At around 6.30pm on the evening of 21 February, members of the public spanning across different age groups started streaming in from all directions and the atmosphere in the usually quiet Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park took on a lively feel. The crowd had come because they wanted to see the colourful floats and performances by both local and international groups at the Chingay 2016 Night Fiesta held at the Park. The theme for this year’s Chingay being “Lights of Legacy, Brighter Singapore,” every visitor was given a decorative accessory designed like a light bulb.
The People’s Association of Singapore (PA) had invited Tzu Chi to promote environmental protection at the Chingay event, and its volunteers had enthusiastically planned for the recycling awareness activity in hopes of inspiring the younger generation towards maintaining a clean and green Singapore.
Apart from the displays of colourful floats and lively performances, Tzu Chi volunteers also stood out from the crowd as they stood at the side of the busy walkway, exhorting everyone to do their bit for the environment so as to preserve the beauty of our homeland. Three to a team, they shouted out a catchy slogan to raise awareness among the public of the importance of sorting recyclables and not discarding items willfully.
Recalling the Yellow Ribbon Run event that he had participated in two years ago, Tzu Chi volunteer coordinator Wen Fu Yu recounted how the areas where volunteers were hard at work picking and sorting trash had stood out amidst the “wilderness of rubbish” all around. This experience ingrained in him the urgency of educating the public about recycling. Wen told the team of volunteers to look upon the walkways in the park as a learning ground where they could put into practice the mission to save the earth, reminding people of the importance of recycling and not just occupy themselves with sorting out trash.
He Su Mei, a 73-year-old recycling volunteer happily said of her first-time participating in an outdoor awareness-raising activity, “I’m grateful for the opportunity to step out of the confines of the (Tzu Chi) recycling point and interact with so many members of the public. Though the visitors pass by so quickly, I hope that our message would still have an impact on them.” Standing for such a long period of time caused He to experience some pain in her knee joints, so she needed to take a rest in-between. However, she treasured the opportunity to contribute to the worthy cause.
The volunteers also set up a booth and shared Tzu Chi’s “Ten Fingers Mnemonic” of recycling principles with the public. They warmly invited the public to take part in the organization’s community recycling activities, in hopes that this would help ingrain the recycling concepts deep into their consciousness. In addition, they gave out introductory booklets about Tzu Chi so that people could have a better understanding of its charitable missions and join the ranks of its volunteers if they wished to.
Volunteer Li Jin Xing said, “In the face of global warming, whether people wish to hear (about the problem) or not, I would sometimes follow them around and speak about recycling. (If) they don’t want to hear (what I have to say) or walk off impatiently, I would just thank them (for their time). However much I can help, I will try my best to do it.”
Eight-year-old Deng Jia Le who stopped by the booth had his attention drawn to the displays. It was the first time he had heard of recycling, but he expressed his willingness to do his bit for the earth. After some explanation by volunteers, he understood the concept of recycling to mean finding new uses for something that had lost its original function, and even knew which types of materials could be recycled.
Another visitor Lin Bi Yin said that she had begun to take notice of environmental issues many years ago as she often read about such topics in the newspapers. She felt that when it concerns the health of one’s body, the environment that one lives in and the air that one breathes is as important as the food that one consumes. Lin often teaches craftwork to cancer patients in a hospital and sometimes uses old clothing, scrap pieces of cloth and used packaging materials from home to create Christmas decorations or wrap presents in her lessons. In this way, she brings cheer to the sick, and also does her bit for the environment.
Before the event drew to a close at 9.30pm, the 89 Tzu Chi volunteers made haste to cherish every opportunity to reach out to visitors. As Tzu Chi’s founder Dharma Master Cheng Yen once said, “To save the world, we must first focus on individual hearts; to influence the world, we must first seek to impact each individual’s heart.”
The act of recycling is to care for the earth and it compels us to adjust our mindsets; if everyone has a mind to recycle and live with less, our planet may then have the chance to be nurtured back to health.