Old Friends and New Friends Gathered at Tzu Chi Midwest’s Annual Gala

Midwest  |  January 26, 2024
Gala participants celebrate on stage. Photo/Xinzhi Wang

Written by Shangyu Dai
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Patrick McShane

A person who receives help may one day step forward and help others. Tzu Chi Midwest Region hosted an Annual Gala at their office on November 11, 2023. Old friends and new friends gathered together, sharing stories of love, all while enjoying wonderful performances. Refugees from different countries were thankful for Tzu Chi’s long-term care and vowed to become volunteers in the future, calling on more people to gather together to do good deeds, so that the power of goodness can grow stronger and stronger. The Director General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECO) in Chicago also shared his experience of receiving Tzu Chi’s assistance during his first emergency relief task. The Annual Gala was warm and lively, just like a family gathering, and witnessed the footprints of beauty and goodness passing on Tzu Chi’s Great Love.

Connecting with Tzu Chi in a Desperate Moments

Onaisah, a girl from Myanmar, met Tzu Chi in a refugee school in Malaysia. After she came to the U.S., she took the initiative to approach Tzu Chi, hoping to become a volunteer. She expressed her gratitude to Tzu Chi volunteers at the Annual Gala, “I am very happy to be here and meet volunteers from other cities, I am thankful to the volunteers in Malaysia, and those in the U.S. Thank you.”

Tzu Chi volunteer, Onaisah and her family
Onaisah (second from left) and her family came to the feast to express their gratitude for Tzu Chi's care. Photo/Xinzhi Wang
Tzu Chi volunteer and Claudia Soto Wong
Claudia Wang (center) expresses her gratitude to Midwest Region volunteer Amy Tsai (left) at the event. Photo/Xinzhi Wang

Claudia Wang, too, connected with Tzu Chi when she was in the most desperate moment of her life. Claudia doesn’t speak English, so when it comes to communicating with her, Midwest Region volunteer Amy Hsieh explained, “She speaks Spanish, and I speak Taiwanese English, so the communication between the two of us is a heartfelt conversation, she understands everything I’m saying.”

Tzu Chi is a beautiful organization, it teaches me many things, I really love it.

The Diplomat Who Is Grateful for Tzu Chi's Assistance In His First Relief Effort

The Annual Gala featured a special guest, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Chicago Director General Dennis Lei, who shared the story of his first emergency relief task when he first came to the U.S. to work as a diplomat. The difficult task he undertook was only accomplished with the assistance of Tzu Chi, “I am very happy to have been invited to the Gala today with a very grateful heart. I have known since I was a child that Tzu Chi is a world-class charitable organization that serves not only in Taiwan but all over the world. In 2003, when I went to work in the TECO in Washington, D.C., for my first diplomatic assignment, I was unfamiliar with the area, and I had just received my driver’s license. The first major emergency relief task I undertook was done together with the organization of Tzu Chi. At that time, a Taiwanese student was shot in the head while delivering food and unfortunately was rendered brain-dead. He did not have medical insurance and had a wife and child at home. I thought, that without Tzu Chi’s help, I would not have been able to assist this couple and their family to return to Taiwan. At that time, we approached the Tzu Chi Foundation, and the Tzu Chi volunteers contributed their money and efforts, overcoming all the difficulties, and finally sent the overseas student couple and their family back to Taiwan. That was a really touching moment for me, and that is why I admire Tzu Chi so much. I look forward to working with Tzu Chi in the future and spreading love together in the Midwest.”

Spreading love is not alone, and I agree. As Tzu Chi's Master Cheng Yen said, ‘those who can spread love and help others are the most blessed people.

Overwhelmed by the Diligence of Tzu Chi Volunteers

The Annual Gala was not just a gathering of old friends; many young people came to the office for the first time at the invitation of their friends. They all had the opportunity to learn about Tzu Chi from the posters and videos shown in the office. They were particularly impressed by the seriousness and diligence of the Tzu Chi volunteers who cooked a delicious, healthy vegetarian feast for the guests.

Sophia attends school in Naperville North. She participated in the guzheng and violin ensemble performance that night, she said she is a Buddhist and loved the environment and atmosphere of the office, the people were very friendly and lovely, and the dinner was great.

We know from the posters and decorations how Tzu Chi helps people where assistance is needed. I hope our organization can develop so well like Tzu Chi.

Originally from Guangdong, China, Nicole has lived in Chicago for more than 10 years. She was invited by Tzu Chi volunteer Evans and came for the first time, “It’s my first time here. The office is so big and the people here are very friendly. I’ve just watched the videos and I know that Tzu Chi volunteers have helped a lot of people. One of the things that touched me the most was a man who had a rare disease, he actually said he was happy because it’s a 1 in 50,000 chance of getting it, and after he got it, he would take the disaster alone, while the other 49,999 people did not have to suffer from the disease anymore. This is the first time I’ve heard of such a state of mind about illness, and it blows me away. This is the spirit of the Great Love of Tzu Chi.”

I would say that Tzu Chi is an organization with great love, and they are selfless in helping others.

Shawn Hong, who lives in Chicago and currently works at the University of Illinois at Chicago, heard about the event from a friend and came to the Annual Gala with his family. He admired the atmosphere, the talent of the Tzu Chi volunteers, and the performances.

The dinner I just had was fantastic, it was all vegetarian and (The dishes) were beautifully presented and very elegant. Everything was delicious.

Amy Hsieh, Deputy Executive Director of Tzu Chi Midwest Region, expressed her gratitude to guests attending the Annual Gala, “Every time I think about you guys, I think, we couldn’t do all of this and accomplish all of this without your support, without your donations, without your dedication to the mission. Wherever the money comes from, it comes from your love, so that we can help as many people as possible.”

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