“We hope that the students can develop their knowledge and intelligence, and we hope to help them achieve their dreams and learn to give back to the society.” Tzu Chi Singapore’s deputy CEO Tan Chai Hoon said in his speech at the “Seeds of Hope Meritorious and Bursary Awards” ceremony held on 2nd December 2017 at the Jing Si Hall.
There are six award categories in Tzu Chi’s “Seeds of Hope Meritorious Awards” programme, including “Filial Piety”, “Good Progress”, “Academic Excellence”, “Special Talent”, “Diligence”, and “Good Conduct”.
In addition to the Meritorious Awards, bursaries were also given to 34 needy students from four of the universities in Singapore, including Singapore Management University, the Singapore University of Technology and Design, the Singapore Institute of Technology, and Nanyang Technological University.
Volunteers’ Love Builds Bridges into Students’ Hearts
On this day, the awardees, together with their family members, arrived in droves at the Jing Si Hall. At the start of the award ceremony, the emcee conducted an ice-breaker to help everyone get acquainted with one another.
Next, a group of volunteers staged a re-enactment of a case depicting an incredibly shy student beneficiary. This particular student used to hide in her room during the volunteers’ visits; but gradually, over time, she let down her guard and started interacting with the volunteers, who never gave up on her.
The real life protagonist in the skit, Zhu Ying Qian, was filled with mixed feelings as she witnessed the re-enactment of her life story on the stage. Ying Qian recalled that the first time she saw her mother’s tears was the time one of her family members broke the news about her father’s illness. The second time she saw her cry was when Tzu Chi volunteers celebrated her birthday.
On the stage, hot tears flowed freely down the mother’s cheeks when the volunteers finished singing the birthday song, because it had been a long time since anyone had celebrated her birthday with her.
In the past, Ying Qian would quickly hide within her room at the sight of Tzu Chi volunteers in her home. Over time, with the patient care and company from the volunteers, she gradually opened her heart. She used to talk defiantly to her mother and angered her. That was until the volunteer gave her a copy of Master Cheng Yen’s The Essence of Filial Piety. She loved the book very much and remembered many details of the stories within, which had left an indelible mark in her mind.
On each occasion of the volunteers’ visits, she would share her gleanings from the book. Presently, whenever she bickers with her mother, she will recall some of the teachings she has learned from the book and is able to exercise self-control, thus taming her fiery temper and ceasing to anger her mother. As a result of her changed behaviour, Ying Qian won the “Good Progress Award”.
Bursary Recipients Give Back
“It is a great blessing to be able to study in the comfortable environment of the university,” commented another student, Huang Tian Xin, who also expressed her heartfelt gratitude to have received three consecutive years of bursary awards. The bursaries helped to ease the financial burdens of her family and enabled her to enjoy university life with peace of mind.
The monthly Tzu Chi recycling activities helped to heighten Tian Xin’s awareness of the importance of recycling. She would sort out the trash at home before bringing the recyclables to the Tzu Chi recycling point in her neighbourhood.
The volunteers would share with her Tzu Chi’s missions and reminded her about the importance of giving back to society. This inspired her to think of ways to give back, and she started taking part in the recycling activities to help protect the environment. Feeling content and blessed at present, she is grateful that Tzu Chi is around to help her when she is in need of assistance.
“I feel very blessed to have the opportunities to interact with the elderly residents at the SASCO Evergreen Senior Citizens' Home. It taught me to be grateful for everything in life,” said Ms Zheng, a student from Singapore Management University (SMU).
The Seeds of Hope bursaries allowed her to study in peace, without the need to worry about having to work part-time to help pay her university tuition fees, so she has more free time to take part in extra-curricular activities. She also took part in the Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association’s gatherings, and has packed her schedule with many meaningful Tzu Chi activities, such as the monthly recycling activities, care visits to the nursing home, blood donation drives, etc. Zheng shared that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” and believed that the little bit of contribution by everyone would help to create a society filled with human warmth and love.
“Tzu Chi, in giving more than just bursaries, also established friendships with the students. Their continued love and care has touched our lives,” shared Chen Hui Ling from SMU.
She represented SMU in giving thanks to Tzu Chi for issuing bursaries to eight SMU students in 2014 and further expanding the grants to 21 students in 2017. She was also pleased to share that the present student recipients of the awards had clocked 133 hours of community service, way above the school requirement of 18 hours.
“What is the worth of $1? What can it buy?” The emcee posed this question to the audience.
Some said a cup of coffee, others mentioned a packet of instant noodles. Then, the emcee encouraged every student to support Tzu Chi’s “Save for a Good Cause” campaign by contributing just a dollar each day. All the students and their parents wrote their well-wishes on colourful pieces of paper and folded them into heart shapes before stuffing $1 coins into the paper hearts.
Then, the campaign mascot, “Ah Teck”, made his appearance, and went around each table to greet the guests warmly. In response to Tzu Chi’s “One Dollar Challenge”, everyone donated a coin-filled heart. They understood that “charity is not an exclusive right of the rich, but can be accomplished by anyone who has the will to do it”.
Education is the hope of a better future, and the Seeds of Hope Meritorious and Bursary Awards serve as encouragements to the student recipients. Tzu Chi hopes that the programme will inspire more students and help them develop their talents, so that they may one day contribute to society and serve the underprivileged with a selfless spirit of love.