“The permit for the fundraising has been approved!”On 2 January 2015, volunteers responded to the good news by texting one another to kick off the various tasks they had planned out. The teams from each community zone arrived at the Jing Si Hall to collect their donation boxes and posters on the 3 January 2015, and also verified the personal particulars of volunteers who were permitted to solicit for donation funds in preparation for the next day’s activities.
“Good morning! Donate with a heart and spread your love across the border!”Across the island of Singapore, this refrain could be heard on the first Sunday of 2015. At short notice, the monthly volunteer training session was cancelled and a total of 707 Tzu Chi volunteers took to the streets to raise funds for rebuilding the lives of flood victims in Malaysia.
Showing Humble Respectfulness
Clad in their blue and white uniform, volunteers stationed themselves at the bustling markets, malls, bus stops and MRT stations as they smilingly exhorted passers-by make a donation of love. Every amount was met with a respectful 90-degree bow and a cheery “thank you, (and) bless you!”
At the Geylang Serai market, a focal gathering point of the Malay community in Singapore, many people noticed the volunteers standing at various entry and exit points with their donation boxes; hearing the cries of “show your love, support Malaysian flood victims!”many of them even came up to express their support.
A 65-year-old lady names Rahima was one of those who responded. Her brother’s family in Gua Musang, were temporarily staying at the flood relief shelter after their home was submerged by floodwaters. As the road leading to their home is now inaccessible, Rahima was unable to visit. Upon finding out that volunteers had distributed cash and material relief at the disaster zones, she was moved to express how touched she was that Tzu Chi extends help to all regardless of race or religion.
Masitah who had her son with her, commented:“Your street fundraiser is commendable, it especially has great educational value for the young.”Having seen the severity of the floods from the news, Masitah had her son personally make a donation into the box as she explained to him that the money was meant for flood victims in Malaysia.
Yang Lin Yu, a Taiwanese who had relocated to Singapore more than 20 years ago, even bought Yakult drinks for the volunteers as they braved the hot sun with the donation boxes. She had kept herself updated of Tzu Chi’s charity and humanitarian aid work over Facebook, and knew that Tzu Chi helped those in need regardless of racial difference. Though busy with running a provision shop, she still hopes to be able to participate in Tzu Chi’s activities some day.
Everyone Can Play a Part
Volunteer Li Shu Fang had been soliciting donations from seven in the morning till six in the evening. In order to attract attention from passers-by, she had shouted out loud 6,500 times. Though her legs hurt and her voice was hoarse, it was just a matter two days of rest in order to recover. In comparison with her discomfort, the flood victims have a long period of rebuilding efforts ahead of them. “Therefore when disaster strikes, even more so should the fortunate ones lend a helping hand,”she said with commiseration.
“At the disaster zone, what I saw with my own eyes was beyond what I was expecting. Though the houses were made of brick, when the floodwaters came, the furniture was all destroyed. Some of the residents lived in stilt houses, surrounded by waters that had risen up to one storey high. They were trapped in their houses; to buy necessities, they had to rely on floats to venture out in the water and then put what they had bought on Styrofoam boxes to bring them back home. Survival was a problem as they could not work and had no income,”related Audrey Koh, a first-time participant in a cross-border humanitarian mission.
Having grown up in the relatively peaceful surroundings of Singapore, Xu was unable to imagine if she could survive in such circumstances. Observing the suffering of others made her cherish her blessings, and she was especially touched at how some flood victims had donated a portion of the cash relief they had received back to Tzu Chi in the hopes of helping others. Though she was still recovering from an old wrist injury, Xu had taken part in the street fundraiser with full enthusiasm. Bowing respectfully to members of the public, it was her sincere wish to inspire loving kindness in others for the less fortunate.
Responding to Cries of Need
Yang Zi Ying had just returned from Malaysia after helping out in the relief distribution for flood victims, but hearing that the street fundraiser was to begin, she immediately rose to the occasion and took on the role of deputy coordinator. Yang teared up as she relates how one Malay donating member of the public had remarked that she had felt so helpless after seeing that many in the bustling crowd had remained unmoved by the volunteers’ efforts. Yang further wondered if Singapore, though small in size, could take disaster in its stride if the inevitable happened. She concluded by expressing her hope that the people living in Singapore would unreservedly help the needy in neighbouring countries.
During the street fundraiser, experienced volunteers guided the new volunteers along as they together worked for the sake of those in need. “There is no time to waste, disasters seem to be occurring nearer to home, so we must inspire others to likewise render aid to disaster victims and purify the hearts of men,” experienced volunteer Chen Zhao Yun said with emotion.
When disaster strikes, Tzu Chi volunteers spring into action from all directions just like how the 707 volunteers fanned out in all directions during the street fundraiser for Malaysian flood victims on 4 January 2014. In the days ahead, it is their hope that everyone can accumulate kindness in deed and thought, that society can enjoy the positive effects of harmony and not least, that the flood victims can experience the warmth of mankind.