Mission of Charity
Responding to the cries of the suffering with Great Love
Tzu Chi volunteers address the needy households they assist as ‘Households of Gratitude’. This is not about wanting the aid/care recipients to thank Tzu Chi for its help, but rather the volunteers are grateful to the needy for allowing them to witness poverty and illness in life. It helps to remind them that impermanence is a reality in life, and thus, they learn to be content and to count their blessings. In the process of giving, it is equally important to thank the aid/care recipient. Only then are we truly sincere in caring for the suffering people.”
Providing direct aid to those in need
Charity is the foundation of Tzu Chi’s Missions. In 1966, the year when Taiwan had experienced 20 years of poverty and received 15 years of US aid after the Second World War, Dharma Master Cheng Yen established Tzu Chi from scratch in Hualien, a town located in the impoverished and remote east coast of Taiwan. Together with her monastic disciples and a group of housewives, she started the groundwork of helping the poor and relieving suffering.
The Master personally led the people of Tzu Chi to walk into the dark corners of society. During the course of visiting the homes of the impoverished, they witnessed the suffering and hardships of the sick and the poor, and provided them with empathic care and much needed aid. Being the first to reach out to the needy and committed to helping them till the end, Tzu Chi volunteers accompany and care for the aid/care recipients until they are independent or when they are departed from this life. Such a spirit of compassionate Great Love has become the hallmark of Tzu Chi’s Mission of Charity.
In multi-racial Singapore, Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) has developed and established a variety of charitable programmes, in order to meet the most urgent societal needs. These programmes serve to fill in the gaps where existing government resources may be lacking and meet the needs of the marginalised in society, regardless of their race, language or religion.
Since 1987, Tzu Chi has been providing emergency assistance and long-term aid to needy households and our volunteers have been making regular visits to nursing homes to give care and emotional support to the sick and lonely elderly. In addition, the Foundation has established partnerships with public institutions, such as schools, hospitals, social service organisations, and even the Singapore Prison Service, to serve the needs of referral cases.
The changing of times and societal changes have brought about new challenges to Tzu Chi’s charity work, spurring the need for the Foundation to keep a close pulse on changing society needs and to recognise hidden needs in the dark recesses of society. At the end of 1998, a family member of an AIDS sufferer approached Tzu Chi for help. From then on, our volunteers began making visits to AIDS patients in the hospitals in order to gain a better understanding of their plight. After learning that many of these patients faced financial difficulties, we began to provide them with subsidies for AIDS medications and also mobilised our volunteers to visit them regularly to offer emotional care and support.
In 2008, the effects of the global financial crisis landed on the shores of Singapore, and pushed many families over the edge into dire financial straits. The following year, Tzu Chi set up the Seeds of Hope Financial Assistance Scheme, which provided meal and transport allowances to students from needy families. The Foundation is also one of the few VWOs that provides prenatal check-ups, hearing aids, AIDS medication subsidies, etc., to permanent residents, to help them tide through difficult times.
In the past, we only focused on inspiring the rich to help the poor, by calling on those who are financially able to help the impoverished. Now, we also work to guide the poor to do good, by sharing with them that in the process of receiving aid, as long as their hearts were willing, they can also contribute their efforts to help others in need. Thus, a continual cycle of kindness and charity is formed.”
Inspiring the rich to help the poor and guiding the poor to do good in return
The work of Tzu Chi’s Mission of Charity involves ongoing needs assessment, providing the required assistance, and ensuring long-term care for its beneficiaries. It is a rigorous process comprising an initial visit to assess the needs of the potential beneficiary, a follow-up meeting to discuss each new case, and monthly care visits to the homes of confirmed beneficiaries by our volunteers.
A volunteer team will re-assess the needs of each beneficiary once every three months, to determine if there is a need to fill the gaps in the assistance provided or whether to terminate assistance when the beneficiary is found to receive adequate aid from other sources or becomes financially independent.
Besides making regular home visits, our volunteers also organise festive celebrations and invite beneficiaries and their family members to participate. By providing care from the heart, we hope to improve the quality of life of our aid/care recipients, and to help them get their lives back on track.
Our home visit volunteers, who are spread island-wide in every neighbourhood, are committed to Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s ideal of “equal compassion for all”. They prepare meals and distribute aid supplies to families/individuals in need, and help with cleaning up, repairing, and renovating homes, allowing the latter to feel the love and warmth of family. Touched by their loving and sincere efforts, the aid/care recipients gradually open up their hearts and build trusting relationships with them. Under the inspired guidance of the home visit teams, many of our beneficiaries have come to realise that true wealth comes from giving, and are happy to pay it forward to help others in need.
