“One million, one million….. Go! Go! Go!”
At the opening of Tzu Chi’s Festive Charity Fair, all the staff and volunteers present were united in one voice, one heart and one goal, as they cheered each other to advance towards the fundraising goal of “One Million Kind Hearts”.
Tzu Chi Merit Organization (Singapore) held the two-day charity bazaar from 27th to 28th January 2018 at an open field next to Pasir Ris MRT station, and the event attracted the participation of approximately 10,000 people. The theme for this year’s bazaar is “Gathering One Million Kind Hearts and Starting the New Year with Infinite Kindness”, with the hope of recruiting one million kind hearts to practise good deeds collectively.
Besides 48 food stalls and 38 stalls selling CNY goodies, many interesting activities had been added to the bazaar’s programme, such as music items, vegetarian cooking demos, eco-awareness workshops, etc. These activities filled the venue with a lively atmosphere, while also allowing guests to gain knowledge about vegetarianism and environmental protection.
Beh Keng Hua, one of the volunteers in charge of organising the event this year, revealed that many new businesses had taken the initiative to contact Tzu Chi to render their support. They donated their products for sale, including CNY goodies and food and beverages, which was very heartening to see.
In addition, a number of talented artists contributed their creative artwork, while a group of senior citizens donated their hand-sewn mats for sale. There were even kindergarteners from the Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool helping to promote and sell drinks and snacks. The Charity Fair truly embodied its theme for this year, and news of the event was spread via word of mouth by many kind-hearted souls, which greatly magnified the power of charity.
“I was initially invited by a friend to take part in the Charity Fair. When she heard that I was teaching the elderly in the neighbourhood how to make lanterns, she suggested that I bring my hand-made lanterns to sell at the Charity Fair,” shared Bukit Panjang Zone 7 Residents Committee’s manager, Ms Zhang Jin Huan.
Zhang guided some friends and a group of elderly folks to make 80 beautiful lanterns out of red packets in three weeks. She thought that it was a waste to discard the pretty red packets and gave the unwanted items a “new lease of life”, as hand-made decorations for CNY. At the same time, the elderly folks were able to enhance their hand-eye coordination and confidence through the handicraft work.
Expanding the Reach of Charity
“Tzu Chi works for the common good of all people. I support the philosophy of ‘Humanistic Buddhism’ embodied by Tzu Chi,” shared entrepreneur Mr Zhang.
“The greatest quality of a human is a heart filled with love. We should not only work for the benefit of ourselves,” he added.
Deeply touched by Tzu Chi’s involvement in international disaster relief work, Mr Zhang had initiated a request to be a sponsor of the charity bazaar. He manages a printing business, but made the effort to source for electronic/electrical goods, such as smart phones, electric kettles, juicers, etc., to be sold in the bazaar.
As someone who enjoys charity work, he has taken part in other charity bazaars for close to 20 years. On each occasion, he and his wife would personally help to promote the products and solicit customers, to raise funds for a worthy cause.
The Festive Charity Fair was well-organised, with much credit to the team from QSS Safety Products Pte Ltd, the logistics company working behind the scenes. On the day before the event, the owner of QSS, together with his team of staff, arrived on-site to assist with the logistics for the stocks of CNY goodies. On top of their important work behind the scenes, many of them also doubled up as volunteers in the bazaar and helped in many different areas, such as the sale of fresh flowers, washing utensils, recycling work, etc.
Mr Guo Hong Qi is one of the owners of QSS. He has been acquainted with Tzu Chi for many years, and once invited Tzu Chi volunteers to the company to introduce Tzu Chi’s missions as well as to advocate environmental protection to the staff. Since 2012, his staff has been invited by Tzu Chi annually to help out at its Charity Fair, and the volunteer group has grown from the initial group of a dozen or so staff, to the current 35-member team today.
“Their participation has helped to strengthen their team spirit within the company. Many of the staff find it a meaningful activity. Some of those who had left the company still came back to help out at the Charity Fair.”
“For many of our employees, this is their first contact with Tzu Chi, and the experience has touched them deeply,” said the HR manager of QSS.
When Tzu Chi volunteers came to the company, they shared with the staff the story of Tzu Chi’s origin in Taiwan, the “Bamboo Bank Era”, where 30 humble housewives saved NT$0.50 in a bamboo coin bank daily to help the needy.
“Each employee collected at least one bamboo coin bank. Everyone understood that charity could start from just a bit of money each day,” said the HR manager.
One of the staff members, Pan Yu Zhi, collected four bamboo coin banks, of which she gave one to her daughter. She had brought back her bamboo coin banks on this day. “We would deposit our donations daily after paying our respects to the Buddha, and send out our goodwillmm,” she said.
