Three loud strikes of the gong rang out in the air on 18th January 2014, heralding the start of the two-day charity bazaar organized by Tzu Chi. Over the two days, the bazaar welcomed about 10,000 visitors who turned up to show their support.
Behind the scenes, numerous pair of hands belonging to Tzu Chi volunteers had worked steadily from the initial preparations till the close of the bazaar. The various functional teams of volunteers carried out their tasks with the attitude that mindfulness is professionalism. With harmonious cooperation, they ensured that the charity bazaar could proceed without a hitch and end on a good note.
Mindfulness is Professionalism
”Your hand is bleeding!” exclaims volunteer Chua See Siew of her fellow volunteer, Zeng Yu Mei.
Hard at work decorating the “wisdom and blessings rice bin” that would be used during the charity bazaar, Zeng had not noticed that her hand was bleeding. Upon Chua’s reminder, she calmly wiped away the blood with her handkerchief before picking up her hammer and continuing work on the rice bin.
Three hundred dark red, wooden rice bins, each capable of holding 2.5kg of rice, were needed for the bazaar. They symbolized the accumulation of loads of wisdom and blessings for everyone, and were to be given away to contributing members of the public. The rice bins were decorated with a reel of gold-coloured metal along its circumference; some of the reels had come loose, and volunteers had to affix them properly even while they were busy with counting the numbers of rice bins. As the connecting parts of the reel were sharp, this easily resulted in cuts if one was not careful.
Volunteer Guo Ren Dai, on the other hand, was intently checking off her list as she went about inspecting the boxes containing Chinese New Year goods meant for sale at the bazaar. Stacked neatly on the first floor of Jing Si Hall and the multi-purpose room, were hundreds of such boxes. Every box had to be correctly tagged with the stall number and price of the item to facilitate transport and delivery to the venue of the bazaar. In case of missing labels, other volunteers were also on hand to assist.
Also hard at work were volunteers who carefully scrutinized the products, ensuring that they were suitable for vegans and did not contain animal products and garlic. In addition, there was the matter of aprons, head scarves, knives and various other utensils that had to be provided for at the bazaar. Huang Kang Ren reveals that as some stall holders did not submit their checklist of items, they had to step in to fill the gaps so as to ensure that bazaar visitors would receive good service. It was also the duty of volunteers to ensure that the number of items loaned out for the bazaar was correctly accounted for.
Focusing on Contribution, Not Workload
As volunteers worked busily and quietly in the kitchen, the peace was momentarily broken by the clatter of falling cups. Volunteers remained unfazed as they picked up the cups and continued with their washing with smiles on their faces. No one betrayed a trace of tiredness as they bustled busily about.
The utensils were first counted to ensure that the numbers indicted on the cartons were correct before they were washed, dried and categorized properly. Then came the task of counting them and tallying the numbers before they were packed into the cartons again.
“Just cups alone number more than 2,000! And then there are bowls, plates, chopsticks, spoons and metal cutlery as well……” Xie Rui Ming pulled out two checklists crammed with numerals and read out the numbers of tableware that needed to be washed before the official opening of the bazaar. Yet despite the heavy load of washing that needed to be done, the task was completed within four hours with the help of enthusiastic community volunteers.
During the two days of the bazaar, volunteers never had a moment idle as they cleared tables and cutlery, disposed kitchen waste and washed and dried cutlery. They worked out a conveyer belt system for the task, and everyone was fully occupied as they performing their assigned duties repeatedly from morning till evening, ensuring that hygiene standards were maintained for the safety of everyone.
Among the volunteers was 83 year old grandma Lu Yu Ping and her grandson Zhang Zhen An. She was seen helping to dry the dishes washed over the two days of the bazaar. Grandma Lu lives in Redhill and would make the journey down by MRT to Pasir Ris, where she would meet up with her grandson.
A Buddhist, Grandma Lu explains that when one contributes to a Dharma undertaking and has the heart to contribute, age is not a problem and neither is distance a barrier. “I’m just helping my fellow beings, Amituofo!” Seizing every opportunity she has to live her life meaningfully, Grandma Lu is the best example to her fellow volunteers.
Of late, though there has been many large scale activities organized by Tzu Chi, volunteers have never passed up an opportunity to make a contribution. The various functional teams of volunteers had started preparations more than a month ago, and the ending of the bazaar only signaled the beginning of their efforts to complete the task of clearing up the grounds and returning everything back to order, such that the bazaar can end on a fitting note.