Year-End Blessing in Dallas Celebrate Tzu Chi’s Humanistic Education

Central  |  February 1, 2024
Children at Tzu Chi Great Love Preschool Dallas donated from their bamboo bank
At Central Region's year-end blessing ceremony Dallas Great Love Preschool children donated their Bamboo Banks, a small piggy bank gathered love and goodness. Photo/Xixiong Li

Written by Er Guan, Wei Du
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Patrick McShane

To mark the start of 2024, Tzu Chi volunteers sent off the past with gratitude and welcomed the New Year with joy. On January 21, 2024, more than 500 community members and Tzu Chi volunteers gathered at Tzu Chi Central Region’s year-end blessing ceremony, sharing the “Footprints of Love” of the past year. 

One prominent Footprint of Love that was celebrated was Tzu Chi’s character education programs at local public schools. Programs at local schools such as as Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy and Katherine Johnson Technology Magnet Academy, have yielded good results. Community members showed their appreciation for the program and commented on its success. One special guest, Minister Chia-Ching Hsu of Taiwan’s Overseas Community Affairs Council (OCAC) commended Tzu Chi’s Character Education program for being included in the official credit curriculum of mainstream schools in Dallas, which is a rare achievement in the United States.

Bamboo Banks Returned After Gathering Every Bit of Goodness and Love

The theme of this year’s year-end blessing ceremony is “Promoting the Dharma and benefiting people’s lives with faith, protecting the earth with vegetarianism.” Tzu Chi volunteers expressed their vision through wonderful song and dance programs. These performances were a prayer that every day, by giving a single thought of kindness and one minute of love, all people could create blessings and accumulate virtues, so that families are happy, society is peaceful, and there are no disasters.

Dallas Great Love Preschool students kicked off the year-end blessing ceremony with a performance of “Children of the Earth,” a dance that advocates for people to respect life, conserve water, and not waste resources and food. Next, there was a performance of “Bamboo Banks Return Home.” To the tune of this lovely song, community members, students from Tzu Chi Academy, and Tzu Shaos took their Bamboo Banks in hand. They followed Tzu Chi volunteers to the front of the stage and poured the accumulated donations into the merit pool, giving love together as a community.

New Year’s Well Wishes in Red Packets

Central Region Executive Director Yuanliang Ling rang the gong three times to welcome the New Year, wishing every household peace and good fortune in 2024, He wished that: first, may the hearts of people be purified; second, may society be peaceful; and third, may the world be free of disasters. As part of the year-end blessing, he also gave out Master Cheng Yen’s red packets to Tzu Shaos, members of Tzu Chi’s youth organization, and local students, symbolizing the fulfillment of all their wishes for the new year.

The red packets came directly from Master Cheng Yen. Since 1990, Master Cheng Yen, who always cherishes her disciples and congregation members as if they were her children, has taken a portion of the royalties from her works to give each person a small red packet at the end of the year to symbolize passing on the “blessings” and “wisdom.”

At the year-end blessing ceremony, Master Cheng Yen, although far away in Taiwan, sent her New Year’s blessings to the audience through a video: “The only way to care for the earth is to ask everyone to do it with love in its entirety, not only to love human beings but also to love all beings, and the giving to the suffering of all beings should be done wholeheartedly.”

This year, the Central Region welcomed five new Tzu Chi Honorary Directors. Central Region Executive Director Yuanliang Ling presented them with certificates, thanking them for their dedication to Tzu Chi’s missions. The Tzu Chi Honorary Director certificates were issued by Master Cheng Yen to honorary directors who have donated more than 1 million Taiwanese Dollars (approximately US$31,979) to the construction of the Tzu Chi Hospital Tzu Chi as a means of expressing her gratitude. Master Cheng Yen once said, “Giving is not the monopoly of the rich, but a labor of love. “Therefore, the title of Honorary Director represents supreme love, and even more so, it represents the perseverance of one’s will.