In this age plagued by frequent disasters, we are very blessed to live in a relatively peaceful nation that is free from natural disasters. In the aftermath of a major disaster overseas, volunteers in Tzu Chi Singapore will join in the global Tzu Chi fundraising efforts, taking to the streets to fundraise for the relief work. Besides raising funds, our volunteers will gather and pray for those affected, sending them well-wishes and blessings of love, with the hope that they will soon recover from the disaster and return to normalcy.
Stories of Love and Compassion
The Pan Siblings
At the beginning of 2004, through local news reports, Tzu Chi volunteers in Singapore came to know the Pan siblings, who suffer from Hallervorden-Spatz syndrome, a rare inherited neurological disorder. Their condition had deteriorated to the point that they could only lie flat and suffered continual painful spasms. With Tzu Chi’s help, the siblings were sent to the Tzu Chi Medical Centre in Hualien, Taiwan, in May 2004, where they received a surgical procedure known as Deep Brain Stimulation. After four months of treatment and rehabilitation at the hospital, the siblings made such remarkable progress that they no longer twitched nor experienced painful cramps, and could even sit on a plane and travel back to Singapore.
When the story of the Pan siblings broke into the news headlines, scores of people came forward to offer their generous donations, and a “care fund” was set up under the auspices of Mr Ong Ah Heng, MP for Yishun Central, and the Yishun Central Citizen Advisory Committee. After witnessing Tzu Chi Singapore’s care and assistance for the Pan siblings, the fund was entrusted to the Foundation. For over ten years, Tzu Chi volunteers never ceased to care for the Pan siblings, and accompanied them in their journey of growth. The siblings flew back to Taiwan three times for follow-up treatments, and often attended Tzu Chi activities in the company of their parents.
Delivering Care and Blessings Amid the Haze
In late June of 2013, a thick haze enveloped Singapore, affecting people’s lives and causing much uneasiness for the public. At this critical juncture, Tzu Chi volunteers personally visited each of the aid/care recipients, and distributed gift packages of “care and blessings” to them. Each package contained masks, eye drops, lozenges, a PSI information card, etc., and volunteers patiently demonstrated the correct way of wearing a mask for elderly beneficiaries.
Timely Assistance for Foreign Worker
25-year-old Mr Xu, a transient worker from China, suffered serious head injuries after an auto accident, and lost the use of his four limbs; his sight and hearing were also affected. Upon learning of his mishap, his wife quickly flew over from China to Singapore to take care of him. Tzu Chi Singapore was informed about this case by the hospital’s Medical Social Worker and quickly sent a team of volunteers to the hospital to provide care. The Foundation subsequently paid for the couple’s air tickets back to China. After receiving notice from Tzu Chi Taiwan or the Taipei Representative Office in Singapore with regards to foreign tourists or workers who encounter a sudden emergency, Tzu Chi volunteers in Singapore will not hesitate to do all they can to offer care and to render help in practical ways, embodying the spirit of “love without borders”.
Seeds of Hope Financial Assistance Scheme
In 2008, Singapore was impacted by the global financial crisis, which triggered massive job losses and led many families into financial difficulties. To enable students from needy households to enjoy peace of mind while studying, Tzu Chi launched the “Seeds of Hope Financial Assistance Scheme” in 2009, and proactively sought schools for the name lists of needy students, in order to provide them with meal and transport allowances. This grant was available for all races, and Malay students made up more than half of the beneficiaries. Every year, before the start of the new school year, volunteers would be mobilised island-wide, to visit families of the needy students to assess their financial situation. Families that were found to be desperately short of food and/or other necessities would be referred to the Foundation for long-term care.
Before each new school term began, Tzu Chi would invite the beneficiary families, including the students and their parents, to attend an award ceremony, allowing school teachers and principals to witness the blessing (i.e. monetary aid) they received from the society and Tzu Chi. The ceremony’s programme was rich in humanistic values; both the parents and students received encouragement and support from volunteers, and thus felt empowered with strength to face life’s multitude of challenges. As government aid for needy students has increased in recent years, the Financial Assistance Scheme was brought to a fruitful conclusion at the end of 2016. During the 8-year programme, more than 120,000 payments were delivered to needy students in 102 schools, including primary and secondary schools, ITEs, and shelters.
With the increasing complexity of social problems, Tzu Chi’s modes of assistance have also been improved and adjusted to meet the most urgent needs of people. Currently, these are the assistance programmes available: