As with previous years, the Tzu Chings were given the task of spreading the seeds of environmental protection to the public.
After almost three months of preparation, the Tzu Chings finally got to see their efforts bear fruit in this two-day event, held near the Pasir Ris MRT station. This time around, the youths were responsible for four areas, namely the environmental education booth, the broadcast station, the eco-enzyme booth, and also the Da Ai Technology exhibition.
Planting the seeds of kind thoughts
In conjunction with Tzu Chi’s 20th year in promoting environmental protection, the Tzu Chings slightly modified the anniversary slogan “To raise the quality of environmental protection, starts from a pure and healthy mind” to become “To adapt environmental protection into our daily lives, starts from a pure and healthy mind”. The premise behind it is that environmental protection has to be part of what we do in our everyday lives; little things that we always take for granted usually have better, greener options to them. Hence the Tzu Chings put up eco-friendly tips in the form of small cards on every visible corner of the Fair, especially on the tables where fairgoers could read when they're having their meal.
Located at the right end of the Fair, the environmental education booth can be further divided into three sections. The poster area has placard designs which have colourful, hand-drawn animated characters based on Da Ai TV’s animated series “The Little Chestnut of the Tang Dynasty” and aimed to promote 3Rs in everyday places like bathrooms, kitchens, grocery stores, and offices.
The second section is the "Vegebook” based on the Facebook layout, where members of the public can make a pledge to consume less meat or choose to turn vegetarian. The Tzu Chings made it a point to explain to onlookers the benefits of becoming a vegetarian in the context of saving the Earth. People would then pledge to have vegetarian meals either ‘five meals per week’, ‘lunch or dinner every day’, ‘weekdays only’, or ‘become a long-term vegetarian’.
Apart from that, the youths showed their proactive side by carrying posters and the pledging-board around the Fair to promote vegetarianism. The last section, Kid's Corner, saw Tzu Chings and Tzu Shaos (Tzu Chi teenagers) helping to babysit young children while their parents shop around the Fair. The Tzu Chings taught the children how to make simple DIY handicrafts out of recyclable items. Through this simple exercise, the young ones learned the concept of reuse, reduce, and recycle.
New Tzu Ching member, Ye Jin Xing, was shocked to learn that disposable chopsticks were processed with sulphur dioxide and hydrogen peroxide to make them look cleaner, which, ironically, would make users even more prone to diseases. He recalled that his family would not only use the chopsticks, they would even wash and reuse them over and over again.
Stationed at the poster area, Jin Xing felt that he had learned a lot while explaining the environmental posters to the fairgoers. He commented that the experience was quite fruitful because in addition to conveying eco-friendly knowledge to the public, he also acquired newfound knowledge himself, which he could share with his family members.
Coordinator of the environmental education booth, Chang Yu Cheng, was impressed by the level of cooperation of his fellow Tzu Chings throughout the Fair, which "improved compared to the previous year". Yu Cheng and his younger brother Yu Ping had both undertook duties at the Fair. Youngest of the three, Yu Ming would join his two elder brothers at home brainstorming for the eco-awareness promotion. The trio listed more than 30 different ways to spread green message in the Charity Fair. Although not all the brainstormed ideas were feasible, Yu Cheng explained, “Tzu Chi is made up of a really large group of volunteers, when it comes to organizing activities, ideas are thrown in, but they will be assessed by the group as a whole. So when we came up with all these ideas, I was ready to face rejection.”
Speaking of rejection, everyone was amazed at the courage and confidence of the Tzu Chings when approaching strangers to promote vegetarianism.
When going around promoting the diet change, each of the team could be seen holding a smaller ‘Vegebook’ board, showing it to the people they were talking to. The idea of going around promoting vegetarianism actually came about when a Tzu Ching member made a mistake by printing the poster smaller than the required size.
However, not all things were smooth sailing. Some people still could not accept the idea of becoming a vegetarian, which in turn proved to be a lesson in patience and humility for these youths. Hence we saw the Tzu Chings nodding and thanking the rejecters before walking away. Learning from experience, they would certainly know how to handle similar situations in future.
Strutting down the "runway"
In Taiwan, the products of Da Ai Technology Pte. Ltd. has always been paraded down the aisle by Tzu Chi volunteers during fashion shows, but this was the first time such an event was being held in Singapore.
