“Do you feel that Singaporeans are living in poverty? In what aspects do you think Singaporeans are poor?” These were the questions posed by Ms Lin Zu Hui, a social worker at the Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore). The initial response from the audience was hesitant, but everyone eventually replied in unison, “Spiritually.”
Ms Lin pointed out the challenges of the charity mission in Singapore, “In comparison with other poorer countries, it is more difficult to carry out charity work in Singapore. Many beneficiaries will not be contented with a mere bag of rice. This is why we should introduce them to the Master’s teachings!”
Charity work has always been the fundamental mission of Tzu Chi. Therefore, with an increasing number of volunteers involved in home visits, the Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) conducted a 4-hour long training for 342 volunteers at the Jing Si Hall on 18 May 2014, Good Friday. Through captivating skits and excellent acting skills, the team members effectively relayed important points to note for home visits and in the assessment of new cases. The interactive session also allowed volunteers to raise many issues worth pondering over.
Honing Keen Observation Skills through Fun-filled Activities
To start off the session, participants were paired up in an engaging activity aimed at honing their observation skills. Each pair was given five minutes to interact with each other, after which each participant had to complete a questionnaire on his or her partner. Questions include: Did you join Tzu Chi after participating in the
“Dharma as Water”stage adaptation? Are you actively involved in home visits? The active posing of questions by participants greatly livened the atmosphere in the Jing Si Hall. Many participants described their partners to be friendly and even complimented them on their smiles. Indeed, this activity did sharpen the participants’ observation skills, which would definitely help them make better judgement during home visits.
For participants to attain a deeper level of understanding, the charity team went to great lengths to put up two skits which depict real-life situations encountered during home visits. The first skit relayed important points to note during home visits, while the second illustrated the skills and experience relevant to assessing new cases. Ms Lin led the participants to analyse each erroneous behaviour displayed in the skits, and offerered improvements or suggestions. Even small details such as the number of times one should knock on the door, how loudly one should knock, and the inappropriateness of resting in beneficiaries’ homes were discussed. The activity was enriching and enjoyable for both the organisers and participants.
“As the poor provide us with an opportunity to develop compassion and experience the happiness of giving, we should be filled with gratitude while conducting home visits. Furthermore, one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. As such, home visits allow us to develop soft skills like patience, enthusiasm and sincerity,”Lin also shared.
Taking the Initiative to Benefit Others
Experienced home visit volunteer, Mr Hong De Qian, integrated the teachings of the “Sutra of Innumerable Benefits” with the charitable spirit of Tzu Chi. “It will be regrettable if you are not involved in charity work at Tzu Chi. The idea of home visits originated from the ““Sutra of Innumerable Benefits.”We should be ‘uninvited teachers,’ ‘uninvited friends’ and ‘uninvited kins’by treating all beings as our teachers, friends and relatives. We should inculcate in them the right values after helping them overcome their difficulties,”Mr Hong said in a segment of the programme.
Wang Tian Hui, a volunteer who has been providing long-term assistance to the elderly Koh siblings, has demonstrated the idea of being an uninvited kin. Upon the demise of their eldest brother, the surviving Koh siblings were unable to prepare meals for themselves due to kidney and spinal problems. Although they were provided with subsidised food catering services, not all their meals are provided for as food catering services do not offer breakfast. In view of this, Mr Wang volunteered to deliver breakfast to their doorstep daily and has been doing so for the past one year without fail.
Lin facilitated and led the discussion to cover a wider range of issues with in-depth analysis, encompassing teenage rebellion and the provision of emotional support. Participants shared their personal experiences enthusiastically. For instance, on the topic of dealing with beneficiaries’ frustrations about their children’s spending habits, volunteer Ms Gao Qing Hui expressed her personal opinion that a child’s spending habits are larglely influenced by the parents and thus, one should not give one’s child excessive allowance in order to cultivate good spending habits.
Regarding the question of whether a beneficiary should reprove his or her children’s shortcomings in the latter’s presence, volunteer Mr Shen You advised that volunteers should have a tacit understanding and consider the feelings of both parents and children. For instance, volunteers can speak to parents and children individually and provide suitable advice. “Therefore, our task will be to learn how to take care of beneficiaries’feelings while guiding them onto the right path,”Lin concluded.
Finding Meaning in Life through the Cycle of Kindness
Ms Zheng An Yu, who attended the training for the first time, felt that the session provided her with a complete picture of what makes a good home visit volunteer. “We learnt to be more observant through the ice-breaker and understood the importance of behaving appropriately during home visits through the skits. While charity work plays a fundamental role in Tzu Chi, home visits play an important role in developing our patience,” she added.
Ms Zheng also shared that it was her first time learning the Tzu Chi song “One Family” in sign language. She was glad that she finally had the chance to learn this song which touched her deeply, partly due to the fact that she had received help from Tzu Chi eight years ago.
It was through a recycling activity held at Bukit Batok that Ms Zheng was reunited with Tzu Chi. She became a grey uniform volunteer in October 2013 and participated in the “Dharma as Water” stage adaptation. Through the teachings in the“Dharma as Water – A Commentary on the Compassionate Samadhi Water Repentance,” she learnt to give without expecting anything in return as well as the importance of gratitude and contentment.
“I lack two ingredients in perfecting the Tzu Chi “Four-Ingredient Spiritual Soup” - understanding and accommodation. I aim to hone these two traits next. Tzu Chi Foundation not only allows me to practise Dharma, but helps me understand the meaning of life as well. Giving is what makes my life meaningful,”Zheng said joyfully.
Having gone through the training, Ms Zheng was ready to be a home visit volunteer. So were 70 other participants. They signed up for home visit programme at the end of the session, showing their commitment in sharing the Master’s teachings with all beneficiaries.