“I joined Tzu Ching because of my sister.”
“I got to know of Tzu Chi in an activity.”
“I joined Tzu Ching because of a sign language presentation and became a group leader.”
These were the various reasons that led youths from different educational institutions to join the Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association, but every one of them had the same wish to contribute to society.
From 5 to 7 August 2016, 26 Tzu Ching leaders gathered at the Jing Si Hall for a 2-day and 3-night training camp. The annual camp was not only an opportunity for some timeout from their daily routine, it also provided them the space to find inner peace and rediscover their aspirations.
Finding the Right Direction in Life
“How did Master Cheng Yen develop the unyielding perseverance to deal with the challenges she faced? I hope to be like her, to be able to help humanity while keeping her vows firmly in mind.” Chen Zu Song, a Tzu Chi staff at the headquarters of the Tzu Chi Foundation in Taiwan, said to his audience over a video streaming connection.
Chen had always pondered over how one’s limited lifespan could be maximized to its fullest potential. He once read the scriptures nightly and vowed to be rich so that he could be a generous philanthropist and help the poor. In a chance encounter, he got to know of Tzu Chi and realized that he could help humanity by allowing those who previously received aid to become givers themselves.
This realization made a deep impact on him. He said, “This is the real means through which the needy can be helped, and no amount of money can do the same.”
With his beliefs, vows, and action rooted in right faith, Chen, who is from Malaysia, did what he could to promote Tzu Chi’s charitable missions and eventually became a full-time staffer in the organization’s Taiwan headquarters.
Tzu Ching Zhong Kai Xin had this to say of Chen’s story: “Without a goal and direction in life, and only enjoying the present, it is easy to lose sight of our core values and thus ourselves.”
“Why do we join Tzu Ching? Should we effect change in ourselves now?” said Zheng Jing Yun, who joined Tzu Ching in 2013 and took on responsibilities as a student leader. After her graduation, she continued to guide her juniors.
However, busy with work and having to organize activities without the opportunity to be a participant herself shook her faith and she started to question why she was making herself so busy. The camp gave her the opportunity to reflect on her initial aspirations when she first became part of the association and she was reminded of how right action will follow one’s proper beliefs and vows.
Cooperation is the Key to Crossing the River
With a piece of cardboard in hand, the teams had a mission to navigate a “river” under limited resources and time constraints. The task was a test of strategy and their collective wisdom.
With each transgression of the game rules, each 6-man team slowly saw their supply of cardboard tokens being depleted. Gradually, they decided to form an alliance with their sister team so that they could collect even more cardboard tokens so as to be able to cross the river.
Hand in hand, they focused on every step and made changes in plans to accommodate every member so that no one was left behind. During the game, 17- year-old Yu Jian Hao was not as nimble on his feet; a team mate steadied him by the waist while another supported him in front. Having crossed the river successfully, Yu said, “I’m happy to be able to take part in this game, it made me realize how one should not easily give up in the face of adversity.”
Another participant, Lin Zi Xiong, shared that the game made him understand the concept of teamwork ‒ while the strength of one person may be small, the combined strength of a team becomes a significant force.
Managing Priorities in Life
Everyone has different standards in life, with some people of the view that only when they are able to manage their own lives properly can they engage in good deeds. In his talk, Tzu Ching leader Chen Dian Zhong said that Master Cheng Yen views every disciple as her child and hopes that every one of them can grow in wisdom through their involvement with Tzu Chi’s work. He shared these heartfelt words from the Master: “Every Singapore Tzu Ching must never forget the kindness in their hearts, and be ever giving their help to others.”
Li Yi Qian from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, too, thinks that a student’s life is not just about books. Hence, she joined Tzu Ching so as to be of help to society. During the camp, which was held in the midst of the exam period, Li would attend activities during the day and revise her work before she turned in for the night. “If our starting point is kindness, it is possible to manage our different commitments. With this in mind, when we give of ourselves, we do not expect anything in return. This enables us to humble ourselves and problems can then be solved.”
Chen’s sharing reminded Lin Wen Xin, who had cut down on Tzu Chi activities due to work, that it was possible to manage multiple commitments in life. She said, “If we do more, we will learn more. I’ll have to drive myself harder and not slacken as timeliness is of essence.”
Creativity in the Tzu Chi Spirit
“How do we attract young people to participate in Tzu Chi activities without losing the Tzu Chi humanistic culture?” Tzu Ching senior Bernard Ng Jia Han asked, as he shared his experience in planning the camp’s programme in the previous year. He said that one had to consider the theme as well as the manner of presentation, and Da Ai TV programmes as well as Tzu Chi’s publications were good sources of reference. He noted that while the presentation method could vary, the spirit of Tzu Chi would have to remain constant.
Next on the agenda was a brainstorming session where participants used an example of a campus activity to practise how to plan and organize such events. Tzu Ching mentors were on hand to offer guidance, so that practical considerations were not sacrificed in the name of creativity.
“I’ve organized events in the past that did not turn out as well as expected. This outcome demoralizes the organizing committee. A Tzu Ching mentor suggested that the number of activities should not be increased, rather, the quality of each activity should be improved upon so that the next activity would progress more smoothly,” said Xiao Jia Shen.
Over the two days, participant Hong Ling not only gained a better understanding of Tzu Chi and Tzu Chings, she also realized what a valuable support the Tzu Ching mentors and senior were. As long as a request was made, they would step in to offer support and care.
Always Start With Kind Intentions
As the melody of the song in the concluding item sounded, participants sang along with the accompanying sign language, displaying their gratitude to Tzu Chi and Master Cheng Yen.
Luo Kang Lun expressed his feelings about the camp, describing how strong the team spirit was and hoped that he could bring in more people into the fold of Tzu Chi in the upcoming year. Yan Ming De recalled that whenever he felt tired after such events, just remembering the kind way in which the Master encouraged them, and thinking of how tireless she was in her work gave him the strength to continue.
“The Tzu Ching path is a long one and needs plenty of time for one to develop and grow. This is just the beginning, we have to learn how to communicate with others and speak our minds, only then can we walk this path together.” Tzu Ching senior Hong Yong Kang who coordinated the camp not only gave these words of advice, he also gave his blessings to his juniors hoping that they could find their own direction in life and make Tzu Chi part of it.
A memento was given out to all participants of the camp – a hanging ornament designed like a mini gourd and a badge with a motif commemorating Tzu Chi’s 50th anniversary. The items were specially brought to Singapore by returning Tzu Ching seniors who had visited Taiwan. It signified the hope that the young Tzu Ching leaders bear in mind the advice of the Master not to forget the innate kindness in their hearts. With kind intentions as a starting point, they will be able to contribute to the charitable missions of Tzu Chi.