On 25th November 2012, C W de Groot, who works for the airline, met several Tzu Chi volunteers in Orchard Road who were raising funds for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
“I was assigned to New York two days before Hurricane Sandy hit the shores. There were some victims in the hotel that I stayed in. They told me that days are difficult to get by as their homes are flooded and they are without food, electricity and water.” She exclaimed.
She and her colleagues then decided to combine their available cash on hand and handed it over to the victims with the hope that the funds could at least be of some help for them to tie over the difficult period.
“Just yesterday, I heard from my colleague that several areas in New York are still without electricity.”
On meeting the volunteers, she said:
“Many people felt that America is a powerful country, but the fact is there are poor people in America too! And they are also in need of help.”
Before leaving, she gave her word of encouragement to the volunteers:
“It is really a surprise to see all of you raise funds here; I wish that you will be able to raise as much funds as possible! All the best!”
Warm Hearts under the rain
Together with Tzu Chi Chapters from 20 other countries, Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore Branch) obtained a special permit for raising funds to help the Hurricane victims in USA and launched the “Help Hurricane Survivors, Send Love to USA” Street Donation drive on the rainy morning of 25th November 2012.
The volunteers fanned out across Neighbourhood Centres on the island and also the central shopping districts such as Orchard Road and Bugis Street in the hope of raising as much funds as possible. From dawn till dusk, a total of 816 volunteer man hours were recorded on the day itself with donation boxes gradually filled with love, kindness and blessings to the Hurricane victims on the other side of the globe.
Tzu Chi Singapore CEO Brother Loh Swee Seh was on the scene at Orchard Road to encourage the volunteers: “With winter around the corner, it‘s getting very cold in America. Bracing all the challenges, Tzu Chi Volunteers in America are conducting relief distributions and comforting the victims day and night. We are all blessed to live in the safe haven of Singapore, let us do our part too in sending our love to America.”
Tzu Chi English cum TIMA Sharing Session which was schedule on this afternoon was also called off to allow TIMA (Tzu Chi International Medical Association) team members to participate in the street donation drive.
31 TIMA doctors and nurses turned up in the street donation drive at Orchard Road in the drizzling afternoon. Joining the street donation for the first time is volunteer Luo Ming Shui, a 76 year old TCM pharmacist. He said, “In the past, most of my time is spent on my family, and only after joining Tzu Chi did I find out about the good things Master Cheng Yen has done, and I feel that this is so meaningful.”
The sight of him soliciting donations under the drizzling sky touched the hearts of many. Also joining him for the first time is TIMA nurse Lin Jin Yan. She could be seen carrying the poster board and shouting “Help Hurricane Survivors, Send Love to USA”.
She felt a little discouraged when passerby did not even stop to take a look. However, she readily changed her mindset and said to herself: “We don’t often get to conduct street donations, as long as someone is willing to donate, we should be grateful. It does not matter even if we are drenched from the rain as long as we do our best”
Great love is “infectious”
“Are you from Tzu Chi? I want to donate!”
In the Neighbourhood, local Tzu Chi volunteers can be seen covering areas with high human traffic. As the volunteers are familiar faces in the neighbourhood, many came forward to donate upon seeing them, who are dressed in their familiar blue and white uniform.
Residents from all walks of life came forward to support. Be it those who went to the market; a family out for breakfast; shopkeepers who had just started their business for the day; the dishwashers from the hawker centres or even those selling newspapers, all of them is keen to do their little part in helping the victims. Some residents became teary eyed upon hearing the severed damaged brought by the hurricane.
Volunteer Zhang Wei Zhong, who is on the street donation for the very first time, expressed that by participating in the street donation; he is able to dispel the misconception that “Only the rich people can make donations”.
“I saw the residents dropping coins into the donation boxes. Regardless of the amount, it is still their love and contribution”, said the 35 years old volunteer.
His wife Zhang Bi Xia added:
“Today I learn the concept of ‘Educating the rich to help the poor; inspiring the poor to realize their riches’. It is important to help the countries who had been through a disaster, but it is more important to ‘educate the rich’ so that when the difficult times are over, those who are touched will come back to contribute to the society.”
Another couple team, Pan Gui Xiang and Liu Tian Xin, rotate among themselves in carrying the donation box and poster board. The sincere 90 degree bow and a heartfelt smile of the volunteers touched the hearts of many residents, as many stall owners in the market place could be seen coming forward to make their donations.
“The 90 degrees bow certainly makes a difference!” said Sister Tian Xin.
On the concourse of Serangoon Blk 263, more than a hundred residents could be seen gathering to do the morning health exercise conducted by TIMA TCM doctor, Liu Xiao Yi. Liu took this rare opportunity to call upon the participants to come forward for the donation to help the hurricane victims:
“I always tell everyone to make friends with people around the world through this exercise, but today I hope everyone will make friends with people around the world through great love!”
The participants in the exercise group could be seen donating enthusiastically. Madam Wu Hui Zhu said:
“I’m already 75 years old. Being able to help people is really a blessing. As what Doctor Liu said, let’s make friends with people around the world through great love.”
Heartwarming stories from the heartlands
Madam Hu Xin Lan, who is a newspaper vendor in Bedok Central, has many regular customers as she maintains a very good rapport with her customers. On this day, Mdm Hu was happy to appeal to her customers to donate their change from the newspaper or magazine purchase to Tzu Chi. With good respond, the donation box near her stall started to “gain weight” after a while.
Ms Hu, who has been to India and Nepal, had seen people suffering in the cold winter. Thus she is able to resonate with the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
“All of you are doing something good. If they (the customers) are willing, why not donate the change from the newspapers purchase ? I like the way we work with each other.”
When residents queried why Tzu Chi is raising funds for a rich nation, she replied:
“We are not helping America; we are helping the victims who had suffered in this hurricane.”
In the heartlands, it is most heart-warming when we see the simple minds and hearts of the residents working towards a good cause.
Kanagasohai Rejcletchmi is a security officer at a construction site. She works 10 hours a day, 7 days a week to make a living as her husband is undergoing kidney dialysis. She does not take leave even though she is tired.
But when she sees Tzu Chi volunteers soliciting donations, she steps forward to donate. She makes her second donation on her return journey back from breakfast. Even though it is not a huge sum of money, it shows her willingness to help others in need.
“We should help if we are able to!” said Rejcletchmi with a huge smile on her face.
In Jurong West, The sight of our busy volunteers draws the attention of an “Old Friend”.
“Brother Zhang Zheng Chang!” The loud voice came from Mr and Mrs Li Ya Sheng, who were former Tzu Chi care recipients.
“We had not seen you for three years!” said volunteer Xu Jian Fa.
Mr Li, who was on a wheelchair, was elated when he saw Brother Jian Fa. “My children have already graduated and I had already found a job. I’m very grateful to Tzu Chi for helping us in the past”, said Mrs Li with a teary eye.
Mr Li also took this opportunity to donate and let the cycle of goodness carry on.
Under the company of his father, a young boy came forward to make his donation. With his bright eyes, he said earnestly:
“I feel that I am very fortunate, I hope that the children in America can grow up happily and return to school’’.
Charity and Love are the power that keeps all living things going. Tzu Chi volunteers witnessed many touching moments and received many encouragements in the process.
All we need is just a simple meeting of minds and mutual encouragement, regardless of age, race or religion.