On the first day of 2014, Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) held a New Year distribution, inviting 244 beneficiaries and their family members to gather at Jing Si Hall and celebrate the coming of the new year with the event: “Bountiful Blessings in the Year of the Horse.”
“I believe that there is love in this world that is worth looking forward to, the heart that has been sealed off for years will eventually open…] Watching the sign language performance of the song “There is Love in the World”, the beneficiaries felt the warmth and concern that they had received from Tzu Chi volunteers over the years. Some of them even took the initiative to donate part of their financial aid money into their Tzu Chi bamboo coin banks, which they brought along with them to Jing Si Hall. Whereas in the past, they had been at the receiving end of help, they had now become the ones who have the ability to help others less fortunate them themselves.
Singapore is a blessed place, but there are still needy people in the dark corners of society that need our help. Other than material aid, it is also important not to neglect their spiritual and emotional needs. By paying regular visits to the beneficiaries and encouraging them to participate in community activities etc., Tzu Chi volunteers help them rediscover the value of their life.
Conveying Great Love Through Four Languages
As the majority of the beneficiaries are Malays or Indians whose grasp of English is not very good, they frequently face some difficulty in understanding the contents of the programme that was presented in English. This year, other than Mandarin, Malay and English, the programme was also presented in Tamil. The new face onstage his year, Raja, had joined Tzu Chi as a volunteer after the 2012 Buddha Bathing Ceremony. Without prior hosting experience, Raja was full of excitement and pride when asked about his experience.
“I am very happy to help people in this way, where I can facilitate others in receiving the Great Love of Tzu Chi.” Raja frequently volunteers at the Tzu Chi Free Health Screening and Medical Clinic. When he was invited to be the emcee a few days ago, he agreed without hesitation.
Mr S. Muthukumar and his family of four started receiving aid from Tzu Chi in June this year. His youngest daughter had suffered from hydrocephalus since she was born, resulting in the family having difficulty coping with the medical expenses. Though this is the first time that he was attending the New Year Distribution event, Mr Muthukumar could already feel a deep sense of warmth. With the specially arranged program, and Raja’s Tamil hosting, Mr Muthukumar and his family felt as if they were back home. “I am very thankful for the presence of a Tamil emcee, which enabled us to understand Tzu Chi better, and to experience the Tzu Chi spirit in a deeper sense.”
A Centenarian Celebrates a Cycle of Goodness
On this special occasion, everyone also celebrated Grandma Tan’s 100th birthday. In addition, two other grandmothers both aged 88 years old, and one other 83 year old grandmother, also received birthday blessings. Because the birth certificates of those born before World War Two only carries the year of birth without stating the actual day of their birth, the first day of the New Year naturally became their birthdays.
Tzu Chi volunteers carried the “longevity peaches”into the hall and brought them to the four grandmothers. The emcees led everyone to sing the birthday song in Mandarin, English and Cantonese. They even used electronic lamps in place of candles, allowing the grandmothers to “blow the candles” without effort and in an environmentally friendly manner. The sponsored longevity peaches were distributed to everyone present at the ceremony during lunch.
Amidst the celebrative atmosphere, more than ten beneficiaries had brought their bamboo coin banks, which they had been slowly filling up over a period time, back to Tzu Chi, in the hope that they can bring blessings to more people in the New Year. One of Tzu Chi’s beneficiaries, Madam Ho, said: “(I want to) donate to the elderly and children, to let them use (the money).” Another Tzu Chi beneficiary, Mr Hu Lin said: “If we have some money left over from the amount that Tzu Chi gave us, then (we can) donate it to the people who need it more through the volunteers’s hands.”
“Buy less things and spend less money on groceries; I put in maybe 50 or 20 cents a day (into the bamboo bank)…” Mr Koh, who has known about Tzu Chi for three years now, shared his “secret” to accumulating good karma. He has difficulty walking due to scoliosis, but insisted on going up on stage. For the third time, Mr Koh brought his bamboo coin bank back to Jing Si Hall: “I look forward to the day that I can return the bamboo coin bank.”