For a total of eight different sessions throughout the two-day Fair, Tzu Chings, Senior Tzu Chings and the adult volunteers strutted down the makeshift runway showing off the range of Da Ai Technology garments made out of recycled PET bottles. They included eco-shirts, eco-bags, eco-aprons, eco-scarves, eco-baby shoes, etc.
Each of the "models" was a little nervous at first as it was their "debut performance", but they felt it was a great responsibility to convey the Da Ai Technology's core values of 'Environmental Humanism, Relay of Love, and Total Social Responsibility' to the audience.
The company, which recycles PET bottles to make fabrics, was established and ran in Taiwan by five Tzu Chi entrepreneurs with profits channelled to Tzu Chi’s charitable work. The objective of the display at the Fair was therefore not to encourage people to purchase, but to spread the green message to the public.
Tzu Ching Yeap Szu Ling, who modelled for the fashion show and helped with the sales of the eco-shirts, said that though the clothes were a little expensive, and not as fashionable as those sold outside, it was the process of producing these clothes that made them so special.
The PET bottles used for the manufacturing the products are collected by Tzu Chi recycling volunteers in Taiwan. One by one, they are washed, sorted, and their labels and cap rings removed. After that, the bottles are flattened and sent to the factory for further processing. Though tedious, the recycling volunteers are meticulous in ensuring the bottles are of good quality, and that is where the love starts to spread. The volunteers spends so much time processing the recycled PET bottles because of their love for Mother Earth, and that love further spreads around as people purchase these garments hoping to contribute love to the society. No wonder Szu Ling said, “This piece of eco-shirt contains heaps of love from all Tzu Chi volunteers.”
At the eco-enzyme booth, some Tzu Chings were seen transporting water, some of them cutting fruit peels, while others measured brown sugar and put on labels, all just to prepare bottles of eco-enzyme as complimentary gifts to the fairgoers. There was also a corner where the fairgoers got a chance to try making the eco-enzyme themselves.
Strangely, the booth coordinator Koay Yee Ting was all smiles though she was already really tired. Before, after, and even during the event, she was the one who led the group, and also the one to finish up all the petty work.
Ahead of the Fair, Yee Ting had the Tzu Chings clean up more than 900 reused PET bottles, prepared more than 300 pieces of strings to tie instructions onto the bottles, and filled up bottles and bottles of eco-enzyme. At home, the team members had to use marker pens to trace the wordings on the posters. But after each long day of working tirelessly, the team members would always get a text message from Yee Ting saying: “Thanks for helping out! Lucky we had you!”
The saying “Lucky we had you!” even became a slang among their group members to spur each other on. Those few words had managed to keep the team going, despite the tedious and painstaking preparation jobs. In both days of the Fair, Tzu Chings talked about eco-enzyme to almost a thousand people who came to the booth. They gave out 350 bottles of ready-made enzymes, and helped make another 460 bottles on the spot.
Shouldering more responsibility
Vice-coordinator of the Tzu Chings' undertakings Chang Yu Ping said they faced a lot of challenges while preparing for the event, as some had their personal matters to attend to, some had to sit for exams, and some went away to participate in the Taiwan Tzu Ching camp. But luckily, everyone tried to help out with each other’s tasks. At first, Yu Ping thought that the Great Love Charity Fair was just an annual event, but after he took part in the camp in Taiwan, he began to see the Tzu Chings' undertaking in the Fair as a mission. He wants everyone to feel the urgentcy tosalvage the environment, or at least do something to slow down the planet’s destruction.
There is a Jing Si Aphorism that goes, “Take responsibilities willingly, then you shall take the consequences willingly”. In two days, 130 Tzu Chings were able to set aside time to help out at the Charity Fair. By shouldering responsibilities, each of the Tzu Chi youths realized that hard work is actually a blessing as they learn through experiences.
Towards the end of the Charity Fair, the recent Tzu Chi hit song “A Happy Face” was played over and over again. Tzu Chings, with smiles on their faces, were seen forming a line and dancing around the Fair ground to the song, even volunteers from the stalls and cleaning area were seen joining in. It looked as if the door of happiness had been opened, showing the way to the Bodhi path.