Twenty-six students of the International School Manila (ISM) in Taguig City visited Tzu Chi Foundation’s mission complex in Sta. Mesa, Manila from December 11 to 14 as part of their ICARE (International Community Actively Responding to the Environment) Program.
The four-day activity aims to give the students a broader perspective of the world outside the four walls of the academe.
“They are a group of very privileged students and there are many things they do not know,” says Teacher Ji Hua, who teaches Mandarin language to the students.
Since 2010, Tzu Chi has been one of ISM’s partners for the ICARE Program. After a friend told her about Tzu Chi and its charity works, Teacher Ji Hua brought the students from one of the school’s organizations for an educational tour to Tzu Chi’s Great Love Campus. Since then, ISM has been regularly bringing its students to Tzu Chi’s facilities for an immersion.
On December 12, the students grouped into three and took turns to experience sorting through empty plastic bottles and papers, dismantling broken electronic items, among others in the Recycling Center.
“We want them to learn through doing things and through understanding other parts of the society. The very important part of this activity is to expose our students to the globally important big issues, such as the environment, and helping people to have proper education, and helping people to have a decent job. These kinds of global issues are all part of this activity,” says Teacher Ji Hua.
To most of the students, it was an eye-opening experience.
Grade 12 student Stefanija used to shrug off the idea of proper waste segregation.
“In school, we have recycling trash cans and sometimes you’re like, ‘What does it make a difference? I’ll just put the paper in the glass bottle’s [trash bin]. It doesn’t matter. It’s the first trash can here,’” she shares.
But after seeing how Tzu Chi volunteers – many of them are elderly – are patiently segregating and cleaning up recyclables in the center and then experiencing it firsthand, Stefanija realized that such practice of properly separating trash according to their kind is actually very significant. Although it seems a small thing to do, it leaves a huge impact.
“I see here that they have these whole entire different sections [for recyclable materials]. It matters to practice waste segregation because you don’t have to put aside things and clean the items [here] before you can actually start to separate them and dismantle them,” she adds.
This is also what Grade 12 student Chase finds admirable about Tzu Chi’s environmental protection program. Apart from collecting recyclable materials that they can sell, the volunteers are also educating people how they can practice recycling in their respective homes.
“[Tzu Chi] also ask people who donate the stuff to do some sorting beforehand so we’re not like sifting through trash. We are sifting through papers, sifting through plastic, and also the wires. I thought it was a pretty good system,” he says.
The students also helped with the sorting of donated clothes and various donated items at the Cherish Blessings Charity Store.
Surrounded by heaps of donated items, Abi realized how mankind’s endless desires are ruining the environment.
“There’s a lot of stuff here that’s brand new that shouldn’t have been chucked away in the first place so that annoys me that some people, especially people who have higher privilege, are so careless with what they have and they don’t appreciate it,” she says.
In response, Abi vows to share with her family and friends the things she witnessed and learned from the experience.
“[I will try to] make them aware about the issue, so then they can, for example, rethink before they throw things out or they can donate to a charity like Tzu Chi. Then also do stuff like helping Tzu Chi and like volunteering to other organizations that are trying to help people,” she adds.
Apart from Tzu Chi’s environmental protection campaign, the students also learn about the organization’s other missions namely Charity, Medicine, Education, and Humanity. Tzu Chi volunteers also share with them about Tzu Chi’s response in the wake of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in Leyte.
Katherine was moved by the stories of how Tzu Chi helps disaster victims. “I want to be part of this when I am older cause it’s just so amazing to see what they do for people who suffered from typhoons and for people who had been to earthquake. You get to see how much effect it has in people’s lives and you get to see how it brings purpose to some people and how it really makes a huge impact on everyone and to nature, to well-being, to society to all of those stuff,” she says.
In his sharing on the closing day, Grade 9 student Timothy said the most important lesson he gained from the four-day activity is to spread love around the world.
“Even if there are many acts of terrorism and people in despair, we know that love will always prevail so thank you Tzu Chi for teaching me that it’s not material wealth or possessions that we need to spread around the world rather we need to spread love and care and understanding so that everybody else will feel the same way and have mutual understanding with each other,” he says.
Before bidding them farewell, Tzu Chi volunteer Michael Siao reminded the students of the important role they play in the society.
“We know you have a very influential family so you, someday, may become a very influential person in the society. Someday, you might become leaders in the society. If somehow this approach of loving kindness, environmental concern and the environmental awareness can be imparted among you, we believe it will inject a very positive influence to the society,” he says.
Siao also invited the students to join Tzu Chi.
“The Tzu Chi family is always open. We hope you treat this as your second home. If you can come often, the door is always open for you and we’d be happy to see you always,” he ends.
As their token of gratitude, the students donated cash, school supplies, and preloved items.
Students of the International School Manila experience sorting the plastic from the papers at the Recycling Center.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Teacher Ji Hua (center) joins her students, including Stefanija (left) in the activity where they separate the plastic from papers.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
As part of their school’s ICARE (International Community Actively Responding to the Environment) Program, which aims to expose the students to globally important issues such as environmental protection, International School Manila high school students get a hands-on experience of sorting recyclable materials at Tzu Chi’s Recycling Center.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
A Tzu Chi volunteer teaches a student from the International School Manila how to carefully remove the cap from an empty plastic bottle.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Grade 12 student Chase (center) admires the system employs by Tzu Chi in promoting recycling and waste segregation to the public.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
The students get to sort and pack the donated clothes at the Cherish Blessings Charity Store.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Tzu Chi volunteers tour the students at the Cherish Blessings Charity Store. The volunteers also explain that the items on display are all donations to Tzu Chi. Volunteers manually clean and put price tags on each item. Proceeds from its sales are used to fund Tzu Chi’s various charity and medical programs.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Katherine (in maroon shirt) listens attentively as a Tzu Chi volunteer shares about Tzu Chi’s others missions such as disaster response and medical missions.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
The students help out in cleaning the book shelves at the Cherish Blessings Charity Store.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
A Tzu Chi volunteer demonstrates how the donated colored pencils are being repacked so they can be sold again.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Students try their hands in repacking donated colored pencils.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Students dust off and sort the donated books according to their categories.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Surrounded by heaps of donated items, Abi realizes how mankind’s endless desires are ruining the environment.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Tzu Chi volunteers prepare vegetarian lunch for the students.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Grade 9 student Timothy Manaloto thanks Tzu Chi for teaching them to spread love and understanding in the world instead of material wealth.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Grade 12 students and Teacher Ji Hua (in red) from the International School Manila pose for a souvenir photo with Tzu Chi volunteers. The students also turned over their cash donation, school supplies, books, among others to Tzu Chi.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Tzu Chi volunteer Michael Siao thanks the students and teachers of the International School Manila for their visit. He reminds the students to keep in mind the things they have learned from their four-day experience in Tzu Chi and do something to benefit the environment and needy people when they grow up.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】