Most of the residents in the barangay were aware of Tzu Chi and its charitable missions from past charity distribution and events, and they couldn’t help but rejoice because the arrival of the volunteers felt like an early Christmas gift for them.
Florita Caraui, a 61-year old resident recalled her past encounter with the organization. She talked about the fire that destroyed her home and the goods she received from Tzu Chi when they conducted a fire relief in their area.
She expressed her gratitude towards the volunteers as they not only provide necessities but also teaches her important values and good deeds which she applied in her daily life. Caraui was also familiar with Tzu Chi since she would see volunteers going around her street doing recycle to which she happily donates.
Without any means to earn an income and with diabetes, Florita relies on her family for her everyday needs. It made her happy to be able to receive the rice because she now has something to share with her family.
But her situation didn’t hinder her from sharing her small blessings, as she would express her pity for people who are less fortunate than her. She saw these people in her area and she knows that the right thing to do is to help them.
“I would love to share the rice I have received with others especially those who do not have anything to eat. Most of the people here lived in poverty and sleep in the streets, that’s why if we have food like now, we share it with them. That’s how people like us live our life here, helping each other any way we can,” said Caraui.
Longtime volunteers always spread the foundation’s missions and programs whenever they can to encourage people to join and become volunteers themselves.
In the case of 26-year old Ben Bickford, who is a medical student from Brighton and Sussex Medical School in England, he was introduced to Tzu Chi by one of his family friends. Growing up, he was aware of his privilege, as someone who had been given everything he needs and want, he knew that here in the Philippines, he is in a place where he could reverse his role and be the one to give back.
“Instead of just feeding myself and going on vacations, I think it’s better to try and help people who aren’t as well off,” said Bickford.
He learned that Tzu Chi had a branch in his hometown so he expressed his willingness to take a look when he goes back and offer his spirit for volunteering.
“People are so happy and excited to receive the gifts because a bag of rice for them means lot, it means they get to feed their family. I don’t know much about poverty in the Philippines but I’m guessing some might not have rice for Christmas so this foundation has enabled a few hundred people to have rice for their family and it’s pretty incredible,” he added.
Another volunteer that day was introduced to Tzu Chi because of her mother’s friend. Bea Marinas is a teacher from Xavier School in San Juan. She had experienced a fair amount of volunteering and outreach programs before Tzu Chi and because of this, she was able to clearly see the difference between other entities and that of Tzu Chi’s.
“Today was a little bit different from all the other outreach activities I have done because Tzu Chi first of all is a Buddhist foundation and the founder is a Buddhist nun and secondly, it centralizes on the idea of compassion which is something I find very interesting and very unique,” said Marinas.
She also saw the significance of the distribution especially during the holiday season.
“This small act is very important because we experience a lot of hardships especially here in the Philippines so when people see foundations like this extending their hands to them, I think it will be a very hopeful and a very enjoyable Christmas for them,” she added.