Do Our Best, Promote Vegetarianism
Mr Choa, a beneficiary, shared with everyone: “After watching the “Dharma as Water” sutra adaptation, I emptied my fridge of all meat products and threw them away. I have since started using olive oil and vegetables for cooking, and have vowed to be a vegetarian.”A resident of Jurong East, this 71 year old gentleman used to work as a chef in a private nursing home, helping to prepare the meals of the residents there. However, due to a recent misdiagnosis, his legs became weak and he was unable to stand for long. Tzu Chi volunteers then recommended him to receive Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment at the Tzu Chi Free Clinic in Redhill.
Two weeks ago, Mr Choa was invited by the Tzu Chi volunteers to watch the “Dharma as Water” sutra adaptation. Through the lyrics, sign language presentation and drama, he came to appreciate that animals are just like us, and are capable of feeling a myriad of emotions and experiencing pain. The images of humans slaughtering and torturing animals still remain vivid in his mind.
Mr Choa has always been health conscious in terms of his diet, and now, he has adopted vegetarianism. “Actually, there are a lot of poisonous elements in meat; a vegetarian diet is healthier.” Not only that, he even aspires to write a vegetarian cook book, incorporating his 40 years of experience as a chef with the vegetarian beliefs of Tzu Chi, in order to promote vegetarianism and allow more people to understand the benefits and beauty of vegetarianism. He did not forget to express gratitude for Master Cheng Yen’s words: “To help others, to learn gratitude and forgiveness, all these have been deeply ingrained in my heart.”
Spreading Love with Song, Contributing back to society
In this year’s New Year Distribution event, 20 new friends from the National Kidney Foundation were invited to join us. They wore tidy uniforms and presented two songs: “Tomorrow is a Better Day” and “Friends” on stage. The audience was touched by their performance, regardless of language. They waved their hands in the air or clapped along with the beats, and the atmosphere was thick with emotion.
On stage, they shared their experiences. Even though they suffer from kidney disease, they have learnt to be strong, contented with their lot, and maintain a happy state of mind. They are glad to bring joy to others in the form of a choir and are very thankful to Tzu Chi for helping patients with kidney diseases, especially with regards to medical help. Tzu Chi’s medical doctors assist the elderly kidney patients with affixing dentures and provide dental filling services, all of which have improved their quality of life tremendously.
“I have been a kidney patient for nearly 20 years, and amongst us, there are those who have been suffering from kidney problems for no less than 5 or 10 years. However, we still want to treasure every opportunity to contribute to others, and present to everyone our best.” Mr Job Loei, who represented the kidney patients, shared. “Master Cheng Yen’s teachings touched us very deeply. We should all learn the spirit of great love and be thankful for what we have, learn how to contribute and put in our little effort to contribute to society.” Full of enthusiasm for life, these kidney patients taught the volunteers an important life lesson.
Sincere Prayers in the Spring Festival
With the Chinese New Year being a month away, Singapore Jing Si Hall’s festive decorations were already up. There was a lion dance performance by two Tzu Chings and a “Big Headed Doll,” and the “God of Wealth,” made an appearance too. With the presence of the festive characters that brought on the lunar new year cheer, everyone was clapping and swaying to the rhythm, and many even approached the “God of wealth” for a share of the chocolates he was giving out.
Amidst the joyous atmosphere, the emcees shared with everyone the meaning behind the New Year Distribution. “Within the bag of items given out, there are biscuits, noodles and sweets. The quick-cooking noodles are mainly used in disaster relief missions.” The emcee then reminded everyone to consume the preservative-free noodles within six months.
Before partaking of lunch, everyone prayed for peace and safety for the world and victims of the Typhoon Haiyan disaster in the Philippines. Their hopes were for a world without disasters, year after year.