Tzu Chi volunteers held a tea party last January 11 for friends, supporters, and colleagues to update them about the Buddhist group’s relief operations in Leyte province. The occasion was also an opportunity to help raise funds to augment the ongoing relief efforts for the typhoon victims. About 300 guests attended the gathering.
Donors Jarius Bondoc and Prince Cu were inspired to give their donations saying that Tzu Chi has done so much to benefit the victims of Yolanda in Leyte. They laud the cash-for-work program that became the driving force behind Tacloban’s recovery.
It has been two months since typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) brought much destruction in Eastern Visayas but Tzu Chi Foundation, through the guidance of its founder Master Cheng Yen, continues to provide aid and assistance to affected families. To encourage more people to help by donating, the Tzu Chi volunteers have organized a tea party at Still Thoughts Hall in Quezon City last January 11.
The gathering was also an opportunity to share with the guests what the organization has done so far in terms of relief and rehabilitation efforts. From November 20 to December 8 last year, the Buddhist group had launched its cash-for-work program that provided P500 allowance everyday to residents to help clean their community while providing additional income to buy for their basic needs.
The program has gathered more than 280,000 man-days during its duration.
However, Tzu Chi Philippines CEO Alfredo Li shared that the cash-for-work was not conceptualized to provide mere compensation for the residents’ labor but rather, empower them to rebuild their lives.
“Master Cheng Yen said that we should help (the victims) rebuild their homes and lives and not just give money as form of dole out. Through the program, the people were able to help themselves (by restoring livelihood) and revitalize Tacloban by injecting cash to the local economy.”
Aside from this, Tzu Chi has also provided other forms of assistance that include: medical missions that benefitted more than 6,000 victims; cash aid distribution for more than 28,000 families; hot meals and clean drinking water to augment the survivors’ food needs; installation of pre-fabricated classrooms in badly-affected schools in various municipalities of Leyte.
As of this writing, the foundation aims to provide more makeshift classrooms to damaged schools which are not yet reached by help.
Speaking on stage, Stephen Huang, the global coordinator for Tzu Chi volunteers, hopes that more people will give of themselves compassionately by helping in any way they can. “The Master hopes that everyone can donate money to save lives because such material wealth only becomes meaningful when it is given (to benefit others).”
Touched by the immense aid given, the guests were inspired to donate and support these current projects. One of them is Jarius Bondoc, a columnist for the newspaper Philippine Star.
Bondoc knew about the organization several years ago when he became a member of the board of trustees for an organization providing eye care for indigents. He met Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) Dr. Antonio Say and Tzu Chi Philippines CEO Alfredo Li in one of Tzu Chi’s free clinic in Pangasinan province.
The columnist admires the fact that the Buddhist group has helped so many poor people yet it has never asked for imposing recognition. “I asked them if I could write about the foundation so that people would know how to help. And I’m very surprised that (today) so many donations came in.”
Bondoc recently won a journalism award that came with a cash prize. He chose to give it to Tzu Chi. “I know how Tzu Chi works and I know that they will do a fine job in sharing our donations. It won’t go to waste.”
He ends by saying that the amount given by the donors might not be enough and that’s why everyone’s collective donations, whether big or small, is crucial. “Whatever we give might not be enough. But if people know that there are others who are willing to help, they will follow by example. The goodwill is multiplied.”
Another donor who came to the gathering is Prince Cu who brought the donations on behalf of his brother Michael. Prince was in Tacloban last year and personally saw how the Buddhist group works especially during the cash-for-work’s launching.
“Tzu Chi was not just one of the organizations working in the city, but I can say that they are leading the (rehabilitations) efforts in Tacloban. The clearing operations were very fast because they hired heavy equipment. This (program) was important for the people to see that there is hope in returning to the town (with a sense of normalcy).”
Upon knowing this, Prince’s brother Michael Cu, a pianist, raised funds by holding a concert in Brussels, Belgium for the benefit of the survivors.
“On behalf of my brother, I’m honored and proud to endorse this donation to Tzu Chi seeing how they’ve personally helped the people in Tacloban.”
The gathering was attended by around 300 guests and was graced by more than 70 Tzu Chi volunteers.