The 2018 Year-end Blessing Ceremony organized by Tzu Chi Malacca walked the audience through Tzu Chi’s footprints traversed during the 12 months of 2018 – good deeds that benefitted a large number of people across the globe – made possible only through the collective kindness and efforts of donors and volunteers alike. Within a year, over 10,000 people benefitted from the small acts of kindness gathered from the public – such multiplier effect can only be achieved on a collective basis. Some volunteers also had the opportunity to be part of disaster relief missions overseas, thus creating good affinities with many across the globe.
On December 15 and 16, 2018, Tzu Chi Malacca hosted three sessions of the Year-end Blessing Ceremony, which saw a total turnout of 1,500 participants. Inspiring, uplifting and humanistic video documentation of Tzu Chi’s footprints in the past one year encompassing the missions of International Disaster Relief, Charity, Environmental Protection, and so on, were showcased. Volunteers also presented musical sign language performances based on two music pieces titled, “Worry” and “The Obstacles of Karmic Retribution – Making Vows after Repenting”.
Living in poverty but content and happy!
Myanmar is the world’s rice producer and the second largest rice exporter. It has dry and rainy seasons that last for six months each. The farmers plant three times a year – upland rice in the dry season, paddy rice in the rainy season, and mung beans in between the two seasons.
However, the heavy rain in July and August 2018 destroyed all the crops, causing the farmers to live in debt, unable to repay the loans.
To help them through the tough time, Tzu Chi volunteers from Taiwan, Malaysia and Myanmar were mobilized to assess the situation at the affected areas in September. The farmers said, “What we need is not money. We would be most happy if you could give us bean seeds because if you were to give us money, it would be spent entirely on bus fares to purchase the bean seeds.”
Malaysian volunteer Goh Kok Eng, who joined the relief mission in Myanmar, shared his experiences with the audience. He said the volunteers heeded Master Cheng Yen’s advice to look for the best quality mung bean seeds and distributed over 20,000 bags of bean seeds (weighing 640 tons in total) to farmers from over 12,000 households in October 2018, so that they could sow the bean seeds in November and harvest before Chinese New Year 2019. Kok Eng will visit Myanmar again on December 17 to carry out preparation work for the distribution of upland rice seeds after Chinese New Year 2019.
Another volunteer who also participated in the relief distribution is Chan Geok Hong. She said that when she held the farmers’ thumbs (to assist in obtaining their thumb prints) for stamping documentation, she was so emotionally moved by the calluses on their hands. These calluses are hardened and thickened skin, developed from the daily farming activities over the years. “Evidently, every grain of rice does not come easily,” she said. She was so overwhelmed by her experience and since returning to Malaysia has been telling others to cherish food.
She remembered the bumpy motorcycle rides she had to endure while making home visits prior to the relief distribution. This reminded her of Master Cheng Yen’s wise advice: “To overcome all difficulties one must have firm conviction.” As she stepped into a dilapidated and tilted house, which seemed so fragile that it could fall into the river anytime, she observed that the family of three were so contented, eating what they could catch from the river and living off the land. This helped her to realize that one needs very little to be contented and happy.
Geok Hong related another memorable experience when a child ran towards her and hugged her with joy when they met again. She had earlier given a loaf of bread to this child and did not think much of it. However, to this kid, it was something precious and wonderful.
Moreover, despite living in poverty, the farmers would generously deposit a handful of rice into a “rice bank” before cooking each meal. They have a deep desire to help those who are in dire need, so instead of giving money they give what they have, i.e. rice grains. Their kindness clearly proves what Master Cheng Yen has always said, “Giving is not the privilege of the rich, but of the sincere.”
The RM3,000 she spent on the trip was very worthwhile, for it allowed her to create positive affinity with 12,000 people and also enriched her spirit within.
Persistently overcoming difficulties to do good deeds
Sio Seok Keng, an entrepreneur, was inspired and moved after listening to the volunteers’ sharing and watching the video documentaries. She had the impression that Myanmar was a rather dangerous place but to her surprise, the farmers led such a simple life. She was moved by the incident where residents, of a meditation centre, tearing with joy and appreciation, thanked the volunteers who had constructed pre-fabricated houses for them. They said, “We never thought that we could one day live in such a lovely well-built house”.
Tzu Chi’s relief work in Myanmar made her understand that it is not an easy task to help others as many difficulties need to be overcome to achieve the goal. Impressed by the volunteers’ persistent efforts, she said, “This can only be accomplished with great courage.”
After having watched a Cambodian kid holding the bread given by volunteers high above his head while swimming across the river, she reflected upon her own life and was thankful for what she and her family had. With gratefulness, she now hopes to have the opportunity to help, in cash or effort, those who are in suffering.
