Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lastest: Support Tzu-Chi's Humanitarian effort on Haiti's Earthquake Disaster

<< Injured child in Haiti's quake, which have claimed more than 150,000 victims, one of modern time's most calamitous natural disaster.

The Star, Sunday January 31, 2010
Charity knows no bounds

The Tzu-Chi Foundation which was founded by a nun in Taiwan has undergone a miraculous growth. It now has 10 million members in 47 countries who do charity work around the world and save the environment in the process.

AS a charity organisation, the growth of the Tzu-Chi Foundation is miraculous. Started off in 1966 by a Buddhist nun with a group of 30 housewives doing voluntary work, the Taiwan-based organisation today has 10 million members worldwide with branches in 47 countries.

The driving force behind the phenomenal expansion is perhaps its motto: “Do good deeds, say good words and think good thoughts – with action”.
Raising awareness: Tan says the movement’s most successful project is their recycling programme.

Its members, among them many Malaysians, can be distinguished by their navy blue shirts and white trousers. They believe in walking the talk and feel that it is better to go around the world once doing charity work than chanting a thousand times.

Bro.Tan Chee Wei, Tzu-Chi’s administration head in Kuala Lumpur, says members of the group are active in international relief activities, helping victims regardless of their race, religion and nationality.

Long-term assistance

Besides giving immediate aid in the aftermath of a disaster, Tzu-Chi volunteers also provide mid-term and long-term assistance such as rebuilding homes for survivors.

“We believe in being united in difficult times,” Bro.Tan says, adding that this was the wish of Tzu-Chi’s founder Dharma Master Cheng Yen.

The foundation that started in Hualien, Taiwan, with volunteers saving some money each day for charity, is today one of the three largest Buddhist organisations in Taiwan. The other two are Fo Guang Shan and Dharma Drum Mountain.

It started off doing simple charity work in the neighbourhood but has, since 1993, expanded into eight areas covering medical aid, education, culture, international relief, bone marrow donation, environmental protection and community voluntary work on a global basis.

Tan cites the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that wrecked the Haitian capital on Jan 12 as an example.

After the killer quake flattened Port-Au-Prince, Tzu-Chi immediately sent volunteers from its US branch to assess the situation and make preparations for relief work. Subsequently, it delivered 50,000 blankets, food, clothes, water dispensers, medical stuff and equipment to the devastated city.

The Kuala Lumpur branch also started a fund-raising campaign on Jan 16 to raise money for the survivors, Tan says.

“We will work out mid-term and long-term aid programmes in the aftermath of the disaster and help to rebuild the society,” he says, adding that this will include setting up temporary hospitals and schools in Port-Au-Prince.

Tzu-Chi has a strong team of volunteers comprising architects, engineers, doctors and medical officers to see to the success of its long-term plans, Tan says.

“Some architects and engineers have even stayed in afflicted places for two years after a disaster to ensure that the rebuilding of hospitals, schools and houses is completed.”

Under the foundation is the Tzu-Chi International Medical Association (Tima), which was established in 1996 and now has 58 branches in 11 countries. It has more than 7,000 medical volunteers and has been providing free medical services in 39 countries.

In 1993, Tzu-Chi started a marrow donor registry called Buddhist Tzu Chi Stem Cell Centre. It has handled over 1,801 marrow transplants in 27 countries.

Currently, Tzu-Chi’s medical care network has six hospitals in Taiwan and runs a system of free mobile clinics around the world.

“Basically, we provide food, clothes, material necessities, medical care and spiritual consolation for disaster victims, the sick, and elderly,” Tan explains.

Tzu-Chi volunteers also produce special food products and recycled blankets under another arm, the Tzu-Chi International Humanitarian Aids Association (Tiha) whose membership comprises manufacturers.

This came about when the founder realised that cooking for survivors after a disaster was a big problem and the food manufacturers came up with products like instant rice and noodles that can be prepared even with cold water.

Other than instant food, they also manufacture special blankets made from recycled mineral water bottles. The blankets are light and can be transported easily.

In Malaysia, says Tan, their most successful project is their recycling programme aimed at raising funds as well as public awareness of environmental protection. The programme started in 1992 and today has 50 centres nationwide, and 80 mobile collection points in Kuala Lumpur and 55 in Klang.

