On the 15th of July, Tzu Chi High School students arrive to the Philippines. On their first official day, July 16, 2019, they experience their first Medical Mission.
It was a mildly rainy day on the 15th of June when a group of Tzu Chi High School Students from Taiwan arrived in the Philippines. For most of them it was their first time to ever set foot in the Philippines. After more than an hour, they arrive at what will be their new home for the next three days; Tzu Chi Great Love Campus, Harmony Hall.
There, they are greeted warmly by staff and in turn, after a few minutes, they meet and greet the College students, also residing in the Great Love Campus, just as warmly. After sharing a meal together, they then proceeded to a function hall to get to know each other. They played games, they danced, and they sang. After introductory statements by the Tzu Chi Philippines staff and by their teachers, and Principals, the High School students presented gifts to their College counterparts. Thus, their first day ends.
The skies were no clearer on the 16th, yet the Tzu Chi High School students rose up bright and early to start the day. After breaking fast with the College Students, at 6:30 am, they all headed towards the San Lorenzo Ruiz Parish Church, in Dagat-Dagatan Navotas. The High School students and College Students both take turns in entertaining the patients for the next few hours in the Medical Mission. The High School Students were tasked to usher and guide people to their respective consultation areas.
While taking a break, Ching-Cheng Hong states, “This is my first time coming to the Philippines to be a volunteer. I’m amazed at our presentation; the audience feedback was so positive! It’s very helpful for first-timers in educational tours”. One of the group leaders, Yu-Jie Yeh pipes up, “Our job is to usher the patients from the waiting area to the consultation area. The Filipinos gave us such a warm welcome. Their standard of living is not that high but they still have such a positive outlook”.
One of the patients, an elderly woman by the name of Carmen Hughes, who was guided by one of the students to the orthodontic consultation area stated the reason why she took the opportunity to join; “The reason why I came here is because of my cataracts was a problem since 2016, I had an operation on one eye, but the other eye has become so severe that I couldn’t see anymore. It was like a cloud covering my sight, that’s why I need to have it operated.”.
Two of the volunteers in the acupuncture station gave their insight; Helen Manahan states “I’ve been doing this medical mission for three years and I have attended all the conferences and conventions. I also attended TIMA seminars in Taiwan, I was introduced to Tzu Chi by a friend of mine who is a dentist around June 2016 and from then on, I’ve been attending medical missions. Because once you become a Tzu Chi Volunteer, you cannot stop because providing service to the indigents gives you so much joy in my heart”. Betty See, an acupuncturist then chimes in, “It’s my second year of joining Tzu Chi. Helen invited me and I was happy to join. I’m happy that I got to help. I’m an acupuncturist, I feel different, joyful. When the patients come here, they feel heavy, but when they leave, they feel rejuvenated and because of that we feel better too”.
As the crowds lessen and the High School Students are resting, Yu-Hung Chen tells us, “This is our first time coming to a place like this. We see so many things for the first time. To be able to perform in front of so many Filipinos, we were afraid we wouldn’t have any reaction. But when we presented, a few even stood up”. His twin brother, Yu-Sheng Chen piped up beside him, “Once we presented whole heartedly, they reciprocated right away. We hope Taiwanese people learn this type of warm acceptance”. Ching-Tung Huang, their friend then said, “This is my first time too. The world is so different here. I see the gap between the rich and the poor. I’m thankful for the chance to serve. I hope I get the chance to do more.”
After lunch, the Tzu Chi High School Students head toward the esteemed University of Santo Tomas. There they have a quick but fun tour of the University Grounds, including the historic Arch of the Centuries, The Quattromondial Monument, and a look at the University’s museum. Then they head to UST’s Senior High School building where they are heartily welcomed by Assistant Principal Jaezamie Ong and the UST SHS Student Council International Cultural Club. Their principal, Dr. Erika Bolaños gives a presentation on the new building and the culture of high school here in the Philippines. The two groups of students also get to present to each other how their daily lives are like. The Tzu Chi High School Students even get to teach the SHS students a dance. It was hard to separate the two groups after their meeting. They even took group selfies after the official picture. Even though they have just met, they bonded instantly with both groups extending invitations to come and stay in their respective schools for a while.
After dinner and a long rest, there was a somber group reflection, where they state in depth about their thoughts and experiences. Thus the Tzu Chi High School students’ day ended.