Written by Jingyi Li, Kunrong Chen, Meijuan Su
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Patrick McShane
The drive from Los Angeles to the Tzu Chi Tijuana campus is long. On average, it takes nearly four hours. Despite the distance, the volunteers enjoyed the trip because they saw it as an opportunity to meditate. The drive helped turn positive thoughts into practical and impactful actions. It showed that the distance between intention and positive outcomes is close.
Over the past 14 years, the Tzu Chi campus in Tijuana, Mexico, has been busy helping locals in the community. Volunteers Dr. Joe Wang and Ah Mui Manguy have not only set up a free clinic center. They have also built relationships with a shelter for the unhoused, an orphanage run by a convent, a Christian church, a home for the elderly, and a home for AIDS patients. The Tijuana center is also home to a Tzu Chi Elementary School that educates children from the community.
To celebrate the achievements of the last 14 years, the volunteers organized an open house on the center’s grounds. The open house required two months of careful preparation and was successfully held on December 3rd, 2022. The event attracted nearly 300 people from the community. Lingling Xu, the volunteer in charge of welcoming the guests, said, “Today’s event was very popular. I have never seen an event where people checked in early and stayed until to end of the day.”
Fun Impactful Booths
The first thing that caught the eyes of the guests arriving at the campus was Santa Claus handing out gifts. Every child at the event was eager to take pictures with him and receive an early Christmas gift. One guest who visited the open house was Germán López Mariscal. Tzu Chi had previously helped his two children get medical and surgical appointments in distant parts of Mexico when the care they needed was unable locally. He joined the volunteers to give back to the campus with a grateful heart.
Volunteers from Orange County, California also participated in the event and were responsible for greeting locals at the toy pick-up booth. The entire booth was colorfully decorated, bringing joy and warmth to the crowd despite the cold winter weather. There were many fun toys on the table, including Mickey Mouse dolls which were a favorite. This booth is always the most popular, and it draws a crowd from the beginning to the very end of the event.
Volunteer Ming Yu said, “Our children at Tijuana Elementary School are very polite, they quietly lined up to draw the prizes, whether they were big or small prizes, they gladly accepted. Seeing the innocent smiles of the children was the biggest reward for the volunteers.”
Sister Esperanza ran a booth that promoted vegetarianism. She and her parents are vegetarians. According to her, “I love charity work and serving the poor. I’m aware that they need a lot of help with their health, and I pray for them. I felt God was calling me to teach them how to grow their own food, to teach them to eat better, to eat vegetarian.”
At the Jing Si Aphorism booth, volunteers Yi Hua Chen and Fang Yi Lin used word puzzle games based on the Jing Si Aphorism to interact with the guests, engraving Jing Si Aphorisms in people’s hearts by having them recite the aphorisms out loud.
Volunteer Fan Yi Lin recalled that “During the disaster relief in Central and South America, the children in the suffering places cherished the Jing Si Aphorism, they held the book in their hands and read over and over again, which inspired me to learn the Spanish language. I was very happy to be able to interact with the children in simple Spanish this time.”
Volunteer Jiang Xiang Hsu, who was educated in Mexico, told the story of the bamboo bank in fluent Spanish, helping locals understand the power of giving. The guests were highly enthusiastic and 143 bamboo banks were distributed to interested people.
The oral hygiene education booth was manned by Dr. Rogelio, who set up a lot of diagrams and dental models in the booth to demonstrate how to take care of teeth. He was grateful that this event helped more people understand the importance of oral hygiene. The booth also gave away toothpaste and toothbrushes. The guests were happy to receive daily necessities.
The event also featured a special diabetes awareness booth. In Mexico, sugary soft drinks are often cheaper than water and are widely consumed by children and adults alike. To help counter the harmful effects of these drinks, diabetes prevention education was an important part of the event. At the diabetes awareness booth, Dr. Marlet taught 20 students how to check someone’s blood sugar and she explained the symptoms of diabetes. He said, “We are happy to help others to measure blood pressure and blood sugar, and the students are happy to help the people in the area.”
Entertainment Programs Were a Hit With the Audience
Graciela, the principal of the Tijuana Elementary School, brought 50 students and parents to the center. Tzu Chi has provided aid and services to many of these families for more than 10 years. Students from the orphanage Tzu Chi works with put on a performance of the Virgin Mary’s hymn led by Sister Esperanza.
Volunteer Bai Zhou took on more than one task, he was not only responsible for the site layout but also co-hosted the program with volunteer Cindy speaking in English and Spanish. The final performance was an emotional Spanish song. The audience was deeply moved and they all stopped to listen to the incredible singing voices.
At the end of the show, Ah Mui Manguy and Dr. Joe Wang, who have long been the backbone and central leaders of the Tzu Chi team in Tijuana, came on stage to thank everyone for their participation. They also outlined a blueprint for the future vision of the campus.
Compassionate and Great Love That Is Beyond Religion
Volunteer Kun Li Xie led eight local volunteers to prepare lunch for the guests with great love. They prepared 300 delicious tacos with fruit on the side.
After lunch, the volunteers held the regular monthly distribution of supplies to local families in need. A veteran local volunteer, Charito, was in charge of the distribution, and volunteer Ah Mui Manguy took out bamboo banks and gave them to the residents during the distribution, encouraging them to practice gratitude by giving and receiving.
The leaders of local community organizations were specially invited to participate in the event. Volunteer Meijuan was busy receiving groups of community leaders. She introduced them to the campus and showed them an outline of the future vision of what it might look like in the future, and what impact it could have on the local community. The leaders were deeply touched to see the heartfelt intention of the Tzu Chi volunteers who fill the area with love.
Local leader Father Eleazer sees Tzu Chi as a loving organization that transcends religion. He was impressed with Tzu Chi’s success in helping the community and he expressed his willingness to learn from our successes, opening up more opportunities for the local community and building hope in this disadvantaged and underserved area.
The open house event at the Tijuana Campus allowed the volunteers to learn patience in the midst of diligent work, inspire resilience in the midst of hardship, fill the neighborhood with love, and help start a cycle of goodness.