Bridging the Distance: Tijuana City Councilor Visits US Tzu Chi Education Foundation

National Headquarters  |  July 20, 2023
Tzu Chi USA Education Foundation CEO, students, Miriam Echeverria group photo with welcoming banner
Debbie Lee, CEO of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Education Foundation (back row, first from right), and children from Tzu Chi Great Love Preschool welcome Miriam Echeverria (back row, second from right), a city councilor from Tijuana, Mexico, to the school. Photo/Xu Mu Huan

Written by Hazel Kuang
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Andrea Barkley

Tijuana, Mexico, is situated near the border of California. Despite its proximity to its affluent neighbor, poverty is high in Tijuana, resulting in many children dropping out of school early to work and help support their families. Miriam Echeverria, a Tijuana city councilor and head of the Education Committee, is renowned for her dedication to mitigating these pressing issues, which aligns harmoniously with Tzu Chi USA volunteers’ local objectives. On May 22, 2023, Tzu Chi Mexico’s Tijuana Campus invited Councilor Echeverria to explore the Tzu Chi Education Campus in Walnut, California. This visit gave her a first-hand experience of Tzu Chi’s character education. It demonstrated how Tzu Chi’s humanistic philosophy seamlessly interweaves with the environment, pervading all aspects of life.

Immersed in Tzu Chi’s Humanitarian Mission

Earlier this year, Tzu Chi Mexico’s Tijuana Campus established the Classroom of Hope, an initiative merging healthcare, charity, and education to support numerous local children forced to leave school prematurely. Upholding Tzu Chi’s humanistic spirit, local volunteers have collaborated with the Buddhist Tzu Chi Education Foundation to introduce character education, the core of Tzu Chi’s educational philosophy, to the region.

The Classroom of Hope in Tijuana has fostered a partnership with the Tzu Chi Education Campus in Walnut, California, to deliver the best of Tzu Chi’s humanities, character education, and Jing Si Aphorism studies to their students. Regular weekly interactions and meetings are held between volunteers at the Tijuana Campus and teachers at the Walnut Campus. Since May, the character education curriculum from the Walnut Campus has been taught in the Classroom of Hope, with children warmly receiving the Jing Si Aphorism and character education program.

Tijuana Campus volunteers Dr. Si Hong Wang and Mei Juan Su guided Councilor Echeverria through her visit. “Miriam is a city councilor in Tijuana and is also in charge of education,” shared Mei Juan Su. “She is a very kind-hearted person. We hope that through her visit to the US, we can do something with the Walnut Education Campus to let her appreciate the merits of our Tzu Chi humanities.”

Marveling at Tzu Chi's Approach to Environmental Education

City Councilor Miriam Echeverria is impressed by the environmental education at the Tzu Chi Life Science Farm. Photo/Grace Li
City Councilor Miriam Echeverria is impressed by the environmental education at the Tzu Chi Life Science Farm. Photo/Grace Li
City Councilor Echeverria follows the students of Great Love Preschool to sing the Song of Gratitude, but the children seemed more curious about their visitors. Photo/Xu Mu Huang

Taking this opportunity, the Tzu Chi Education Foundation presented various aspects of Tzu Chi USA’s humanistic education, emphasizing character education as its core to Councilor Echeverria. This introduction included interactions with preschool children and an elementary school classroom walkthrough dedicated to character themes. In addition, the team introduced Councilor Echeverria to Tzu Chi’s philosophy on environmental preservation, its educational implementation, and its practical application at Tzu Chi’s Life Science Garden. Here, she witnessed nature’s positive impact on the youths, fostering environmental stewardship, and character development.

What impressed me the most was the complete integration of environmental education and the farm’s ecology. In Mexico, we don’t have classes that integrate character education like Tzu Chi; there are only supplementary materials, which are not integrated into life, and not a separate program, just a trip to the farm once or twice a year, or one or two sessions.

Councilor Echeverria’s tour began at the Tzu Chi Great Love Preschool, where she delighted in the children’s performance of the “Song of Gratitude.” This song, an integral part of daily activities and a graduation staple, is a constant reminder of gratitude within the character education framework, accompanying children into adulthood. Councilor Echeverria wholeheartedly participated in the rendition of the song through sign language.

Her visit continued to the Tzu Chi Elementary School, where she learned about the school’s involvement in the “Great Kindness Challenge” and certification, a significant part of implementing character education. Additionally, Councilor Echeverria was shown how the classrooms’ decor is integrated with the theme of character education by the Education Foundation.

City Councilor Echeverria (second from left) poses for a photo at Tzu Chi Great Love Elementary School. Photo/Xu Mu Huang

Planning Future Collaborations

Expressing her enthusiasm for further collaborations, Councilor Echeverria shared with the welcoming volunteers that she intends to attend a Tzu Chi event in August. She hopes to bring along several influential individuals from Tijuana. This interaction holds profound potential for future collaborations, aiming to introduce Tzu Chi’s humanistic values and Jing Si Aphorism teachings to students in Tijuana, in addition to Tzu Chi’s “Classroom of Hope.”

Wrapping up her visit, Councilor Echeverria shared tea and asked various questions about the distinct features of Tzu Chi education, conveying her belief that Tzu Chi’s educational practices could benefit Tijuana’s local children and her aspirations for its implementation. Later, the team presented her with three copies of the Jing Si Aphorism book and other Jing Si gifts from the Education Foundation, representing the first steps to making this hope a reality. 

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