In November 2018, a volunteer team from Tzu Chi Taiwan visited Turkey to bring care and aid to Syrian refugees in the country. As the year came to an end, Tzu Chi Malaysia mobilised another volunteer team to Turkey to distribute “New Year gifts” to Syrian refugees and their children.
The 35-member Malaysian team consisted of the Executive Chairman and founder of Top Glove Corporation Bhd, Tan Sri Lim Wee Chai, and his wife Puan Sri Tong Siew Bee; Berjaya Corp Bhd’s founder and Executive Chairman Tan Sri Vincent Tan; as well as members from the Malaysian media. They departed to Istanbul on 27th December 2018, and took part in aid distributions and home visits to refugee families during the mission trip.
Prior to their departure, Tzu Chi Malaysia liaised closely with Tzu Chi Taiwan and Faisal Hu, the key person in charge of Tzu Chi Turkey, to find out the needs of Syrian refugees in the district of Sultangazi in Istanbul. The Malaysia team then added 2,000 schoolbags for the Syrian refugee children studying at the El Menahil school, which was built by Tzu Chi. In addition to that, Top Glove, which has a 25% share of the global rubber glove market, donated 50,000 medical gloves to the Tzu Chi free clinic in Turkey.
In the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that struck Turkey in 1999, Taiwanese businessman Faisal Hu became the first Tzu Chi volunteer in the country. Subsequently, Faisal and his wife, Nadia Chou, who are both Chinese Muslims, received their Tzu Chi volunteer certification in Taiwan from Dharma Master Cheng Yen. The third Tzu Chi volunteer in Turkey is Yu Zi Cheng, a Taiwanese businessman who runs a business trading in auto parts. The three of them are known as the “Iron Trio” of Tzu Chi Turkey, and they actively carry out various types of emergency humanitarian assistance in the country. They also work to inspire and encourage other Taiwanese businessmen to support and participate in their charity programmes and activities.
In recent years, the trio worked with the Turkish government to establish a free clinic for Syrian refugees, while also providing the latter with monthly allowances and helping Syrian refugee children to continue their education. The diploma awarded by the El Menahil school has also been recognised by an American educational certification body. This was positively affirmed by the Turkish government. On 29th December 2018, President Erdogan of Turkey specially took time to meet up with the Tzu Chi volunteers in Turkey and those from Malaysia, to commend their efforts.
The “Iron Trio” of Tzu Chi Turkey and the Malaysia volunteer team shared with the president Tzu Chi’s humanitarian work in Turkey. They also expressed their gratitude to the president for offering to provide land for Tzu Chi to build another school if the current school runs out of space.
The collaboration between the government of Turkey, Tzu Chi Taiwan and Tzu Chi Malaysia to help Syrian refugees has brought much love and warmth amid the cold winter in Turkey.