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Tzu Chi’s Unique Cultural Construction Development at Morelos Institute

National Headquarters  |  December 26, 2019
Morelos Institute construction site. Photo by Jaime Puerta

Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Natasha Palance

Between September 9th and the 13th, a group of Tzu Chi volunteers from Argentina, Denmark, Global HQ, and Tzu Chi USA traveled to Mexico to follow-up on the Building Trust with Love: Morelos Institute mission – a construction project to rebuild the Jojutla community following the 2017 earthquake that shook the country. At the same time, local volunteers were also invited to actively promote Tzu Chi concepts that aim to improve the lives of others through mission-driven projects with safe and sustainable practices. After learning of Tzu Chi’s development plans in Mexico, a local Catholic nun, Sister Martha, volunteered on her own accord to promote Tzu Chi’s unique site management concepts throughout the construction process to cultivate a positive impact on the community.

On-Site Vegetarianism

Tzu Chi has carried out construction projects in many countries where on-site cultures reflect Tzu Chi concepts.This has helped to create an atmosphere of inclusivity among construction workers and local residents throughout the construction period, enabling Tzu Chi’s reach of compassion to continue to expand. 

In the recently completed Canoa Church Tzu Chi relief mission in Ecuador following the horrific 2016 earthquake, local Catholic nuns of the order of Franciscanas de Maria Auxiliadora took the dire circumstances as an opportunity to culminate blessings of compassion. In coordination with local Tzu Chi volunteers, the nuns cooked delicious vegetarian meals for construction workers in promotion of Tzu Chi Humanistic culture during the construction period.

Tzu Chi team conducts an evaluation at the construction site of Morelos Institute. Photo by Jaime Puerta

In Morelos, Sister Martha similarly took Tzu Chi’s presence as an opportunity to understand the progress of the construction expressed her gratitude for the help in building the institute. Sister Martha had first been introduced to Tzu Chi’s humanistic culture in Taiwan when she met Master Cheng Yen and heard these teachings. With a deep understanding of Tzu Chi’s philosophies, Sister Martha wants to continue to support Tzu Chi’s other construction projects and help promote the on-site cultures.

Once the Morelos Institute project started, Sister Martha arranged a group of parents to prepare vegetarian meals for construction site workers. With knowledge of the Tzu Chi concepts from Taiwan, Sister Martha ensures to visit the site regularly to remind the construction team of the multi-cultural message of hope and unconditional love of the rebuilding project. Workers not only earn a salary, but also benefit from the communal contribution of their love.

The Universal 3: Love, Trust, and Forgiveness

For Sister Martha, the construction project fueled her determination to become a messenger for Catholicism. Sister Martha comes from a pious Catholic family background, and has been a devoted Catholic since her childhood. After the earthquake, she met Tzu Chi and worked closely with volunteers who brought her many touching moments.

I can't believe that there is a group of people in this world, especially when they (Tzu Chi volunteers) came to invest a lot of time and money, who help people of different faiths and races in Mexico without asking for anything in return. After I got to know Tzu Chi, I’m grateful for their help and I pray for them every day. They gave me the opportunity to learn and I encourage myself to follow this spirit. This process of [cooperating with Tzu Chi volunteers], led me to a more determined faith.

Sister Martha, Hermanas Mercedarias in Mexico
Sister Martha (middle) expresses her gratitude to CEO of Tzu Chi USA Han Huang (first right) and Tzu Chi volunteer Martin Kuo (second from the right). Photo by Jaime Puerta

Sister Martha asked why Tzu Chi is so selfless when helping others, to which Han Huang, CEO of Tzu Chi USA responded, “This is the universal 3 No’s spirit from Master Cheng Yen’s teachings; ‘In this world, there is no one I do not love, no one I do not trust, and no one I do not forgive.’ No matter what your socioeconomic status may be in the world, they are all the same to us. As a result, we should understand each other and support each other.”

