Written by Jingyi Li, Roger Kao
Edited by Chenglin Li
Translated by Hong (Ariel) Chan
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
On the afternoon of August 7th, 2022, 20 local community members from Tijuana, a border city in Mexico just south of California, arrived at the Tzu Chi medical campus for a long-awaited event. On this special day, they would all be participating in their first-ever Tzu Chi volunteer training course.
“The volunteers are very happy, and we are also very excited because this is the first volunteer training ever held in the Tzu Chi Tijuana medical campus,” explained Tzu Chi International Medical Association’s Dr. Sihong Wang.
Fifteen Years of Love, Rain or Shine
The Tzu Chi volunteer training course infused elements of prior volunteer training workshops while adapting each to be the best suited for the location, culture, and current service missions. The two-and-a-half-hour class ended with everyone eager to learn more, many immediately asking, “When is the next class?” Indeed, the new volunteers were excited to return to their big Tzu Chi family, and prepared earnestly to learn more about the Tzu Chi spirit of service
Dr. Sihong Wang practices medicine at a Southern California Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) clinic. For 15 years, he has been volunteering at free clinics in Tijuana every week. As he spoke with trainees, he recalled his determination to keep returning to Tijuana, saying with certainty, “Because I fell in love with this place.”
At that time, 15 police officers had died in one month, and few medical volunteers wished to travel to Tijuana. But to Dr. Sihong Wang, the shortage of volunteer aid made the visit even more important. With this, he began his weekly free clinic.
Since then, his genuine care at the weekly free clinic has touched the lives of many, and one local patient was even so generous as to donate land, hoping for Dr. Wang to build a free clinic there one day. Ultimately, it took only two years for Dr. Wang and volunteer Ah Mui Pse to realize this patient’s wish.
Seeds of Care Flourish in Mexico
In September 2017, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake shook Mexico, causing extensive damage. Charito Ruiz, the emcee of the training workshop, had joined Tzu Chi volunteers during their emergency earthquake relief and medical outreach missions in Jojutla, Mexico. Last year, she moved back to Tijuana to stay close to her father, who had fallen ill. During the volunteer training event, Charito Ruiz shared many moving experiences with fellow volunteers and attendees, and expressed the importance of interfaith collaboration.
Volunteer Cindy Rolow Flores is a taxi cab driver and cares for seniors in the community. One day, she found herself at Tzu Chi’s free clinic as a patient, and soon after, became a volunteer herself, vowing to make visits alongside other volunteers who had no means of transportation.
Gregoria, a patient of the medical campus, was invited to the training class to share her experiences. “I am very grateful to Kunrong for bringing volunteers to see me, knowing that I need good medical care,” she said. “I have bedsores on my body, and the wound from an amputation has never healed. Their presence has greatly helped me. Now, I go to the free clinic every day and receive not only treatment but also medicines and more. Tzu Chi makes me feel protected.”
Gregoria’s words deeply moved the volunteers on-site. They were also relieved that her photographs showed that her bedsores, which were once the size of two adult fists, had gradually shrunk, and the wounds from the amputation were slowly healing. Everyone was sincerely happy for her.
Volunteering Is a Lifelong Mission
In 2007, Sylvia Bernal, Tzu Chi’s first local certified commissioner in Tijuana, was particularly excited when she came to the medical clinic from Mexicali, a two-hour drive away. The joy of a reunion after such a long time brought tears to her eyes.
“Coming back here and being with Ah Mui Pse again gave me a familiar feeling,” she said. “I love feeling this way. Tzu Chi is love, a lot of compassion, and a lot of moving tears. Being able to return to this team is the happiest thing for me in years.” Sylvia Bernal wants to encourage new volunteers, and help them through this commitment. She once promised Tzu Chi’s founder, Dharma Master Cheng Yen, that she would help people for the rest of her life. And indeed, she still does her best to serve the community, trying to help as many people as she can.
Local volunteer Janeth Rodriguez Valencia also came to the medical campus for treatment and was moved by the care she felt, so she was determined to join the volunteer team. She deeply appreciates that Tzu Chi volunteers never expect anything in return. Instead, they give from the heart and make recipients feel like family. “I will send love to those in need, serve with joy, help others bravely, and let people see the enthusiasm and joy in my heart,” she stated.
At the end of the course, Tzu Rong, a volunteer, used Tzu Chi’s eco-friendly bowls and chopsticks to bond with 20 local volunteers. Tzu Rong encouraged the new volunteers to take up the mantle of doing good deeds and, at the same time, promote the concept of environmental protection.