Written and adapted by Tom Chen, Luca Yeh, Wesley Tsai
Translated by Qingjun Wei
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
On May 18th, 2019 a graduation ceremony was held for Tzu Ching graduates, otherwise known as the Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association, at Tzu Chi USA’s National Headquarters. Over one hundred people — Tzu Ching brothers and sisters, graduates, parents, and Tzu Chi volunteers — all gathered to celebrate this significant milestone together.
It was ten years ago that the first graduation ceremony was held at the National Headquarters in 2009. This year, sixteen graduates earned their white sashes, signifying blessings for their future journey. In addition to the day’s celebrations, another chief focus of the event was to thank parents and Tzu Chi volunteers for their unwavering support and encouragement.
One Step Closer
The graduation ceremony began with the Tzu Ching Anthem, and graduates pinned boutonnieres on their clothes with radiant smiles. Following in Tzu Chi’s spirit of humanitarianism, they each served tea to their mentors and parents to thank them for their support.
During his congratulatory speech, Han Huang, the CEO of Tzu Chi USA, imparted his blessings, and placed a white sash over each graduate’s shoulders. He also expressed his sincere hopes that as graduates move forward and begin this new chapter in their lives, they will also continue to carry Tzu Chi’s spirit.
One Tzu Ching brother, Braden Ho, brought a game to challenge everyone’s knowledge, and get the audience involved as a warm-up for the ceremony.
For children who grew up with Tzu Chi, graduation is not about leaving Tzu Chi. Rather, it signifies they are one step closer to Tzu Chi.
Never Giving Up
The ceremony was truly beautiful — it was a relaxing day, full of wonderfully happy memories. Graduates went on stage, one-by-one, to share their own stories with the Collegiate Association. Some said they appreciated Tzu Chi for all the opportunities they offered; others thanked volunteers for their support and genuine care.
Lily Kang is a Tzu Chi graduate who aspires to become a designer after graduation. In the future, she hopes her designs will also benefit society. The most touching part of the event, she expressed, was seeing all the parents, Tzu Ching friends, and volunteers who’d been there for them for the entirety of their college years. It’s difficult to imagine, she said, what all these years would’ve been like without the support of each of these individuals.
When Lily Kang started the Tzu Chi Collegiate Association at her school, she was inexperienced and faced many difficulties. Later on, she went to a Tzu Ching training camp and fell in love with Tzu Chi’s ideals. She worked hard to bring those ideas to her school. Even though there were challenging times, many supporters encouraged her to never give up.
For the Love of Volunteering
Another Tzu Ching graduate, Cory Lynde, recounted his experience with the Tzu Chi Collegiate Association at UC Irvine. A friend had invited him to join in. Because he enjoys helping others and agreed with the Association’s ideals, he soon decided to become a volunteer, himself. After participating in various events — such as the Jing Si Tea Ceremony, and New Year Blessing Ceremony — he began to understand Master Cheng Yen even more.
Cultivating Seeds of Love
Suong Chang is a parent of a Tzu Ching graduate. She expressed that her son, James Thongkham, shares a deep connection with Tzu Chi. Many volunteers praised Suong Chang, as she was the volunteer who encouraged her child to volunteer for the most events. Upon witnessing a person who is homeless, her son is always at the ready to offer help. Volunteers have also encouraged him to keep coming back after graduation.
When her son served her tea, Suong Chang felt that her child had finally grown up. There were tears in her eyes while she spoke, and expressed her gratitude for Dharma Master Cheng Yen.
Susan Chen, a Tzu Chi volunteer who has accompanied Tzu Ching members since 2006, has treated them like her own children. She is always willing to spend time with members of Tzu Ching, and said that she also learned a great deal from them as well. She was deeply moved and delighted to have received gifts from Tzu Ching members each Mothers Day; these were the moments that made her hard work worthwhile.
Master Cheng Yen has always taught Tzu Chi volunteers to treat children like loving mothers would. After the ceremony, Tzu Ching graduates, too, are expected to carry on the kindness and love they received at Tzu Chi, plant those seeds of love, and spread them throughout the world. Indeed, Tzu Chi will always be a home for each and every Tzu Ching member, as they are Tzu Chi’s children as well.