"It would be great if I have the opportunity to become a volunteer in Tzu Chi,” shared Chen Yixuan, who received all the six Meritorious Awards during the annual Seeds of Hope (“SOH”) Bursary and Meritorious Awards Ceremony. She hopes to give back to the community one day and be someone who can contribute to help others.
The Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) held its Seeds of Hope Bursary and Meritorious Awards Ceremony on 28th December 2019 at its Jing Si Hall. The ceremony was attended by 47 beneficiary students and 40 parents. Chen was the very first student to clinch all the awards since the launch of the SOH Programme. She thanked her mother for what she has achieved this day.
The Seeds of Hope Programme includes the “Seeds of Hope Nurturing Programme” and “Seeds of Hope Meritorious Award Programme”. The Meritorious Awards Programme aims to encourage students to develop their potentials and skills in various aspects. It consists of six types of awards—“Diligence”, “Filial Piety”, “Special Talent”, “Academic Excellence”, “Good Progress”, and “Good Conduct”. Each award has its own assessment criteria and requirements, such as monthly home visits by volunteers, applicants’ regular participation in Tzu Chi activities, etc.
After a 6-month observation through monthly home visits by Tzu Chi volunteers, applicants for the awards will be assessed in November each year. Apart from academic transcripts and other relevant documents, the feedback from schools, parents and volunteers also serves as a reference for evaluation.
Chen shared on the stage that her mother often told her that her academic results were not important, and what was more important was whether she had done her best or not. However, she knew that her mother still expected her to do well, just like most other parents. Thus, she studied hard in order not to disappoint her.
Chen also shared that she admired and loved Tzu Chi very much as it is often the first charitable organisation to arrive at a disaster site to render help to the victims. She only found out about the many disasters that plagued countries around the world after attending Tzu Chi’s Year End Blessing Ceremony held earlier in December 2019.
Chen also actively helps out at a Tzu Chi recycling point by sorting recyclables. From there, she learned that the earth’s limited resources have been excessively exploited, so it is an imperative to conserve these resources. On top of that, she sorts recyclables at home and takes them to the Tzu Chi recycling point every month. She also took the initiative to tell her mother not to buy any new school uniform for her as her current uniform has only been worn for a year.
Giving back to society
19-year-old Qaisyara became a beneficiary of the SOH financial assistance scheme four years ago and stopped contacting Tzu Chi after receiving the aid for the last time. Four years later in 2019, she signed up as a Tzu Chi volunteer herself through the NGO’s website and hoped to reconnect with the volunteers who cared for her as a sister previously.
"We should not forget the people who have helped us,” said Qaisyara.
As a senior to those who are currently receiving assistance from Tzu Chi, Qaisyara encouraged the student beneficiaries in the audience as well as thanked Tzu Chi for the help she had received. She revealed that she had been living with her aunt and wanted to drop out of school to work. But thanks to Tzu Chi, she was able to continue with her studies. She felt that Tzu Chi had not only helped her financially, but also helped shape her personality and mindset for the better.
Qaisyara’s mother had passed away, and although she was living with her aunt, she was not close with her. When she encountered setbacks, Tzu Chi volunteers would cheer her up and encourage her not to give up easily. Qaisyara was bad at Mathematics and had never passed the subject from Secondary 1 to 4. The encouragement and support from Tzu Chi volunteers motivated her to study hard, and she managed to score a B in N-level Mathematics, surprising her Maths teacher.
At that time, it was Tzu Chi volunteer Kang Sool Peng, who gave Qaisyara continued encouragement. Kang deeply felt for her plight. When Qaisyara missed her mother, she would take a walk in Bukit Gombak, where she had memories of her and her mother. Kang, who happened to lose her mother at that time, was able to empathise with Qaisyara’s grief and loss. She often gave encouragement and helpful advice to Qaisyara when she was feeling helpless, which gave the teenage girl strength to continue with life.
Now, Qaisyara pays for her study loan by working on a part-time basis. Despite juggling with schoolwork and a job, Qaisyara still finds time to volunteer with Tzu Chi. She said, "Tzu Chi has helped me, so I hope to give back and contribute to the society."
Tzu Chi Singapore's Deputy CEO, Tan Chai Hoon, shared in his speech that the aim of education is to purify minds and lead young students and society towards the right path. Now, our education system no longer assesses a student’s performance based on academic results alone. Thus, through the SOH Meritorious Programme, Tzu Chi hopes to encourage students to develop their potentials in various aspects.
He also revealed that 66 students participated in the SOH Programme this year, and the students were encouraged to unleash their potential, outdo themselves, and realise their dreams.
Note: Tzu Chi’s Seeds of Hope Financial Assistance Scheme was revamped in 2017 and became the Seeds of Hope Programme. The programme, which includes a “Nurturing Programme” and a “Meritorious Award Programme”, targets at primary and secondary school-going children of Tzu Chi’s aid and care recipients.