Pan’s colleague, Mr Zhang Wei Lie, said that he had similarly collected his bamboo coin bank during Tzu Chi’s sharing session in their company. He said, “I would donate my spare change into the bamboo coin bank each day, and pray that our world would be free of disasters.”
A team of uniformed staff from Aviva Insurance was fervently promoting CNY goodies at the Charity Fair. Their warm smiles and rich sales experiences helped to draw large crowds to their stalls. Mr Peng Ren Qiang, a department head of the company, had called ten of the staff in his department to come together and help out at the event. The staff shared in the joy of serving together and found it a blessing to be able to give of themselves.
Perpetuating the Cycle of Goodness
The “Save for a Good Cause” campaign has been a recurring theme in Tzu Chi’s recent series of events. In this year’s Festive Charity Fair, booths for the returning of bamboo coin banks, were located in eye-catching spots all around the venue.
The coin banks, which were designed to resemble bamboo stems, caught the eyes of many visitors. Volunteers were stationed in the reception area and each of the coupon sales booth, to encourage people to adopt a bamboo coin bank and save for a good cause.
62-year-old Tzu Chi commissioner, Lee Soo Lian, quietly stood by her coupons sale booth and was careful not to disturb shoppers who were only passing by. However, she was quick to catch visitors who took an interest in the displayed bamboo coin banks. When she saw people glancing at them, she would politely asked them with a friendly smile: “Would you like to adopt a bamboo coin bank?”
“How much is it?”
“Oh it is absolutely free! Just take one home and send out a good wish each day as a blessing (as you drop a coin into the bamboo coin bank). You can do charity with just a tiny sum of money daily.”
Although some of the visitors rejected her offer, she maintained her composure and thank them politely with a smile.
Lee had recently undergone a knee surgery, to remove the broken bones and repair the meniscus, and had rested at home for over a month. Although she was still busy with packing for her house renovations, she still took hold of the opportunity to serve at the charity bazaar with her daughter.
She is keenly aware of the “impermanence” of life in this world, because her own father suddenly passed on during the CNY period many years ago. At that time, she had promised to visit her (late) father in two days’ time; little did she expect that all she could see was the body of her (late) father two days later. This deep sense of regret served as a constant reminder for her to seize every living moment to do good. Thus, she started to serve actively in Tzu Chi since 2012, and has received her volunteer certification.
“Since I have chosen to walk this path in life, I must follow through willingly; otherwise I would have lived in vain,” said Lee.
It did not matter to her when people rejected her offer of the bamboo coin banks. As long as there were people listening to her, she would continue to share the story of Tzu Chi’s Bamboo Bank Era in Taiwan and even offered Tzu Chi Singapore’s introductory booklets to those who expressed their interest in the organisation.
The absence of disposable utensils and plastic bags and containers has always been an eco-friendly practice at the Festive Charity Fair, and it has been widely accepted by visitors. In fact, many shoppers could be seen bringing their own shopping bags or food containers for takeaways.
Working silently behind the scenes was a group of hardworking volunteers who quietly helped with the recycling and cleaning work. They collected and sorted the trash for recycling, quickly replaced dirty utensils with clean ones, as well as washed the dishes and other utensils in a “water saving way”.
A further improvement in this year’s Charity Fair was the establishment of the “Three-Bags System”, where clean recyclables, soiled recyclables and non-recyclable trash were kept in three separate bags at each of the food stalls.
Over the two-day bazaar, numerous groups and institutes of learning sent their representatives to the venue to learn about recycling practices. They were guided by Tzu Chi’s senior recycling team leader Suzan Tan, who explained to them Tzu Chi’s concepts and practices on environmental protection.
“To achieve the goal of zero waste, we need more participation and manpower,” said the programme manager of Income Eco Run, Mr Huang Yao Yi.
Huang, who has been promoting environmental conservation efforts for many years, started exchanging environmental practices with Tzu Chi two years ago.
“We can adopt the method of sorting recyclables, which we have learned today, in our future races, and encourage participants to sort their own trash,” he said.
The programme manager of Northeast CDC, Mr Feng Shi Tian, who had learned about Tzu Chi’s environmental protection efforts via the National Environmental Agency (NEA), specially made a trip to the charity bazaar to see how the volunteers carried out recycling work.
After being introduced to Tzu Chi by a volunteer, he, too, adopted a bamboo coin bank. He said in agreement that when everyone started doing charity by saving a small amount of money daily, the savings could accumulate to form “an ocean of kindness” to help many people.