Tzu Chi Character Education Programs Bear Fruit in Dallas

Principle of Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy sharing speech
Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy Principal Rashad Jackson takes the stage to share his feelings about participating in Tzu Chi's Character Education program. Photo/Xixiong Li
Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy Principal Rashad Jackson and his wife Maria Pedro Cruz
Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy Principal Rashad Jackson and his wife Maria Pedro Cruz share their feelings. Photo/Xixiong Li

Charity and education are the two main focuses of Tzu Chi Central Region. At the end of the year, Yuanliang Ling, Central Region Executive Director, also shared and reviewed the “Footprints of Love,” the actions in the community, that Tzu Chi volunteers have been working on in Dallas over the past year. These actions include the Tzu Chi Character Education program in public schools, and all have been well-received by the community. 

Yuanliang Ling mentioned that Tzu Chi volunteers have been serving the communities of the Dallas Metroplex with a spirit of love. For the past 21 years, Tzu Chi volunteers have participated in the Dallas Mayor’s Back-to-School Uniform Distribution activities, distributing free back-to-school uniforms and stationery to school children from low-income families. This ensures the children of the Dallas school districts receive stationery, daily necessities, and new uniforms before the start of the new school year. This alleviates the financial burden on low-income families in the community and helps students start the school year off right.

This past year, Tzu Chi volunteers promoted the Character Education program at the Katherine Johnson Technology Magnet Academy. They used videos or real-life cases to tell the story of Tzu Chi’s Bamboo Bank, immersing students in the experience and educating them to put truths into practical action. Some children from low-income families responded to the spirit of the Bamboo Bank by donating their daily pocket money, raising $536.

The Katherine Johnson Technology Magnet Academy is named after mathematician Katherine Johnson, the first African American woman to work at NASA. The school’s motto is “To cultivate students with good character, learn from Ms. Johnson’s perseverance and resilience, break through all limitations, and unleash their potential,” which coincides with the philosophy of Tzu Chi.

Tzu Chi volunteers have been working with the local public schools in Dallas for many years and have established good relationships with many school principals. All four successive principals of Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy have supported Tzu Chi’s Character Education program, and the current principal of Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, Rashad Jackson, took the stage to share his feelings about participating in Tzu Chi’s Character Education program. 

Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy is named after former US President Barack Obama. Since its establishment in 2011, the boys’ school has invited Tzu Chi volunteers to conduct Character Education and teach the Jing Si Aphorism in English. In 2012, Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy and Hualien Tzu Chi University High School, Taiwan, entered into a sister-school relationship.

Rashad Jackson took office in 2020 and is the school’s fourth principal. He knew Tzu Chi quite well before joining Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, and very much agrees with Tzu Chi’s philosophy of character education, and firmly supports the teaching of Jing Si Aphorisms. “I have known Tzu Chi since 2008. Since I became the Academy’s assistant principal in 2019, I have had a very good relationship with Tzu Chi. Tzu Chi volunteers have consistently taught students Character Education lessons for 12 years, the help and the experiences are important to us, he said.

Tzu Chi always inspires us and we are grateful to Tzu Chi.

Central Region Executive Director Yuanliang Ling recalled that on November 7, 2023, Taiwanese Overseas Chinese Affairs Minister Chia-Ching Hsu visited the Central Region to thank Tzu Chi volunteers for their long-standing dedication and hard work. At that time, Chia-Ching Hsu praised Tzu Chi’s Character Education program on its entry into the official credit program in Dallas public schools, which is a rare achievement. She also mentioned that Taiwan OCAC cooperates with existing overseas Chinese schools around the world to launch Taiwan Centers for Mandarin Learning, with 54 established in the U.S. so far, among which, four are operated by Tzu Chi, with another four in the setup process.

Tzu Chi’s educational strength has entered public primary and secondary schools in some areas of the United States, and it’s hoped the collaboration could continue to promote the teaching of the Chinese language in the future.

The roughly 3 million Taiwanese immigrants in the U.S. is a small portion of the 300 million people in the U.S. In such a context, Tzu Chi has been able to gather so much energy. Such a force for good from Taiwan has become the best people’s diplomacy. I hope that this force can continue to develop.

At the end of the year-end blessing ceremony, all the participants stood up, lit the Blessing and Wisdom Lamp, put their hands together, and prayed for peace and auspiciousness for the world in 2024.

Ms. Jiongtang Cheng from Taiwan said, “The year-end blessing was very touching. When I return to Taiwan in the future, I hope to do something for Tzu Chi.”

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