Written by Laura Chen
Translated by Li-Chia Chang
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
Twenty years ago, Tzu Chi USA’s Seattle Branch initiated its Happy Campus Program – a long term care program for students from low-income families – at West Seattle Elementary School. Friday, June 7th, 2019 marked the school’s annual sports game, and with the help of Tzu Chi volunteers, students enjoyed a successful day of meaningful fun!
Two Decades of Care
The game was planned by Peter Royce, a sports instructor at West Seattle Elementary School. Eleven Tzu Chi volunteers and four Tzu Ching – or Tzu Chi Youth Group – members arrived for the yearly event.
Tzu Chi’s Happy Campus Program had been implemented at West Seattle Elementary, which is predominantly attended by students are from underserved and immigrant families, since 1998. However, the school had eventually closed for a time due to the local government’s policy of changing districts and merging schools. In 2010, the school was back in action, and administrators invited Tzu Chi volunteers to join their big annual sports game.
Beginning in 2015, Tzu Chi volunteers invited the Panda Express to join hands with the school, and provide lunch for over 400 students and teachers at the yearly sports game. The gesture was loved by all and still continues each year to this very day. Students often send ‘thank you cards to the volunteers to show their gratitude for making their day special!
A Joy-Filled Day
There were reports of possible showers on the day of the game. Luckily, though, the sun had broken through the clouds to brighten the day. Students, teachers, and volunteers each began preparations as they warmed up for the event.
Mr. Royce told volunteers that the school is set to be rebuilt within two years. Until that time, students will temporarily share another school’s campus.
In more recent years, the population in West Seattle communities has surged. With more students attending the school, local residents are looking forward to having a campus with better equipment and a larger space for the students.
As with previous years’ events, twelve different games had taken place, and Mr. Royce expressed that after several years of dedicated effort, more and more teachers, parents, and volunteers, have been coming to support students. This year, the school also invited a police officer to lead the games. Well-known athletes also attended to lead the jump-roping contest.
Promoting an Environmentally-Friendly Lifestyle
In addition to providing guidance at each game station, Tzu Chi volunteers also prepared watermelons and strawberries to help students recharge. Furthermore, volunteers marked garbage for recycling to remind students of their duty to take care of the environment.
Volunteers praised students for thinking to bring their own reusable water bottles as well – they’d taught each student small ways they could make a habit of living a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Through the Happy Campus Program, Tzu Chi volunteers intend to participate in more recycling awareness lessons to help students further develop these beneficial practices from an early age. They will become the new faces of environmental protection within their communities, after all, and Tzu Chi volunteers hope to be there each step of the way!