“We raise an average of RM40,000 monthly in Kuala Lumpur alone,” he says.

Mobile healthcare

The foundation also runs mobile clinics every second and fourth Sunday nationwide for some 500 poor families and refugees who are registered with them. Free clinics are open every Sunday in Malacca, Klang, Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Plans are afoot to open these free clinics Monday to Friday from March, Tan says. They are accessible to patients of charity homes, beggars and disabled people.

Tan says Tzu-Chi also operates 10 cafe-cum-bookshops nationwide and they organise charitable events regularly. It has also been running learning centres in Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Klang and Malacca to promote calligraphy, cooking, tea ceremony and other cultural activities.

Indeed, Tzu-Chi has branched out to embrace almost every aspect of life for the benefit of its members who comprise not only Buddhists but people of other religions as well.

“We are not promoting religion but just doing charity for people all over the world,” stresses Tan.

In Malaysia, it has 300,000 donating members of whom some 10% are active members.

The Star, Wednesday February 3, 2010
1,000 turn up for lunch and dinner in aid of Haitian quake victims

RAISING RM6,000 within hours is by no means an easy feat but it was all in a day’s work for volunteers from the Seremban chapter of the Tzu Chi Foundation Malaysia.

The volunteers, led by their chairperson Yap May Yin, helped attend to patrons of Tashi Delek, a vegetarian restaurant in Seremban 2, near Seremban, and were rewarded with the day’s takings for their efforts.

And what a noble deed it was as the day’s collection went to the earthquake victims in Haiti.

“Fortunately, the restaurant proprietor is a member of our association. He has, on previous occasions, donated his day’s sales to other charitable fund-raising causes like the Szechuan earthquake and the Myanmar cyclone.

Good turnout: >>> Yap (right) talking to one of the people who enjoyed a meal at the Tashi Delek vegetarian restaurant during the one-day fund-raising effort. More than 1,000 people turned out to support the cause.

“We are glad that more than 1,000 people turned up for lunch and dinner at the restaurant despite it being a weekday. The money raised from their meals will go towards the foundation’s ‘Help Haiti with Love’ fund,” she said.

Yap, who is also the chief executive officer of Gelato Fruity, a company selling iced desserts, herself sold 700 scoops of her tasty gelato at a reduced price to add to the day’s efforts.

“When a disaster like this happens where help is needed desperately, I believe we all can do our bit to help out.

“However, there is only so much one person can do alone. That is why we put our heads together and came up with the idea of holding a charity lunch and dinner,” she said.

Customers only had to pay for their meal and were not required to make any donation to the fund unless they wanted to.

Flyers were sent out prior to the event to boost the number of customers for the day.

Restaurant owner Chu Fong Choy said he was more than honoured to host the event and contribute his day’s earnings to the foundation.

“I’ve seen their work before and I know that every sen will be used appropriately.

“It may be a small figure, but I do hope that it will kickstart their fund-raising efforts for the Haitian relief cause,” he said.

Left Picture: Charity by chance: Tzu Chi Foundation volunteer Jessie Chan chatting with Chandra and her daughter M. Kusala, who were among the diners at the Tashi Delek vegetarian restaurant.

Customers were seen queuing up for the vegetarian buffet and many ordered seconds of Yap’s gelato, too.

Regular patron M. Chandra said she was happy she stopped by with her family in tow although she had not known that the day’s profits would be turned over to charity.

“We’ve all read about the Haitian disaster but we never really think about how we might help. At least, I’ve contributed a little now. Who knew that just by taking my family out to dinner, I would be helping someone in a faraway land?” she said.

Though happy with their one-day fund-raising effort, the Tzu Chi volunteers are not content to rest on their laurels.

On foot and armed with collection boxes, the team is working tirelessly to secure more funds to help the Haitians.

Those interested in aiding their efforts may do so by banking in their contributions to the Buddhist Tzu Chi Merits Society Malaysia’s Maybank account: 004067500119.

For details or a receipt for your contribution, call 06-281 0818.

Tzu Chi Foundation is a non-profit organisation founded in Taiwan in 1966 which now has branches around the world including in Malaysia.

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