After receiving aid from Tzu Chi Foundation, many beneficiaries have turned their lives around and became volunteers. On September 2, they are among the 512 volunteers who joined the monthly Diligence Seminar at the Jing Si Hall in Quezon City. Now, they are not only using their time to help others, but are also cultivating their wisdom and spiritual life by listening to the teachings of the Buddha and Tzu Chi founder Master Cheng Yen.
More than three years ago, 63-year-old Sofia Mejia’s husband had a stroke. As a result, Sofia had to stretch the money she received from working at the village health center in order to support the family. However, with her husband’s medications, the family’s daily needs, and their five children’s education, Sofia’s income just would not suffice.
Out of desperation, she sought help from Tzu Chi Foundation. After assessing the situation of the family through home visitation, Tzu Chi began helping Sofia’s family through its Long-Term Care Program. Every month, Sofia’s husband received a supply of medicines while the family were given 20-kilo rice.
Today, Sofia’s husband continues to recover. Tzu Chi still provides him with his needed medicines. But as the family can now stand on their feet, they are able to provide for their own food without relying on Tzu Chi.
Sofia, touched by the love and care her family had received during those difficult years, is now a Tzu Chi volunteer. She recently received her gray collared uniform.
“Although our home is far away and difficult to locate because it’s in the mountains, they [Tzu Chi] did not think twice about helping my family,” Sofia shared. The family lives at a community called Marang in Barangay Maly, San Mateo, Rizal.
For this reason, Sofia made the vow that as soon as her youngest child starts school, she will have enough time to spare and will start paying forward. “I won’t ask for anything in return as long as I will be able to serve others in need and repay the kindness Tzu Chi has shown us,” she added.
Apart from joining Tzu Chi’s charity activities, Sofia never misses the monthly Diligence Seminar. Because her house is located in the far reaches of San Mateo, once every month she wakes up before dawn to meet her fellow Tzu Chi volunteers downtown. Together, they will go to the Jing Si Hall in Quezon City to attend the event.
On September 2, Sofia was among the 512 seminar attendees. They came from different parts of Metro Manila and nearby provinces. Like Sofia, many of this month’s participants were once beneficiaries of Tzu Chi’s aid. Their gratitude inspired them to transform their mindset from being aid recipients to aid givers, and to diligently cultivate their wisdom by learning the Buddha’s teachings.
For the seminar this month, the volunteers listened to live talks by Dharma Masters in Tzu Chi Taiwan through online videoconferencing. They also participated in an online Buddhist ceremony of Paying Homage to the Preface of the Lotus Sutra together over 18,000 volunteers from eight countries. The ritual involved chanting verses from the sutra and prostrating numerous times.
While majority of them are Catholics, the volunteers joined in without hesitation.
“I don’t see anything wrong with participating in the ceremony because what is most important to me is that this foundation is helping a lot of people and they don’t discriminate between Buddhism and those needy people’s religious beliefs. This ceremony is just our way of showing our respect to the Buddha, to learn gratitude and to cherish our blessings,” shared Angelica Pagar.
At 17 years old, Angelica was one of the youngest volunteers present. A recipient of Tzu Chi’s scholarship, Angelica has been volunteering and attending seminars for five years now. Her teacher, who is also a Tzu Chi volunteer, was the one who inspired her to do so.
Angelica said joining Tzu Chi’s seminars is an extension of her education. “At school they teach us to prepare for our future. But here in Tzu Chi, they are teaching us to cherish the present, take care of the environment, and be content of what we have,” she added.
Meanwhile for the volunteers from San Mateo and Marikina City, the Buddhist ceremony is an opportunity to offer sincere prayers. They were affected by the recent monsoon floods and were helped by Tzu Chi through a cash relief cleanup drive.
“I prayed for safety. May we never experience tragic floods again,” shared 61-year-old Isabel Agumbay, a resident of Barangay Nangka in Marikina City.
For Dominica Frias, 57, the calamity served as a wakeup call. She vowed to work harder in inspiring more people to create blessings by encouraging them to donate or volunteer.
“When there are more people who create goodness, we can mitigate disasters,” the volunteer from Barangay Tumana, Marikina said.
Aid beneficiaries of Tzu Chi Foundation have not only been relieved from their physical suffering. Ultimately, their minds and hearts have also been transformed so that they learn to give and serve those in need. They came to understand that more than any material thing, this is what will truly make their lives richer.