More than 600 Tzu Chi volunteers took to the streets on 27th October 2018 to raise funds for the Foundation’s local charity programmes. They were spread across the island, stationing themselves near places frequented by crowds, such as wet markets, HDB estates, MRT stations and temples. Despite the hot and humid weather, the volunteers persisted in their effort and humbly showed their appreciation to every donor with a respectful 90-degree bow.
According to the Chinese lunar calendar, this day happened to be the birthday of Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin) Bodhisattva, thus scores of devotees could be seen taking turns to make offerings to the Bodhisattva in Kuan Yin Thong Hood Cho Temple at Waterloo Street. Among the crowd, sights of Tzu Chi volunteers smiling politely and bowing respectfully to donors were visible, and they were no strangers to the public there. Some of the devotees approached the volunteers to strike up a casual chat, while some, feeling for the latter who were standing under the hot sun, kindly offered refreshments, such as bean curd dessert and bread to them.
Donors come from all walks of life
As Tzu Chi volunteers have been serving the local community for 25 years, they have become more familiar to the public over the years. Some of the active donors were former care or aid beneficiaries of Tzu Chi, and there were also donors who were former students of the Tzu Chi Continuing Education Centre. Many of those who supported the good cause were existing Tzu Chi donating members or friends of the Foundation’s volunteers.
Huang Jin Cai, who lives near Chong Pang City, came forth to make a donation when he saw a team of volunteers raising funds on the street. At the end of 2017, Huang’s wife became a dialysis assistance recipient of Tzu Chi. She was provided with a 3- month subsidy, which allowed her to start her dialysis treatment while waiting for the grant from the National Kidney Foundation (NKF).
"My wife and I are very thankful for the help given by Tzu Chi. You have helped us, and now we want to help others too," said Huang.
76-year-old Zhong Mei Li has a poor health and was often ill since young. She was admitted to the hospital this year due to a stomach disease, which made her realise that she must actively do good while she is still able to.
She said, "Charity cannot wait. We have to do it quickly before it is too late."
Zhong feels very happy whenever she places money into a donation box. Although the amount she has donated is not much, she believes that if everyone can give a little, it will help place a meal on the table for those in need.
When wheelchair bound Abdullah bin Ismail, a tissue seller, saw a team of volunteers collecting donations, he called out to them and dropped his donation into their box. Despite being unfamiliar with Tzu Chi, he made a contribution, with the hope that he, too, could play a small part in helping others in need.
Spiritual practice in the streets
The island-wide fundraising drive also saw the participation of members from the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA). Tzu Chi volunteer Xu Pei Ying showed Isabela Gladkowska, who hails from Poland and is new to TIMA, how to thank donors by putting the palms together and making a 90-degree bow. Xu is a dietitian by profession and works in the same company as Isabela, a pharmacist. She encouraged Isabela to join the ranks of TIMA volunteers.
This was the first street fundraising experience for both of them. Isabela was very happy during the event and shared that she had learned how to do the 90-degree bow and found it to be something very meaningful and positive.
“Street fundraising is a platform for everyone to inspire kindness in people,” said Lim Lee Ting, another first-time participant of Tzu Chi Flag Day.
Lim used to be afraid of collecting donations from the public. She felt embarrassed doing so, thinking that she would appear to be begging for money. However, after listening to the Dharma talks by Master Cheng Yen more frequently recently, she has changed her perspective. She now thinks that fundraising is a form of spiritual practice for the heart and mind, and that it also serves to inspire kindness in the public, giving people an opportunity to contribute to the needy.
Fundraising not only inspires kindness in others; it is also an opportunity for the volunteers to engage in spiritual cultivation. Standing for long hours in the hot and humid weather to raise funds was a test of their willpower, and facing the crowd and answering questions from members of the public was a challenging task for them, too. However, the volunteers were very happy to take hold of the opportunity to contribute their time and effort for a worthy cause.
75-year-old Hong Wei Dai, who has just undergone a knee surgery in June this year has difficulty walking. However, she still grasped the opportunity to join the fundraising efforts and insisted to serve as best as she could. Hong revealed that she is an illiterate, but as a disciple of Master Cheng Yen, she wants to perform her duty as a volunteer and do what she can.
"Master has given me a lot of blessings. She has helped me understand the law of karma. Now I am doing fundraising, and I hope that more people will join me!" said Hong.
“I would regret it if I didn’t make it this time. I hope that I will always have the opportunity to participate in street fundraising. I’m thankful to everyone for giving me this opportunity,” said Hoo Soo Moi, a 75-year-old volunteer. Although Hoo would suffer from leg swelling after standing for a long time, she insisted to join others in raising funds on the streets.
Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) applied for a permit from the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) to hold its very first Flag Day in 2015. This year, in conjunction with Tzu Chi Singapore’s 25th anniversary, the volunteers took to the streets for the third time to raise funds from the public.
The one-day island-wide fundraising event not only allowed the volunteers to cultivate humility, but also gave them opportunities to establish a rapport with the public and inspire kindness in people’s hearts.