Cultivating Bodhi Seedlings at Tzu Chi’s Seattle Summer Camp

Northwest  |  August 29, 2019

Tzu Chi USA’s Seattle chapter hosted two rounds of summer camp for the first time in their new office. The first round was from July 22nd – 26th, with 105 people participating.

The aim of the camp is rooted in the desire to support Tzu Chi’s humanities teachings and to allow people the opportunity to become more connected to traditional Chinese culture. For the first summer camp at the Seattle chapter’s office, it was quite successful! The twenty available spots were soon filled up. During the first round of the camp, there were 2 head teachers, 10 instructors, 3 assistants, and approximately 70 volunteers working together to bring a meaningful summer to the children.

Agnes Lee, who is the director of the summer camp, attributed the summer camp’s success to Tzu Chi volunteers. For over 20 years, Tzu Chi volunteers have been working alongside each other, and are indeed the backbone of all our humanitarian work. Because of their hard work, Tzu Chi has created a large family in Seattle where its missions and values continue to be passed down to the next generation.

The children enjoying a relaxing yoga class
Children have fun practicing Tai Chi

A Humanities-Focused Curriculum

Our volunteers designed the summer camp according to Tzu Chi’s education ideals. They are driven by our educational missions.

Children are akin to bodhi seedlings. The curriculum of the summer camp, according to Agnes Lee, is aimed at nurturing children with compassion while teaching them about traditional Chinese culture. Jing Si Aphorisms, for instance, were part of the curriculum to teach children gratitude, respect, and love. To help the children remember the teachings, Tzu Chi volunteers prepared mottoes for them.

The Bodhi Seedlings

Is there happiness by my side? Let me see its face.

With joyful music in the background, children were excited to meet new friends and learn new things. After signing in, students received their summer camp uniforms, which were printed with the words “bodhi seedling.” After settling into the classroom, the instructor helped students familiarize themselves with the new environment, as well as the rules of the camp.

There, they would spend seven days learning four Chinese arts and an array of engaging activities. Through playing and interacting with peers and teachers, children at the summer camp were encouraged to discover their own creative potential. 

Calligraphy lessons were also offered at the camp

Learning to Appreciate the Planet

During one class, students were supplied with pottery cups to paint on. They were encouraged to unleash their wildest imaginations as they painted.

For another class activity, children got to create natural soaps themselves, and learned about the soap-making process. By choosing “green” materials, they also learned how to limit damage to the environment. Students poured the liquid soap into the molds of their choosing, and when it hardened, they were eager to see their cute, handmade soaps emerge.

Instructors also took them outdoors. They walked among bushes and trees, touched their unique leaves, and learned their names. 

Children were encouraged to show their creativity
Students learned to understand and appreciate nature

“What is the state flower of Washington State?” Agnes Lee asked the children. “Rhododendron,” they answered. 

Teaching while out in the field is a great way to show children this marvelous world that nurtures countless unique lives. Immersed in nature, they learned to appreciate and take care of the Earth.

After the activity, they moved on to a flower arrangement class, where they attached meanings to flowers and leaves. A small flower bouquet in their hands came alive with cheerful stories. They added name tags to the flowers and brought their gifts home for their family members to enjoy.

Nurturing Gratitude, Respect, and Love

With the instructor’s supervision, students donned their little chef’s uniforms and went into the kitchen to make a small meal together. A Tzu Chi volunteer had brought toast imported from Japan. Students added tomato sauce, colorful bell peppers, and mushrooms on top, and soon, the mini pizzas came into shape! One summer camp student pointed to his mini pizza and told his teacher, “It’s a happy face!” and revealed how he’d made a smiley face out of the bell peppers.

A little pizza expertly made by a little chef
One handmade pizza was delivered to each volunteer

The children made two pizzas each, one for them, and one for the volunteers who’d been taking care of them. Volunteers were delighted to cook for the children each day, and in return, the children were eager to give back to the volunteers. 

Having absorbed the teachings of “gratitude, respect, and love” the children brought the mini pizzas they’d made to volunteers, thus, turning these qualities into actions.

Later, the children learned about tea ceremonies, and a Tzu Chi volunteer named Foon Chiou Lo shared the secrets of tea with them. They tasted oolong tea and small-leaved black tea – both of which are organic teas from Sanyi, Taiwan. 

Developing Good Habits

At the experience sharing session, a participant from Taiwan said, “I liked the tea ceremony class the most because the gestures of a teacher making tea are very beautiful. And oolong tea tastes very good.” Another participant shared that the Taichi Class was her favorite. Nanami Komuro, a student from Japan, said the yoyo activity was the best part.

Children learned about different types of instruments, from bells to drums, and more, during music classes. After two hours, they were even able to perform on stage. Parents were astonished, many of them taking out their phones to record the precious moment.

Impressed by the experience, one participant’s mother thanked volunteers for creating a happy environment where children can learn from each other.

She said that her son told her how he ate blueberries for the first time, and really enjoyed them. She was pleased that her son was finally eating fruit, as he was quite a picky eater at home who could seldom be convinced to try vegetables and fruits. 

Hearts brimming with love, Tzu Chi volunteers cooked the children’s favorite dishes, and also prepared delicious desserts and fruits for them so they could eat healthily. Encouraging a balanced nutrition and good eating habits are part of the summer camp as well to support a healthy life for the future.

At the end of the summer camp, students invited their parents to dance to the song, “Happy Face.” 

One teacher said that the song, as well as the joyous laughter of everyone together, still echoed in their ears on the way home. 

Another teacher named Jennifer expressed that she was grateful to all participants, for she also learned a great deal from children and their parents as well.

Volunteer Angela Wan took two weeks off work to prepare Chinese style spaghetti for the kids at camp. She was very happy to be a part of the team to nurture the bodhi seedlings. She hopes the children had a wonderful summer vacation, and absorbed enough positive, healthy energy at the camp! 

The summer camp was designed to help children cultivate gratitude, respect, and love. With the help of all the program directors, instructors, and volunteers, the five-day summer camp successfully provided children with a phenomenal and truly valuable experience.

After saying goodbye to the students, the team was ready to welcome the second group. From July 29th – August 2nd, they would once again present an excellent summer camp experience to more bodhi seedlings.

A wonderful conclusion to an excellent summer camp experience.

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