Tzu Chi volunteer Martin Kuo emphasized Tzu Chi’s reason for funding reconstruction of the Morelos Institute: Master Cheng Yen’s teachings; in giving without asking for anything in return, to help those in need, and to lead by example through Tzu Chi volunteers in Mexico. Once again, the Morelos Institute project proved that as people from all backgrounds join hands to help those in need, the unconditional love from this joint effort will make the world a better place.

Changing the Lives of Children in Mexico

During the team’s stay in Mexico, Tzu Chi USA took time to meet with local Tzu Chi volunteers in Mexico City and Jojutla. During this collaboration, each volunteer was encouraged to share their ideas on how to improve local involvement in Tzu Chi activities and better unite the community.

Tzu Chi USA and local volunteers hold a follow-up meeting in Jojutla, sharing ideas and encouragement on local projects. Photo by Jennifer Chien
A meeting conducted by Han Huang (left), Tzu Chi USA CEO, Debbie Chen (first middle), Tzu Chi volunteer, Liangdai Hong (second middle) Tzu Chi volunteer, and Peiwen Wang (right), is held at Tzu Chi Global HQ. Photo by Jennifer Chien

Debbie Chen, convener for Central and South America Tzu Chi volunteers, took her third trip Mexico to revisit the construction site. During the initial groundbreaking ceremony of the project back in June, Debbie struggled to visualize the future school on what was once a flat field. Although after meeting with architects and builders, she learned of the well-equipped and modern infrastructural plan for the school. 

Seeing students crowded together in a small area during her trip reminded Debbie of what Master Cheng Yen had once said: “The mission of education can not be delayed.” Debbie hopes that after the new school opens, more students will have a better opportunity for education. It will change their lives.

As CEO Han Huang emphasized, the Morelos Institute mission is not only a reconstruction project that will rebuild from the rubble, but will also cultivate love from around the world. This school will change and influence the local community in Jojutla, and surpass city limits through free after school programs that will extend to surrounding villages. With an assured education, the lives of underprivileged children will be enhanced and the Tzu Chi spirit will remain deeply rooted in the community.

The Influential Power of Love

When Tzu Chi USA successfully concluded its mission to Mexico, they received an unexpected warm greeting at the airport while waiting for departure. Constanza Alvarez, a student from Peterson School, took the initiative to approach the group in uniform at the airport lounge as to ask if they were Tzu Chi volunteers. After a short conversation, Constanza screamed in excitement to her peers, Daniel Iza and Sofia Alvarez, that she was right about recognizing this great organization with a worldly noble mission.

It was later revealed that Constanza’s teacher, Nomura, is a local Tzu Chi volunteer who has participated in Tzu Chi’s medical outreach events with her classes, who was impressed by Tzu Chi’s expansive reach in facilitating such a large-scale medical service at no cost to locals. “As a volunteer, I was truly touched by Tzu Chi’s medical outreach event. [So] when I saw people wearing Tzu Chi uniforms at the airport, I wanted to go forward and confirm whether they are here again to help the people in Mexico,” Constanza said.

From left to right, Tzu Chi volunteer Martin Kuo is pictured with students Daniel Iza, Constanza Alvarez and Sofia Alvarez before departure from Mexico. Photo by Jennifer Chien

“I can't believe that there are people from around the world who don’t ask for anything in return when they pay for their own trip expenses, just to help the vulnerable population in my country.

Constanza Alvarez, a student from Peterson School

Martin Kuo, Tzu Chi volunteer and Medical Outreach Coordinator, thanked Constanza for her help and invited her to join the team’s upcoming medical outreach mission in November with her friends. From this one exchange of gratitude, a shared passion for Tzu Chi’s work will carry to friends, relatives and neighbors, helping the team to continue to grow.

Igniting Thousands of Candles

As Master Cheng Yen’s teaching states, “Life is like a candle. If a candle sits in the dark, it remains dark. If it is lit, it will illuminate the world and benefit all people.” Tzu Chi volunteers are upholding this spirit by sparking a passion for compassion in others, and using this shared light to ignite thousands around the world, all while illuminating dark corners in need.

Learn more about how our work transformed Mexican communities following the 2017 earthquake.

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