“We need to self-reflect in order to come to realisations and awaken to truths ourselves. We should do more to experience and understand the suffering of people...” shared senior Tzu Chi volunteer leader, Willy Ang.
From serving in Tzu Chi’s Mission of Environmental Protection to dedicating himself to the NGO’s Mission of Charity, Ang has learned to do self-reflection and continually adjusts his mindset in the process of visiting the homes of the needy.
Recalling his first home visit experience in 2010, Ang said that the aid recipient was born on the same day in the same year as him, but their life journeys were drastically different. That man had led a hard life filled with twists and turns, and passed away eventually after his cancer spread to other parts of his body, whereas Ang has led a relatively comfortable life.
The experience impacted him greatly, and he thus came to the realisation that life is impermanent and full of suffering.
Ang revealed that in the past, he was quite attached to his own perspectives and had a strongly logical mind while handling charity cases in Tzu Chi. Gradually, as the home visit experiences allowed him to witness the suffering of life, he was inspired to learn to be more content and to count his blessings.
He has also learned to be thankful to the needy aid beneficiaries for allowing him to witness poverty and sickness, which reminded him of the vicissitudes and impermanence of life.
Now, when Ang is assessing a case, he will make an effort to break away from his attachments and to objectively evaluate the financial needs of each potential beneficiary, without letting sympathy get in the way. He will put himself in the shoes of these underprivileged households and ensure that the needy obtain the aid or medical supplies they need to tide over their hard times.
During each home visit, Ang will chat with the aid recipient, and he often shares the Dharma to encourage them. Sometimes, he will also share healthy eating habits and the benefits of a vegetarian diet with them.
Inspiring recipients of aid to give to help others in need
Apart from conducting charity home visits, Ang also leads other volunteers in care visits to the prison. For 8 years, Ang has been visiting inmates in the prison to offer them a listening ear and give them support. He seeks to understand the needs of HIV positive inmates and helps them to apply for medical subsidies from Tzu Chi.
Believing that everyone has an innate Buddha nature, he does not ostracise the inmates. He thinks that they have only brought suffering upon themselves, because they had temporarily strayed from the right path. Hence, he continues to give them emotional support, with the hope of influencing them for the better with his care and love.
As the leader of the home visit team, he tries his best to help the needy and even encourages the latter to give to help others in need. He tells these recipients of aid that they, too, can save a little each day to donate to Tzu Chi to help other needy people in the community. And he revealed that many of the aid beneficiaries do have kind hearts as they willingly and happily donate what little they can give.
By pooling together these small amounts of donations, the accumulated funds can be used to help many other underprivileged households.
Ang shared the story of an aid beneficiary who was a cancer patient that had passed away: A group of Tzu Chi volunteers went to the wake of the deceased to chant the Buddha’s name for him. After that the latter’s sister texted to thank the volunteers for giving care and help to her brother for 5 years. The volunteers were positively inspired by the courage shown by the cancer-stricken aid recipient, and they also encouraged the latter to save up a little each day to help others in need, which he happily did.
Ang said that while in Tzu Chi, he will seize the opportunity to give of himself and courageously takes on responsibilities. So he also serves as a facilitator at Tzu Chi’s community book study sessions, leading other volunteers in learning the Dharma and helping them to understanding the teachings of Master Cheng Yen. Then, besides serving those in need, the volunteers can benefit from the teachings and apply them in their daily lives.
“Doing good deeds is to cultivate blessings. We must learn and understand the Dharma in order to cultivate both blessings and wisdom,” said Ang.
Hence, he often encourages fellow volunteers to attend Master Cheng Yen’s early morning Dharma talks. Jennifer Tan, another volunteer leader, commented that although Ang has a strong personality, he also has a gentle disposition. She said that he believes that the poor can become spiritually rich despite their financial situation and that he is always willing to help those in need.
Ang feels very grateful for the care and company of fellow volunteers, which spurs him to continue on the Tzu Chi Path with firm resolve.