Recollecting acts of Great Love
Yow Choon Mui has been a Tzu Chi donor for more than a decade. Having witnessed how Tzu Chi volunteers extended their love regardless of ethnicity, she would gladly participate in any Tzu Chi activities as long as time permits. Through the video documentaries, she learnt of Tzu Chi’s humanitarian outreach in various countries around the world. She also realized that people from all races in many countries are joining Tzu Chi’s voluntary work out of their selfless intention to help those in need; and the collective small kindness from everyone made it possible to help more people.
Another participant, Chung Mei Yung, attended the event for the third time, after a pause of several years. She was moved by the videos and tearfully remarked, “It is a blessing that Malaysia rarely experiences any disasters. But, it had also made us forget that there are many people in other parts of the world who live in suffering. The charitable work carried out by Tzu Chi has filled the ignorant society with warmth.”
She purposely brought along her two children so that they could learn to count their blessings, be grateful and learn to give. Speaking about Master’s explanation on the theme of the 2018 Year-end Blessing Ceremony, she remarked, “It is only when each of us are decent in our speech and actions can we create a peaceful and harmonious society.” She believes that instilling kindness and love in the young can help to bring positive changes to the community or society they live in and the world at large.
Yam Choon Lan usually gets Tzu Chi’s updates through its monthly magazine. With reduced family responsibility, she has joined her neighbour, who is a Tzu Chi volunteer, in recycling activities and charity home visits for about a year. In July this year, she and her husband joined the volunteers in helping an elderly neighbour to clean her house. She was so thankful to the volunteers for initiating this clean-up and as a team they enabled this elderly neighbour to have a clean and comfortable home.
Reflecting on a year well lived
One of the highlights of the annual Year-end Blessing Ceremony is the presentation of a red envelope of blessing and wisdom from Master Cheng Yen. This year, an image of the Jing Si Abode is printed on the front cover, and in it, one will find a Jing Si Aphorism and verses from the “Chapter on Dharma Teachers” from the Lotus Sutra.
To prepare the red envelopes, volunteers in Malacca had spent a week in early December to affix three rice grains onto each red envelope. These three rice grains represents conscientious efforts in “observing Precepts, cultivating Samadhi, and nurturing Wisdom” and to “develop deep Faith, making great Vows and Internalizing by applying them daily”.
Another participant, Yong Teck Kuan, invited his friends to join him for the event. He also brought his bamboo bank to donate his savings. As he is a keen collector of old coins, he loves the commemorative coin in the red envelope and has been diligently and faithfully collecting them for several years.
Teo Chai Yueh attended the event carrying two heavily filled bamboo banks. Since 2015, it had been her daily practice to make a deposit into the bamboo bank. She placed her bamboo bank in the living room to remind herself to do good deeds daily. She said happily, “I have two bamboo banks. When one is full, I will take out another and continue saving and bring them during Year-end Blessing Ceremony for donation.”
Seventy-year-old Cha La Lay said that the bamboo bank provides a good way for the elderly and the poor to do good deeds because they can deposit any small change they have into it. Her friend, Quay Jin Fong nodded in agreement and said, “I only realized from the video that there are so many people suffering in this world. The collective small kindness from everyone can turn into great strength to help all these people.”
As the saying goes “Many drops of water make the mighty ocean”, aptly describes Tzu Chi’s ability to positively impact the community, society and the world where humanitarian aid is most needed.
CEO of Tzu Chi Malacca, Loh Siew Cheng, thanked the public members for their support and trust in Tzu Chi’s missions of Great Love. She said that 76% of the donations were spent on various charity projects such as subsidies for living necessities, education, medical care, and so on; 20% went towards study aid (to encourage needy students to cultivate good conduct and perform well in their studies); while the remainder 4% was used for emergency and disaster relief work. As at November 2018, a total of 16,000 people had benefitted from these various aids.
Much progress and success was also recorded in environmental protection through recycling. From the 12 recycling centres and 73 recycling points, the collective efforts from the public members and a turnout of 8,000 volunteers garnered a total of nearly 900,000 kg of recyclables (mostly paper). This is equal to saving about 10,000 twenty-year-old trees.
“Love is a valuable treasure that we can pass on from generation to generation. Because of your love, more than 10,000 people received help. We hope that this energy of love will continue to spread and more people will walk this Bodhisattva Path.” The theme for the 2018 Year-end Blessing Ceremony is “Nurture a love for life, a heart of gratitude and respect for one another. Foster the spirit of harmony, prevent conflicts, and create blessings hand in hand”. She explained that besides human lives, we should also cherish the lives of animals by adopting vegetarianism. She ended her speech wishing all families harmony and happiness in the year ahead.
In three Ceremonies over two days, everyone received a red envelope of blessing and wisdom from Master Cheng Yen as a token of appreciation for continuously supporting and contributing to Tzu Chi. It is also hoped that all who have benefitted from practising the essence of the Dharma are able to start the new year on a new slate with a purified mind.