“No matter when it is, I always seize the opportunity to build positive affinities with people. After giving of myself, I’m the one who gains the most,” shared Tzu Chi volunteer Cham Toon Chok. Whenever he sees smiles on the faces of people he has helped, he will feel that his life is worthwhile.
In 2006, Cham joined Tzu Chi after getting connected with the NGO through a friend. He found joy in participating in Tzu Chi’s various activities, such as charity home visits, recycling, etc. After he retired from his job in 2017, he set his mind on serving in Tzu Chi for the rest of his life. Since then, whenever help is needed in the organisation, he will always chip in his effort.
His typical day in his “Tzu Chi life” goes like this:
He wakes up at 4:30am and leaves his home at 5am to wait for a fellow volunteer to drive him to Tzu Chi’s Jing Si Hall to watch Master Cheng Yen’s early morning Dharma talk. Listening to the Dharma talk the first thing each day helps him to purify his mind and generate positive vibes as he ushers in each new day.
He said that as he listens to the Master’s teachings each morning, he immerses himself in the Dharma, and that it is just like dropping a coin into his Bamboo Coin Bank (to save up to help those in need) while making a good wish every day.
After having breakfast, Cham will start to arrange the activities for the day and contact the other volunteers who are working with him. When he is free, he will seize the time to watch programmes on Tzu Chi’s Da Ai TV on his mobile phone or computer and read books for self-improvement.
Watching Master Cheng Yen’s talk programme, “Life Wisdom” on Da Ai TV is his “homework” every day. Through the programme, he learns about happenings worldwide, especially the countries that are struck by disasters and how Tzu chi volunteers provide aid to the disaster victims.
He describes Tzu Chi as a Buddhist organisation where “the sun never sets”—wherever the sun shines, there will be Tzu Chi volunteers helping those in need, and even in the dark corners of the world, the volunteers can be seen bringing comfort and care to suffering people.
“If I don't watch ‘Life Wisdom’ for a day, I will feel that I’ve lost touch with the world and won’t feel grounded in my heart,” shared Cham.
A tireless, diligent, and helpful volunteer
“In the past when I was still working, I could only join Tzu Chi activities during the weekends. After retiring, I feel like I can do whatever I want. I’m able to accomplish the things that I could not do in the past one by one now,” added Cham.
He explained that as most of the volunteers need to work on weekdays, there will often be shortages of volunteers, and he is always ready to render help. Currently, he serves in Tzu Chi more than three out of seven days in a week.
Among the many Tzu Chi activities, Cham is most passionate about doing charity home visits as he is able to walk into the homes of the needy aid beneficiaries and bring care and cheer to them. He will also share his valuable experiences and knowledge with other volunteers, especially on how to support the needy and accompany them through their difficult times. In addition, he also hopes to help the aid recipients transform their lives so that they may in turn help others in need, too.
Cham shared the story of a beneficiary of Tzu Chi’s dialysis assistance programme: Kidney patient Mr Hong has three of his toes amputated and is unable to urinate normally. There is a buildup of fluid in his abdomen as a result, and he is only able to take in a small amount of water daily. Due to his poor health conditions, he is unable to work, so he used to feel very depressed and shut himself off from others. He relies on his mother to take care of his living needs.
And Tzu Chi volunteers gave him continued care and support. In a few years, he gradually walked out of darkness and found light. As he used to work as a chef, he would often share his cooking skills with the volunteers. After he opened his heart, he also changed his impatient attitude towards his mother and is now able to appreciate and thank her for her care all these years.
Apart from charity home visits, Cham also serves as a docent at the Tzu Chi Da Ai Gallery, where he shares with visitors Tzu Chi’s footprints of Great Love around the world and its philosophy. Whenever a volunteer cannot make it, he will step in to take his/her place, offering help in a timely manner.
“If, through my small efforts, people feel happy and things can be done, I will feel very satisfied and grateful,” said Cham.
Having joined Tzu Chi when he was 52 years old, Cham has been in this big Dharma family for 13 years. Besides learning to give of himself, he has learned to be thankful. And through undergoing challenges while working with people, he has deepened his life and strengthened his resolve and spiritual aspirations.
Cham strives to adhere to the teachings of Master Cheng Yen and to form positive affinities with people with gratitude and respect. He hopes to continue exercising self-discipline and serving others with compassion so as to live an abundant life that shines with light and warmth.