Thursday, Apr 15

Donors, tycoons learn about ‘Buddhism in action’

March 10, 2018 | Jonas Trinidad

Stephen Huang, Executive Director for Tzu Chi Global Volunteers, shares his story among donors, entrepreneurs, and influential figures. Once a successful tycoon, Huang retired and devoted his time to Tzu Chi, becoming Dharma Master Cheng Yen's "arms and legs" around the world. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

Story Highlights

  • Tzu Chi Executive Director for Global Volunteers Stephen Huang arrived in the Philippines to share his experiences in an evening tea gathering. The event was held at the EDSA Shangri-la Hotel on March 10 and was graced by the presence of entrepreneurs, donors, and influential personalities in the country.


An old farmer passes away, leaving his inheritance of 17 cows to his three sons. Before his death, he has decided to give half of the cows to the eldest brother, a third to the middle, and a ninth to the youngest. As 17 can’t be divided wholly and they can’t kill or dismember a cow, the brothers argue nearly to the point of killing one another.

Fearing for the worst, a neighbor who had known their father hurries to defuse the situation. He offers his only cow, bringing the total to 18. The brothers can finally divide the livestock among themselves, the eldest getting nine, the middle getting six, and the youngest getting two. But they’re astounded upon realizing that the number of shared cows adds up to 17. Only the neighbor’s cow remain, which he takes back home.

This thought-provoking math problem is the medium in which Stephen Huang, the Executive Director for Tzu Chi Global Volunteers, drives his point across. It’s not so much the math as the deed of helping people in need solve their problems.

“By helping other people solve their problems, you don’t lose anything. This is what I’ve been doing for the past 29 years,” he shares before an audience of entrepreneurs, donors, and politicians during “An Evening with Tzu Chi.”

The evening event on March 10 at the EDSA Shangri-la Hotel serves as an avenue for Tzu Chi to make its philosophies and endeavors known to influential figures in the country. He urges the nearly-300 attendees to work together to serve more people in need.

As the coordinator of volunteer activities around the world, Huang often goes on missions even in the most dangerous places. He shares that, for over 29 years of being Master Cheng Yen’s “arms and legs,” he has been in relief missions from war-torn Afghanistan to quake-stricken Mexico. Once a businessman of great wealth, he retired and devoted his time to Tzu Chi after meeting the Dharma Master.

Not once did he ever regret trading his luxuries for compassion.

“You can say love to everybody, but the true love is service. So this is what [Tzu Chi] did all over the world, putting Buddhism to action, not talking,” Huang quotes Mother Theresa on true love in an interview.

This, in turn, inspires the attendees to spread compassion in their own way.

“As a [Tzu Chi International Medical Association] volunteer, we constantly help out. In my case, I [help out] with dental cases through dental missions for those who are in need. In my own way, if you help them with their dental needs, they would appreciate it very much,” says TIMA dentist Katrina Go.

“I realized that, as Brother Stephen is already [a volunteer for] 29 years, I have to catch up fast,” says Nelson Chua, a Tzu Chi volunteer from Davao.

After the program, Huang sat down for an interview with Olivia Limpe-Aw, publisher for the bimonthly Asian Dragon magazine. As one who reports on the business and lifestyle of the Filipino-Chinese community, Aw feels that she can spread the word about Tzu Chi’s achievements to help inspire more people.

“Donors will normally donate if they know that the money they donate is put to good use. It goes to the projects it’s intended for. They will donate to the organizations that have the integrity. And I think [Tzu Chi Foundation] is one with the highest integrity,” she remarks.

The Great Love Campus plan

Hours before the evening event, Huang and his delegation paid the Great Love Campus in Manila a visit. He thought about the best possible way to maximize the use of the former Sisters of Mary school grounds, observing the ongoing renovations.

“I thought about when Master bought [the former Sisters of Mary complex] for Philippines use. What can be the best use for this? So I came here to study, to understand, and to talk to the people,” Huang says.

The former recycling center is being rebuilt as the campus’s own Jing Si (Still Thoughts) Hall. One of the buildings is undergoing demolition to be repurposed as classrooms and living quarters for visiting Tzu Chi volunteers, guests, and livelihood training students. A second entrance along the Paco-Sta. Mesa Road, a busy thoroughfare, is in the works.

Since its acquisition from the Sisters of Mary in 2007, the Great Love Campus has grown into an active charity hub. It’s home to the foundation’s free eye checkup program, the Livelihood Training Program, and vital logistics for disaster and non-disaster relief operations across the Philippines. The major renovation works will ready the campus for Tzu Chi’s expansion of its fivefold mission of charity, humanity, education, medicine, and environmental protection in the country.

  • Prior to the evening event, Huang dropped by the Tzu Chi Great Love Campus to oversee the renovation works. He and Tzu Chi Philippines CEO Henry Yuñez talk about the building in front of them, which they plan to turn into classrooms and living quarters for visitors. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • This side of the Great Love Campus faces the Paco-Sta. Mesa Road, a major highway. Tzu Chi plans to build a second entrance into the campus for easy access. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • A meeting of Tzu Chi executives lay out their long-term plans for the Great Love Campus. Every building in the compound will undergo renovation, starting with the former recycling center (to be a new Jing Si Hall) and the building beside it (to be a new livelihood school and living quarters). 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • The evening tea gathering at EDSA Shangri-la Hotel on March 10 was graced by key personalities such as Senator Cynthia Villar (left). While not affiliated with Tzu Chi, Villar does her part in saving the Earth with her own recycling programs. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Two key figures, Tzu Chi Philippines honorary board member Francis Chua and former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (left and center, respectively), converse with Huang over a hearty vegetarian dinner. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Francis Chua takes the podium to welcome the nearly-300 attendees of the auspicious night. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Tzu Chi Philippines CEO Henry Yuñez highlights the accomplishments of the chapter in the previous year, as well as its plans for the current year. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Near the end of the program, Tzu Chi volunteers perform to the tune of a song about lighting one's heart. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Guests receive Jing Si goodie bags and souvenirs to take home. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Huang personally hands over an ang pao to a guest. The red packets come from Master Cheng Yen as her gift to the world. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Even as the program ends, Huang spares time to sit down for an interview with Olivia Limpe-Aw of Asian Dragon Magazine. Inspired by Tzu Chi's accomplishments for the past several years, Limpe-Aw wants her bimonthly publication to spread the word about the Buddhist organization. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】