Here, we witness the meaning of living in the global village, know that we are all residents of the global village,
From Haiti, Montreal, Taiwan, Buddhist or Catholic,
Although we come from different cultures, nationalities and religions,
We still can work together to accomplish one thing, that is helping the children,
Because we need to give them their rights for education.”
On 15 and 16 December 2012, in the four sessions of the Seeds of Hope (SOH) bursary presentation ceremony, more than a thousand students watched the first video featuring Tzu Chi volunteers’ reconstruction effort of the 3 Catholic Schools in Haiti destroyed by the earthquake. From Haiti, the students were drawn back to Singapore with a video showing the SOH bursary programme of Tzu Chi Singapore.
The hope of a family lies on the child and a child’s hope lies in education. For four years, about 8841 recorded numbers have benefitted from Tzu Chi SOH Programme in the form of meals and transportation subsides. Moving on to its fifth year (2013), the SOH bursary programme has extended to over 60 secondary schools, 20 primary schools and 9 homes in Singapore, benefiting 1946 students in total.
Acknowledging Tzu Chi Effort in Recycling Movement
“When we received the SOH application form, we thought it was the school‘s new initiative. It was until when Tzu Chi volunteers came to do home visit that we realised that it was from a Buddhist organization!” said Safinah, together with her son Mohammad, who was there to attend the SOH bursary presentation ceremony. She exclaimed: “Right from stepping out of MRT station, the volunteers were already stationed there to receive us, boarding and alighting the bus, crossing the road and they even have umbrellas to shelter us from the drizzling rain, I felt flattered.”
Tzu Chi’s SOH bursary programme has a different operating procedures compared to other Pocket Money Fund. It sets no limit to the applications received from each school. Volunteers will conduct home visit to do the evaluation. A presentation ceremony will be held before the semester begins. Every month, the volunteers will go to the school to distribute meal vouchers, settle bills with the stall vendors as well as communicating with the students to offer their concern. In the recent years through SOH programme, Tzu Chi volunteers’ active involvement have enabled the teachers, students and parents to know more about Tzu Chi Foundation and hence forged a good relationship with them.
During each of the SOH presentation ceremony which lasted about 2.5 hours, a selection of videos were screened over the years. These include stories of a low income family in Malaysia, an Indonesian family living by the garbage mountain and scenes depicting suffering of the survivors. All these have left deep impression in the minds of the student and parents, inspiring their compassion and gratitude.
Some of the teachers are supportive of Tzu Chi’s philosophy and they are also aware that portions of the SOH bursary funds come from Tzu Chi’s recycle activities. Hence, they encourage their students to be involved in the monthly Tzu Chi community recycle activities as it is an opportunity for them to take actions, learn to recycle and play their parts to save the earth and contribute to the community.
Chen Jia Jun who will be in Secondary 3 next year, often help out in the Siglap Lucky Valley recycle point. Previously he does not have the habit of recycling things but after several interactions with Tzu Chi volunteers, he has learnt the importance of recycling to save the environment. He said “I am very grateful to receive Tzu Chi help and hope to contribute to the society by participating in the recycle activities.”
Repaying with Sign Language Song Performance
“I am blessed, and fortunate, when I know that many people are without food and shelter,
I am blessed, and fortunate, some people live in hardship without parents, hiding in one corner to cry, I should be contented”
Since last year, SOH presentation ceremonies were organised by Tzu Chi volunteers in their own community.
A number of schools have accepted Tzu Chi’s invitation to let their students participate in the stage performance. This year, students of Bukit Panjang Government High School presented the sign language song performance entitled “I am blessed”. It took the students nearly two months to rehearse for the performance and results are obviously heart warming to the audience.
“I hope that through the hand sign language, it can bring Tzu Chi’s humanities to the school” said Tzu Chi volunteer Huang Liping. She was heartened to see different races overcome the language barrier and participated in the performance. A Malay student, Aisha in her compose posture and cordial smile though does not understand the Chinese song lyrics, was able to present sign gestures accurately and graceful during the performance. With the help of Tzu Chi volunteers who translated the meaning of the song lyrics to her, she was able to appreciate and count her blessings and said “At least I have a home and have my parents to love me.”
Students from Jurong Secondary School also performed similar sign language song “I am blessed” at the Presentation ceremony conducted at River Valley High School. The students has a big thumbed up for Ms Samnah Astoray, the staff in charge of SOH affairs in the school whom encouraged them to take part and eventually also joined in the performance. As it was during school holidays, Ms Samnah has often taken the trouble to call the students prior to the rehearsal to remind them to turn up for rehearsal. She said “I let the students know that this is feasible, each child has their own talents.”
On the other hand, Mdm Norsiah, who is mother to a student recipient, was happy to note that she was warmly welcome by volunteers with smiles and bow. “Although we are the recipients, I truly felt the sincere giving of the volunteers”. The meals and transportation subsides aided by Tzu Chi can help to relieve some financial burdens for the parents and they could re-channel their funds to other important household expenses. She said “It is your sincerity and humanity that I would cherish this annual event.”
Paying it back
For four consecutive years, Tzu Chi volunteers’ collaboration with the schools has been strong; the teachers were moved by the perseverance and non tiring spirit shown by the volunteers for their students. Huaming Primary School principal, Mr Edmund Lim Wei Kiat, commented Tzu Chi with the word “Chi” during his speech on stage.
“ C represents Compassion and Caring, H is the Humility and Hope, I is the Individual strength that cannot be undermine. Mr Lim encouraged the students to learn the spirit of Tzu Chi volunteers by providing love and share it with people around them as well as creating hope, inspire others through their selfless love.
Mrs Kris Hay, Director of East Coast Primary School Student Affairs Department expressed her gratitude and said that these subsidies not only allow the students to better cope with the ups and downs of their lives, but also guide them to cultivate mutual help and a sense of mission to contribute to the community. Since last year, with the help of Tzu Chi SOH bursary progrmame, the school saw significantly improvement in the students’ attendances. As such, the school not only provided full cooperation in the administrative aspect but also encouraged the students to participate in the performance to show their gratitude and respond to the bamboo coin bank collection.
Seconday 4 student Zuo Wen Jie recalled viewing a video on “Herman’s Dinner” during last year bursary presentation ceremony. He remembered how the Indonesian family staying by the garbage mountain heap, makes their living by picking up trash each day. Realising how blessed he is, he started saving coins he had save up each day into the bamboo bank. “ My mother taught me the joy of helping others”. He has today brought the bamboo coin bank back to Tzu Chi to help others in need.
Zou Wenjie came from a single parent family, his mother is the sole bread winner and she takes up two jobs to keep the family going. The sensible Wenjie once told to his mother that he can take less pocket money, eat less and use less to lessen his mother’s burden, but his mother could not bear to let her child suffers.
Tzu Chi SOH bursary for the past four years has not only reduces the burden of the family but also allow Wenjie to concentrate on his studies. He was pleased to share that his results has improved over the past two years because of the great help and encouragement given to him. This year he will also receive the Good Progress Award issued by Ministry of Education.
Seeing the improvement in her child, Zuo’s mother felt settled and relieved. She said “ Helping people is a blessing and I often told him that we must return the kindness that others showered on us in future regardless of how much we earn, be it more or less.” For now, both mother and son help at Tzu Chi recycling point whenever they can.
“Love is not a privilege of the rich but it’s the sincere individuals’ involvement”. For the four years since SOH bursary programme started, it had embodies the love of many kind-hearted people, teachers, canteen stall vendors, parents and many others who work together for the well being of the students. In this journey of love and care, it is hope that the students will grow into sturdy trees capable of helping others in the future.