the Block 79 Redhill Market that morning.
In preparation for the upcoming festive period, the market saw a swarm of customers rushing in to buy Chinese New Year goodies on Sunday, 15 January. Despite the bustling crowd, the Tzu Chings steeled themselves to walk into the sea of people to promote the idea of “not forgetting about the environment while basking in festive mood”.
“During our promotion efforts, we are bound to meet indifferent responses. Nevertheless, we shan’t be discouraged and we should see it as a means to build up courage and enthusiasm to face the mass,” said Jackson Yang, the newly elected leader of the Tzu Ching recycling group, to the Tzu Chings. “If we believe our ideal is good, we should never let small things hold us up,” he said while adding that one should not over-analyze nor judge too soon when interacting with people, including strangers.
Though some of the market crowd had responded sceptically while some put up a defensive front, the Tzu Chings proved that casual conversations are instrumental in ice-breaking. These smartly clad youths were smart in finding little opportunities, e.g. when stall owners were resting or when patrons were queuing to place their order, to pass on environmental awareness and invite prospective residents to participate in the monthly recycling activity at Block 84, Redhill Lane.
Putting youthful vigour in message spreading
Everywhere in the world, it is the Chinese tradition to spring-clean houses in preparation for the Lunar New Year and this is also the time when old clothing, electrical appliances and household items get thrown out to make room for new possessions. The Tzu Chings from various campuses thus went all out to invite friends and schoolmates prior to the January recycling activity to help with the sorting task.
Taichi Ito from Japan was amongst those busily sorting through the “pre-Chinese New Year” recyclables that day. Ito found out about Tzu Chi Singapore through the SG Cares website more than half a year ago and despite a busy work schedule, he has volunteered with the recycling point for six times (over six months). The Japanese migrant who has decided to stay in Singapore for good mentioned that coming to the recycling activities is very much worth his time as he gets to spend a weekend meaningfully and meet people who share the same ideals as his. Ito later voiced his interest to become a donating member of Tzu Chi – it was a delightful news for the Tzu Chings.
Similarly from abroad was Fanny Ng from Indonesia. Fanny has volunteered with the monthly recycling activity for half a year already. The petite lass thinks the best way to protect the Earth starts from changing a person’s mindset, and when a group of like-minded people come together, the potential to spur a change becomes limitless. “Never underestimate small efforts that one individual can achieve,” she asserted.
In the span of three years after the recycling point has been set up in Redhill Lane, Tzu Chi volunteers has built a certain amount of rapport with the local residents. The Tzu Chings joined the team on 9 August 2009 and have since undertaken the recyclable sorting task. They are also responsible for going door-to-door to collect recyclables from the residents’ doorstep and pass on environmental consciousness to them.
Nanyang Technological University (NTU) graduate Gary See officially took over the coordinator role early this year. He hopes that by setting a good example himself, he would be able to attract more youths to join in the ranks of Tzu Chings. “Recycling sorting is a convenient way to attract young people. We should make use of this great opportunity to call for more people to join us,” said Gary. He also hopes that the Singapore Tzu Chings would continue to diligently spread environmental awareness to the local dwellers.
Breakthrough for the team
Stepping into the new year, the Tzu Chings has now taken a step further to spread the words at the nearby market.
Reflecting the public’s view on recycling, NTU Tzu Ching Low Yih Hwey said, “Many people have yet to understand the real purpose and benefits of it.” This, she added, was mainly due to the lack of information and educational channel to the public. She felt that the market promo was a great idea as it helps with the enlisting of more “Earth’s gardeners” and also exposes people to the sense of urgency one needs to have for the environment.