Author: Jack Fan
Translation: Wei Qingjun
Editor: Adriana DiBenedetto
Photos by: Thomas Hong
On April 20th, the usually quiet Tzu Chi Austin Branch in Texas was crowded with approximately 40 bright young faces. These are the Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association volunteers from Texas A&M University, visiting for one-day volunteer training sessions.
Focusing on improving volunteers’ understanding of the organization and the responsibilities they’d be undertaking, this training is held by the Austin Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association as a prerequisite for members to join the managing team.
The Human-Realm Ideal
This time, the training was quite unique. Bryan Xiao and Audrey Wang – the president and vice president of the Collegiate Youth Association respectively – spoke about the core values of Tzu Chi from the “human-realm” perspective.
Ever since Master Yin Shun brought forth the concept of the “human-realm” and the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation was founded by Master Cheng Yen, many volunteers bear this practice of Humanistic Buddhism in mind. It is deeply entwined within the hearts of all Tzu Chi volunteers, and serves as a source of strength when facing any hurdles that may obstruct their path. By integrating these human-realm practices, volunteers seek to gain both wisdom and merit.
Introduction to Tzu Chi’s missions and global footprints were also a central part of the training.
In addition to teaching the history of Tzu Chi, Sammy Chien, a member of the Collegiate Youth Association’s activity team, planned a special game to challenge attendees’ knowledge of major events in Tzu Chi’s history. Through these fun and informative activities, volunteers gained a deeper understanding of Tzu Chi and its missions.
Brothers Pass Down Their Experience
Shawn Su and Yenping Liu are two veteran volunteers who are also from Collegiate Youth volunteer families. They each shared their stories with Tzu Chi, and gave valuable advice to the young volunteers.
Liu encouraged students to consider pursuing higher degrees before immersing oneself in building a family and a career. He explained that after having a family, attending classes to further one’s education can become more challenging. It’s tough, he reflected, because they may have to miss some opportunities to accompany their youngsters in order to pursue higher education.
Never Forgetting East African Disaster Relief
On that day, the East African nations of Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Madagascar were hit by Cyclone Idai. Severe flooding devastated many villages, towns, and cities; lives were lost, and reports of cholera among survivors began to rise. Upon witnessing images from the disaster, volunteers were deeply affected and moved by the desire to aid survivors.
In the disaster relief video, Tzu Chi volunteers were shown in their signature uniforms handing out eco-friendly blankets and daily necessities with the utmost care. By viewing these actions, the young volunteers learned a bit more about the disaster relief process and further understood the true weight this uniform holds.
Charitable giving is never limited to those who live comfortably, however. Syrian refugees who are temporarily settled in Turkey organized a donation to contribute what little money they have to East African survivors as well. Living through such difficult situations, themselves, they understand the pain of the Cyclone survivors, and wished to help nevertheless.
At this precise moment, the young volunteers were asked to make a vow that is critical for all Tzu Chi volunteers: never fail to do something kind just because it may seem very small in scale. Like a river forming where many tiny streams converge, many tiny acts of kindness can bring tremendous change in the world.