Ready, Set, Go: Tzu Chi Joins West Seattle Elementary’s Annual Sports Day

Northwest  |  July 10, 2019
Tzu Chi Seattle Elementary
A group playing the parachute game at the annual sports event. Photo by Hsiu-Feng Shih.

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.

Students enjoying a game of tug of war. Photo by Hsiu-Feng Shih.
A student participating in the sack race with volunteer following in tow. Photo by Chu-yi Chou.

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.

Peter Royce (second from left) of West Seattle Elementary School invited Tzu Chi volunteers to join in the games every year. Photo by Chu-yi Chou.
Volunteers preparing tree-shaped watermelon slices. Photo by Chu-yi Chou.

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.

A Tzu Chi volunteer and West Seattle Elementary School teacher holding up a tree-shaped watermelon slice. Photo by Hsiu-Feng Shih.
Volunteer Laura Chen (left) invites students to have some strawberries and sliced watermelon. Photo by Hsiu-Feng Shih.

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! 

Volunteer with Tzu Chi and make a difference today!

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