Written by Ligi_Shao
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Patrick McShane
On August 2, 2023, the annual Tzu Chi Happy Summer Camp wrapped up with a celebration of all the young campers had accomplished. The children and their teachers put on performances focused on this year’s themes of environmental protection, filial piety, and diligence so that parents, friends, and family in the audience can see the results of what the children have learned.
180 children entered the venue in an orderly fashion under the guidance of their classroom teachers at 2:00 p.m. on August 2. The master of ceremonies Xinru Zhu cheerfully announced: “Welcome to the 2023 Tzu Chi Happy Summer Camp Achievement Show. After nine weeks of learning, the children will put on a wonderful show.” She invited parents, family, and friends to join her in cheering on the children.
Vowing to Save the Earth Together
The children began the event by singing “Ode to Diligence” accompanied by bells and drums. Through the performance of “Ode to Diligence,” the children hoped to express that we can take action to slow down the coming climate catastrophe by vowing to keep a vegetarian diet and to pray and fast together during the “Auspicious Moon” in the seventh month of the Lunar Calendar.
“Ode to Diligence” was the theme song of this year’s summer camp. The song, which is familiar to all Tzu Chi volunteers, has an important message which Ms. Ru Qing Li shared, “For children, the eight important words are ‘sincerity, righteousness, creditability, and truthfulness; kindness, pity, joy, and equanimity,’ so we took these eight concepts as the main theme of our teaching, and we tried to use simple words to teach them to help people with sincerity, letting them know that that we have confidence in their ability to learn everything. We use colloquialisms to let children learn the essence of the eight words of the ‘Ode to Diligence.’”
Everyone expressed gratefulness to the teachers, volunteers, and staff for accompanying the children. Parents were particularly thankful for the visual record of happy moments their children had at the camp. On the big screen at the venue, photos of each class’s activities during summer camp were shown. The smiling faces of the campers were a testament to the wonderful camp program which promoted the joy and growth of the children.
Dreaming of a Better World in Song and Dance
According to teacher Ivan Bernardino, “Tzu Chi Summer Camp is a wonderful opportunity for the children in the neighborhood. We are everywhere, exploring and learning in different ways, especially in the summer. We want to discover different enrichment programs where we offer things like sports.”
According to Ivan Bernardino, the summer camp has a performing art workshop each year, which has different themes, such as hip-hop dance or taekwondo: “In any case, Tzu Chi offers a lot of learning opportunities and a very interesting way of learning for the children. Also, we care very much for the environment. How can we protect, recycle, and reduce waste, all those things that make the world a better place? That’s what the city stands for, just like the students, with compassion and respect. Yes, that’s our summer perk and that’s what we want to see.”
Each class in turn gave a wonderful performance. The children, led by their teachers, explored the world around them throughout the camp. They learned to love everything, to love themselves, and to love their families and friends. This new love for the world was evident in the happy smiles on their faces throughout their performances. Life is a thriving cycle, and the campers are now thankful for the vibrant world they live in, and they are thankful to their parents for bringing them happiness. To celebrate this gratitude, the children sang “Try Everything” and “Happy Face” and performed the “Circle of the Life.”
Enrolling 4-And-A-Half-Year-Olds for the First Time
This is the first year Tzu Chi Summer Camp has enrolled 4-and-a-half-year-old children. Throughout the weeks of the camp, parents could see changes in their children, and they are thankful to the teachers for taking good care of the children, preparing them for elementary school life, as well as helping them learn Chinese and understand Chinese culture. The young campers performed poems, nursery rhymes, and antiphonal singing by singing “By the Sky and By the Water;” they also performed tongue twisters such as “Geese Crossing the River,” hip-hop dances, and a small drama entitled “My Home is Gone.”
It has always been the goal of Tzu Chi Summer Camp to cultivate children’s interests, let them learn through play, and have fun exploring the world around them. Teachers aim to purify the pure land of the heart with love and to maintain a pure heart when looking at the world. Tzu Chi Happy Summer Camp is committed to environmental protection, teaching children to be environmentally friendly and to love the earth. Campers are taught to treat the flowers, plants, and trees around them with kindness. The climate is changing rapidly and unpredictably due to mankind’s endless logging, and industrialized pollution. As the global temperature rises, the earth becomes warmer, and animals’ homes will also slowly disappear. Campers are taught to love our home on earth and are given the knowledge of what we can do to help it.
Teacher Camilla Sanchez said, “We offer a lot of enrichment programs to educate and uplift the kids, such as gardening, hip-hop music, and clay making. The kids really love the artists who present their inner feelings because they have so many different ways to enrich the kids’ learning and have a lot of fun with it.” She praised the camp for being great at getting teachers to listen to the children and build relationships with their students. She was also impressed by the kindness shown by the entire camp community and by the campers themselves.
Amazed at the Changes in the Children
Diamond Bar, California Mayor Andrew Chou learned from friends that the Tzu Chi Summer Camp not only offered Chinese language classes but also had many extracurricular activities: “We really felt a lot of things this summer. We were especially surprised to see that our children are not picky about their food anymore. We were very excited to bring our children to the program, and when they came home, they would sing songs of gratitude before eating. They started to know all kinds of academics and arts, which made me very happy as a parent.”
Parent Kai Mao Zhang’s two children both attended the summer camp to learn about Chinese culture and take part in Tzu Chi’s humanistic education. “For us, Chinese education and some of the courses taught by Tzu Chi are quite important. Their Mandarin has improved, and when they go home they talk about the songs and poems they learned at school, as well as about not wasting food, etc. I don’t expect them to be able to read or write Chinese, but the progress they make every day is good enough for me,” he said.
Tzu Chi Summer Camp is a big family where children learn how to love themselves, their families, their parents, their friends, and the environment around them. Teachers led the children to explore different things and learn various fields of knowledge, allowing the thriving sapling of their minds to grow up healthy and strong.
Gratitude to Parents and Teachers
Camp director Bing Du summarized the results of the camp in his speech, “We are grateful that during the course of our children’s development, they have the parents, siblings, and elders with them at home, and teachers, classmates, and friends outside, who explore, keep each other company and study together.”
“Thanks to the companionship of teachers and volunteers at the camp, the children learned about all things in heaven and earth and the infinite nourishment that nature gives us, and to be grateful.”
During the ceremony, teachers were invited to the stage, and children presented them with thank-you cards they had made, expressing their heartfelt gratitude to the teachers.
According to Master Cheng Yen’s teaching, two things cannot wait, “one is to perform filial piety and the other is to perform good deeds.” The children presented their parents with pressed flower cards and preserved lemon sauce that they made themselves during the ecology class, to bless and thank their parents.
The ceremony marked the last day of the camp, but for the children, it was the first day of their journey towards a better life. After nine weeks of learning, gratitude, respect, and love have been planted deep in their hearts, and good habits have been introduced to every family.