Tzu Chi Teenager’s Class or Tzu Shao in short, held its last class for the year on 29 November 2020. Part of the programme for the day was a game session using Kahoot!, a game-based learning platform. Various words and phrases were flashed on the screen, such as "Plant a tree, Effect, Consuming 15 vegetarian meals, Equivalent to", and a countdown of 30 seconds followed. More than 80 Tzu Shaos, team facilitators and parents picked up their smartphones and raced to form a complete sentence as quickly as possible.
"Consuming 15 vegetarian meals is equivalent to planting a tree," said Tzu Chi Youth leader, Dai Xu An as he announced to congratulate the teams with the correct answer. Altogether, there were 16 questions covering the curriculum for the past one year, mostly related to plant-based diet, concepts of environmental protection and Jing Si Aphorisms. The games served to provide not just a review on learning but to liven up the atmosphere.
Tzu Chi Teenagers’ classes had been conducted online since March as a preventive measure against COVID-19. However, as restrictions are gradually lifted due to the improving COVID-19 situation in Singapore, the final Tzu Shao class for 2020 was held at various locations including Jing Si Hall, Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre, the Eco-awareness Centre, the Great Love Student Care Centre and homes of the team facilitators. In groups of five, everyone wore a mask throughout the activities while adhering to the safe-distancing measure.
An Innovative and Thought-Provoking Class
The Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association (Tzu Ching) and Tzu Shao organising committee created a commemorative short film specifically for this event to showcase the past one year of learning and growth among the teenagers. Indeed, “perseverance brings hope”. During the lesson on Jing Si Aphorism in April, the Tzu Shao were encouraged to adopt a plant-based diet for reasons such as health, environmental protection and animal welfare. Some Tzu Shao had also attempted to cook vegetarian meals at home. In May, some Tzu Shao offered snacks and tea to their parents in a respectful manner and hugged them lovingly on Parents' Day. These precious moments which were captured in the short film, brought warmth to the hearts of those watching it.
As the scenes in the short film entered the month of July, that was when a medical practitioner was invited to share about sleeping well during COVID-19. As people are spending more time online during the pandemic, there is a need to limit the time spent on computer and smart devices, so as not to affect their sleep quality. In the new normal, with less human interaction and more time spent at home, the Tzu Shao were taught during lessons in August, on how to calm their mind and express their emotions through Art Jamming.
Tzu Shao started grooming a small team responsible for recording the kind deeds of Tzu Chi in their “Little Diary of the Great Love” since 2019. In October, the team interviewed Tan Kok Liang, a physiotherapist assistant at the Tzu Chi Seniors Engagement and Enabling Node. Through the interview, the Tzu Shao learnt how Tan, who was 24 at the time, survived a car accident after 16 surgeries. However, he lost half of his brain and wanted to end his life. It was only when he saw the poem he wrote at the age of 15, "Walking against the Wind", that he found the resilience to live on. Tan’s real-life story inspired the Tzu Shao to cherish lives despite life challenges.
Lim Si Hui, one of the Tzu Chings who was in charge of programme planning, said, "We are glad to see the active participation from the Tzu Shao and hope that they benefit from the activities we planned for them." After three years of involvement in the Tzu Chi Teenagers’ Class programme planning, Si Hui continued to explore areas of interest to the teenagers. She also expressed her gratitude to the Tzu Ching counterparts for taking time off their busy schedules to help her in the planning and rehearsals.
A Transition from Feeling Troublesome to Having Gratitude
"I would like to sum up my four years at Tzu Chi Teenagers’ Class with two words: Troublesome and Gratitude," said Ng Hong Xun, a secondary four student who admitted that he felt troublesome at first because he had to forego his rest day on the fourth Sunday every month to attend the classes. However, when he saw that so many volunteers were involved in the preparation of the classes, he felt grateful to them.
Ng said that he particularly enjoyed participating in the Chinese New Year Charity Bazaar. It was during such times that he learnt to overcome his shyness and be brave enough to hawk. This experience has proven to be useful in his part-time work during the school holidays. He also felt that the different themes at the monthly classes have widened his horizons and taught him to look at things in a new perspectives as well as handling people relationships.
Another Tzu Shao by the name of Woon Zhi Yi felt that her four years here had been a guiding light in life to guide her forward. When she was in Primary Two, she attended the Parent-Child Bonding Class with her parents. Back then, she used to love eating meat and would refuse the vegetarian meals prepared in class. She would find excuses to persuade her parents to eat her share and only eat her favourite food back home. However, in recent years, Woon learnt how blessed she is compared to the poor people around the world. She also realised that she should not be a picky eater, and now eats more vegetarian food.
On a trip to Taiwan, the care and companionship of the Tzu Chi volunteers left a deep impression on Woon. She was deeply touched when she later chanced upon three meaningful words, "Gratitude, Respect and Love". She said, "They look like three simple words, but they have such profound meaning." Woon described the life of a Tzu Shao was just like a torch of fire in winter, bringing much warmth to the heart.
Tzu Chi Singapore Vice CEO Tan Chai Hoon said that character-building is very important and it is the best gift we can give to our children. He is very pleased to see the growth of Tzu Shao. The programme of the final Tzu Chi Teenagers’ Class for 2020 was based on Master Cheng Yen's book, "Sowing Good Seeds", which talked about the true meaning of life. Bro Chai Hoon hoped that the Tzu Shao would learn to be polite and virtuous. He also hoped that they understand and live the right principles in life and be able to manage themselves and love others.