In March 2019, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in East Africa were ravaged by Cyclone Idai, causing a death toll of more than 1,000. Thousands went missing and millions others were displaced. To join Tzu Chi’s global efforts in extending assistance to the cyclone survivors, Tzu Chi Merit Organization (Singapore) held a “Send Love to Africa” street fundraising drive on Sunday, 5th May 2019.
When most people were still sound asleep early on the Sunday morning, Tzu Chi volunteers around the island had already arrived at their respective meeting points to collect their fundraising permits. After a short briefing by their team leader, each team of volunteers proceeded to their designated venue to begin their charitable mission.
“Hi, good morning! Send Love to Africa to help rebuild the homes of cyclone survivors!” called out the volunteers in teams of three, with one of them holding a donation box while another holding a fundraising placard. Each team actively appealed to the public to give with love to help the disaster survivors in Africa tide over their hardships.
Acts of universal love
Be it outside a wet market or a shopping mall, love and kindness was evident everywhere. Many passersby dropped their donations into the donation boxes, irrespective of their religion, ethnicity and age. They included low-income foreign workers, physically challenged and even unemployed individuals.
"I am currently not working, so I can only donate as much as I can afford. I hope you don't mind," said an elderly man, who made a donation despite having very little money in his wallet.
Among the donors were many young children. An adorable kid dropped all his coins into a donation box and said, "Luckily I have some money with me.”
The volunteer asked the child whether the money was his savings and he replied, "Yes!”
The fundraising placard held by a volunteer attracted the attention of a young lady who took out a stack of notes tied with a rubber band. She said, "I’m going to drop these notes slowly into the donation box. I hope you don’t mind waiting.”
The volunteers did not quite understand what she meant until they saw her inserting the few hundred dollars’ worth of notes one by one into the donation box.
“I had intended to donate this money to a charitable organisation, but seeing that Africa needs the money more, I feel that donating to them is also an act of charity,” said the young lady with a smile.
Besides passersby, shop owners in the vicinity were equally generous in showing support for the good cause. Ben Toh, who operates a joss paper shop at a market in Hougang, immediately dropped some cash into the donation box of a team of Tzu Chi volunteers when he spotted them.
“I feel very touched whenever I see Tzu Chi volunteers fundraising on the streets,” he shared.
The fundraising day happened to fall on the first day of the fourth lunar month. Various temples around Singapore were crowded with devotees on this day. The Kuan Yin Thong Hood Cho Temple in Bugis, in particular, was especially crowded with people.
"This is the tenth (donation I have made)!" said Lau Heng Sang, aged over 80 years old. He dropped his donations into the donation boxes held by teams of volunteers around the temple and casually chatted with some of the volunteers. The elderly man said that what is even more important than earning money is to be able to give money to help those in need.
Doctors leading as role models in spreading kindness
At the Bugis fundraising venue, a group of medical personnel clad in TIMA* uniforms joined the ranks of the fundraisers. With a donation box in their hands, they politely bowed to the donors while explaining the purpose of the fundraising event.
Among them was otorhinolaryngology specialist, Dr. Ho Eu Chin, who felt warmed by the generosity of the donors from the public.
"When we are able, we should extend a helping hand to the distant disaster victims. Besides doing good ourselves, we are also giving others an opportunity to do good.”
*TIMA – Tzu Chi International Medical Association
Dr. Lee Qin Yi, a young physician who is also a TIMA member, actively solicited donations from passersby in Bugis. despite having a face reddened by the sun. In April this year, Lee went to Africa with another organisation and had the chance to stay at the Tzu Chi branch office in South Africa for a day, where she heard the local volunteers share about Tzu Chi’s aid distribution work in Mozambique. After returning to Singapore, she took the opportunity to share about her experience in Africa at a Tzu Chi English volunteer training class.
When Lee saw a video clip depicting children in Africa having to share a cup of water with so many people, she commented that people in Singapore are very lucky to have clean water the moment they turn on a tap. As the facilities and amenities in the disaster areas were inadequate and the sanitary condition was worrying, Lee felt the urgency to raise funds in a timely manner.
“We need to tell the people in Singapore about the situation of the disaster victims in East Africa and let them know that there is a group of disaster victims who are in desperate need of help at the other side of the globe,” added Lee.
Finding joy in giving
There were many first-time and even physically challenged volunteers helping in the fundraising drive. Ong Ming Teck, who was a first-timer, revealed that he felt a bit hesitant when he knew that he was assigned to raise funds near a hawker centre close to his home. He was scared that he might meet his neighbours or relatives and friends there.
Standing at the venue with a donation box in his hands, Ong felt a little awkward when he eventually bumped into his old friends at the hawker centre. But when he thought of the fact that he was actually doing a good deed, he calmly greeted his friends with a friendly attitude. In no time, his friends came to him one by one to drop some money into the donation box.
Ong said that he felt grateful in his heart as he bowed to each of the donors, regardless of the amount they donated. He was also grateful to be given the opportunity to do a good deed that he had never done before. His heart was filled with joy although he felt a little tired.
Moh Moh, a Burmese who was another first-time volunteer at a street fundraising event, suffers from vasovagal syncope. Thus, she is unable to stand for a long period of time. Despite her condition, she still stood for a few hours on this day. She revealed that it was a brand new experience for her to go to the street to raise funds. Despite feeling tired, her heart was filled with happiness
A total of 526 Tzu Chi volunteers took part in the street fundraising drive at 44 locations island-wide, with the common goal of inspiring kindness in people and raising funds to help the cyclone survivors in Africa.