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Tzu Chi Singapore Branch Chinese New Year Charity Fair

On Jan 26th & 27th, 2013, Tzu Chi Singapore Branch held a Chinese New Year Charity Fair to gather funds for charity, cultivate good deeds for a year of peace and harmony.

The charity fair lasted two days, where volunteers from all across the island came to help in the spirit of welcoming the new year with a heart of love and kindness. (Photo by Alvin Tan)

“We are aware of Tzu Chi’s efforts on a global scale. Whenever a country is struck by calamity, Tzu Chi will immediately step up to offer aid. Master Cheng Yen’s compassion is truly touching and we know our donated monies is being put to good use.”

Although Ms Ke Hui Wan and her husband have known of Tzu Chi for several years, a busy work schedule and family commitment have rendered them unable to participate in many of Tzu Chi’s activities. To make up for it, Ms Ke and her husband would attend the charity fairs Tzu Chi organizes each time. Armed with their reusable shopping bags, the couple contributed $300 while shopping for New Year goods.

“We are delighted to be able to get our New Year goods and decorations while contributing to charity,” she says.

A Plethora Of New Year Goodies And Delicacies

Blessed with good weather, Tzu Chi Singapore Branch held a Chinese New Year Charity Fair on the 26th and 27th of January, inviting the public to donate for charity while purchasing New Year goodies.

After the mass prayer session, Tzu Chi Singapore Branch’s CEO Mr Low Swee Seh strikes the gong to officially mark the opening of the charity fair. (Photo by Ng Shey Ying)

At the fair, there are designated areas for cooked food stalls, festive goodies stalls, volunteers recruitment area, environmental protection education area, reception area as well as a big dining area as the number of stalls have been reduced to cater more space for interaction.

A sea of auspicious red, the charity fair was decorated with lanterns, banners, couplets, plum flowers and paper-cuts. Vendors also took the liberty to bring their own decorative items to the fair to add to the vibes.

The endless stream of people had the twenty-six vendors catching their breath selling New Year goodies to people. The vendors offered a great variety of New Year goodies, including organic tidbits, mandarin oranges, flowers, sweets, dried fruits as well as plums and pastries made by volunteers.

An innovative idea proposed by entrepreneur Sim Sien Peng was introduced this year to provide a neat and tidy mobile store for the festive goodies. Two rows of four layer metal racks were installed on site near the entrance where the goodies stall were, providing an easy access to volunteers for replenishing their stocks.

The charity fair invites everyone to “welcome the new year with kindness in heart”. A total of 26 stalls were set up this year to serve the members of the public. (Photo by Lee Guang Cheng)

Tzu Chi Bamboo Bank – Cultivating A Loving Heart

To add a new flavor to the festivities this year, a Chinese gong was set up to rally and encourage the public to donate funds for the Seeds of Hope Bursary Programme. The new feature was well received by members of the public. Whenever someone made a donation, the gong would be struck and the sound of the Chinese gong would resonate with the spirit of giving and ushering in the new year.

The Chinese gong feature to gather donations was well received by the public this year. (Photo by Ng Shey Ying)

Madam Shen Xin Di was delighted that she was able to celebrate her birthday this year at Tzu Chi’s charity fair. As her birthday falls in January, she had celebrated her birthday in the company’s annual dinner each year. At the Chinese gong area, Sim made a donation of $100 and struck the gong to mark a meaningful birthday and the beginning of her blessed new year.

Ms Wang Mei Qing brought two fully filled bamboo piggy banks to the charity fair, and emptied it into the large urn at the fair. Ms Wang first heard of Tzu Chi through a Tzu Chi volunteer, Ms Huang Qian Qi many years ago, where she learned of the origins and vision of the Bamboo Piggy Bank. Ms Wang eventually developed the habit of making daily donations and evoking loving thoughts as she fills up her Bamboo Piggy Bank in the office.

“I used to make a one time donation, but Huang advised me to break down the one time donation into smaller sums, and instead focus on developing the habit of evoking pleasant and loving thoughts as I made the offering.” Ms Wang adds, “Each time I evoke a loving thought, I’d wish for the health and happiness of my friends – doing this daily lifts my spirits.”

Ms Wang believes in the spirit of the Bamboo Piggy Bank, which is to help cultivate a loving and kind heart. Her enthusiasm has led her to encourage her friends to each make daily offerings and support the Seed of Hope bursary to help the needy students.

Instead of making a one-time donation, Tzu Chi member Ms Wang Mei Qin now makes a small donation each day to develop the habit of cultivating good thoughts every day. (Photo by Ong Leng Hong)

Supporting The Dharma Family

To promote vegetarianism, a total of 43 vegetarian food stalls were set up providing an international spread of food to the people at the fair. The choice of food included local delights like Mee Rebus, Mee Siam, Laksa and Roti Prata, and international selections like Taiwanese rice dumpings and Japanese sushi. Many of the vegetarian foods were supplied by generous sponsors who not only donated the items but came personally to tend to the stalls.

Two of the stalls which prepared fried bean curd, vegetarian “dong po” pork cuisine, and rice dumplings were tended by Venerable Jing Wen and her five disciples.

