Written by Xinqian Zheng
Translated by Hong (Ariel) Chan
Edited by Patrick McShane
The weather is warm, flowers are blooming, and the earth is revitalizing in April, which is also the month of the annual Earth Day celebration. Tzu Chi USA Collegiate Association’s Seattle Chapter at the University of Washington held a Vegetarian Day on campus on April 29, 2023, inviting students and community members to participate, hoping to promote plant-based foody and sustainable and environmentally friendly eating habits. In addition to responding to the theme of Earth Day, this event also introduced Tzu Chi’s global disaster relief efforts to attendees and donated proceeds from ticket sales to earthquake relief work in Turkey and Syria.
On January 11, 2020, Tzu Chi USA Collegiate Association members (also known as Tzu Chings) at the University of Washington held a grand vegetarian meal in conjunction with the annual Earth Day celebration to promote vegetarian food and environmental protection while also establishing Tzu Ching’s campus presence, and calling on the public to protect the earth with positive daily habits.
Three years later, Tzu Chings were happy to relaunch their activities on campus after interruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seattle Tzu Ching volunteer Ling Ling Lee witnessed the effects of Vegetarian Day as a freshman three years ago. Now a senior and serving as president, she hopes to bring Vegetarian Day back to campus. With an unwavering determination to their mission, the Tzu Ching team, led by Ling Ling Lee and Yining Qiu, finally fulfilled their goal before the graduation season after four months of planning. After a three-year absence, the Tzu Ching Seattle Chapter at the University of Washington eagerly welcomed this long-awaited event with great anticipation.
Ling Ling Lee explained the volunteers’ motivation to hold the event: “There are several reasons why we want to hold this event, one of which is because there are few vegetarian groups at the school, and more because we hope to use this event to introduce Tzu Chi’s international disaster relief work, and we plan to donate the proceeds from ticket sales to disaster relief work in Turkey and Syria.”
Tzu Chings braved all difficulties as they prepared for the 2023 Vegetarian Day. From the beginning of the year, they meticulously planned the event by choosing a venue, dishes, handling methods, the division of labor, ticket sales, venue planning and layout, and other event details. The event gradually took shape after many joint meetings with the school, other clubs, and Tzu Chi USA’s Seattle Branch. Despite the cloudy Seattle spring, members cooperated on campus to support setting up stalls and selling tickets for three consecutive weeks, regardless of the challenges posed by the weather. Overall, they showed perseverance and unity while overcoming any obstacle that arose.
The planning of this event also helped Tzu Chings realize the importance of teamwork and cooperation. Ling Ling Lee felt immensely grateful for everyone’s dedication: “Thank you for everyone’s help, especially our board members and volunteers. This event would not have been possible without the selfless dedication of every member of our team or the mentors and volunteers of Tzu Chi Seattle Service Center.” Seeing more than 200 congregants enjoying a vegetarian dinner together, Tzu Chings were greatly encouraged and expressed that all the time and energy invested were worthwhile. Their joy was beyond words, “we have invested a lot of time and energy in planning this event. Seeing everyone support and help our team made us feel very warm. Everyone felt encouraged and moved. I am very grateful to all the volunteers, students, and people who attended the event.”
About 200 guests and about 50 volunteers participated in Vegetarian Day. In addition to the students, some guests also came to support the volunteers. Heather Fitzpatrick Sturgill, the mother of Tzu Ching volunteer Xiaohui Yu, shared: “This is a very interesting event! It gave everyone a chance to know what a plant-based diet is. We all had a great time, thank you.”
Another guest, Mia Grayson, did not know Tzu Ching or Tzu Chi, but she came to participate because her friend was a volunteer. She enjoyed it and said she didn’t know vegetarian food could be so delicious: “These vegetarian meals are all delicious. I took two plates and got an extra dessert. This activity is very interesting, and I am very happy to get to know this organization.”
Vegetarian food can make the body and mind healthier while better protecting the earth. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and change starts with oneself. Tzu Chi USA’s Seattle Branch volunteers and members of the Seattle Chapter of the Tzu Chi USA Collegiate Association took this opportunity to invite their classmates to plant seeds of goodness together, hoping to raise awareness of environmental protection. “Loving others begins by loving the earth. Only when the land is safe can people be safe.” We call on everyone to do our part for the earth and aim for a healthier and happier earth.”