Venerable Jing Wen practiced Buddhism for many years before renouncing the lay life and became a Buddhist monastic in 2011. Her support for Tzu Chi’s charity fair stems from her admiration of Master Cheng Yen and it’s missions around the world.

Venerable Jing Wen insists on choosing the highest quality ingredients for her preparation of vegetarian meals to ensure the quality of its taste. She believes that her extra effort in preparing vegetarian meals would help promote vegetarianism. Under Venerable Jing Wen’s influence and guidance, three of her disciples have become regular volunteers at Tzu Chi, practicing the bodhisattva way.

For many years, Venerable Shi Jing Wen would volunteer at Tzu Chi’s charity fair to help with fund raising and promoting vegetarianism. Under Venerable Jing Wen's influence, three of her disciples have also became Tzu Chi volunteers. (Photo by Douglas Lee)

Mr Sun Ping Xing operates a vegetarian food company and he has always been an advocate of Tzu Chi’s work, participating in many of Tzu Chi’s activities. This year is his second time tending a stall at the Tzu Chi’s charity fair selling vegetarian “dim sum”. “I do what I can, and I hope more people will take on vegetarianism,” he mentions.

Mr Sun’s wife and two children came down to help over the two days. In order to not have any leftovers that go into waste, Mr Sun would observed the turnover of each type of “dim sum” in the morning before replenishing the items for the afternoon shift.

It is the first time the owner of a vegetarian food business, Mr Sun Ping Xing, took part in the charity fair. Selling Vegetarian "Dim Sum" at a stall, he hopes to promote vegetarianism to more people. (Photo by Tan Phaik Hui)

Nothing is Impossible with concerted unity

Closed to 17,000 members of the public turn up at the two days event which is supported by a total of 1711 volunteers and members who came from all over the island to make the charity fair a success.

Mdm Lee Wan Yin, who often assist in charity fairs organised by Buddhist organisations, commended Tzu Chi’s organizational skills and professionalism. What surprised her was Tzu Chi’s efforts in environmental protection during the fair itself – on top of ensuring no litter was left lying around, no disposable utensils, cups and plates were used in the fair which is very rare in today’s society.

Environmental activism was in full force during the charity fair. Besides using non-disposable crockery and utensils, recycling volunteers are around to pick up litters on the floor to ensure cleanliness at the fair. (Photo by Wang Jun Xuan)

This is Tzu Chi’s second time holding the charity fair at the open field beside Pasir Ris MRT and Bus Interchange. Upholding its spirit in environmental protection, Tzu Chi volunteers displayed its unity during the two days, reducing waste, encouraging the use of reusable shopping bags and non-disposable utensils and crockery. No litter was seen to be lying around and items that can be recycled were immediately sorted out.

Upon finishing the Year End Blessing Ceremony just a fortnight ago before the Charity Fair, Tzu Chi’s volunteers started to focus on the preparation for the charity fair, tackling time sensitive issues such as reporting and requesting for permissions from the National Environmental Agency and Public Utilities Board on matters critical to the success of the charity fair.

Sim Hee Chew, main coordinator of the charity fair says, “Experience alone could not have made this possible – it is our unity that made it possible. The Tzu Chi family’s unconditional giving, co-operation and teamwork made it possible for us to make the charity fair a success despite the limited time we had to plan it.”

Giving back for Seed of Hope bursary

Chris came from the Philippines and married a local. The couple eventually divorced and Chris was left to take care of her 15-year-old daughter, Seline, by herself. Without a work pass, making a living was difficult. For the sake of her daughter’s education and future, Chris forced herself to remain in Singapore while struggling with poverty.

Beneficiaries Chris and her daughter Seline received help during their lowest point in life. They decided to put their gratitude into action and volunteered for this year’s charity fair. (Photo by Lim Chee Hua)

Chris got to know of Tzu Chi through its Seeds of Hope Bursary Programme when Tzu Chi’s volunteers first visited them at their home. Noted that the family needed extra help, Tzu Chi readily approved a monthly aid of $400 to help them out with their living needs. When CDC approved her financial aid subsequently, she voluntarily request Tzu Chi to half her financial aid so that others could benefit from it.

“I do not know how I can repay the kindness bestowed upon me. If there’s anything I can help with, I will.” Chris and her daughter, with a heart of gratitude, volunteered at the charity fair, washing the dishes.

“I have been looking forward to this charity fair. Tzu Chi came to my help during the lowest point in my life. Not only did Tzu Chi provide me with financial aid, they ensured that my daughter can go to school with a peace of mind.” With a sincere heart of given back, Chris and her daughter delightedly volunteered in dish washing at the charity fair, ushering in the New Year with goodness in their hearts that would remain with them in the year to come.

Volunteers at the food stalls wear gloves, masks and head scarfs to ensure cleanliness and hygiene. (Photo by Pua Poo Thong)

Main coordinator of the fair Mr Sim Hee Chew thanks volunteers for their hard work in making the fair a success despite the tight schedule. (Photo by Wong Twee Hee)

A designated area for posters was set up to introduce on Tzu Chi’s history and missions to the public. (Photo by Wong Twee Hee)

“Everyone has something to contribute and everything is taken care of.” The logistic volunteers are in charge of ensuring that food is safely and timely delivered to the vendors for sale. (Photo by Lai Tong Heng)

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