Adhering to the teachings of the Buddha to practice “Great Kindness to strangers and Great Mercy to all,” Master Cheng Yen, even at a young age of 29, established the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation. Together with four other Buddhist nuns and 30 lay followers, the group then started off by producing an extra pair of children’s shoes and saving 50 cents of daily grocery money to raise funds and start their mission of helping the poor and the suffering. With kindness, compassion, joy, and selfless giving, the Mission of Charity started at gradual but steady and unfaltering steps.
The services under the Mission of Charity are classified as Long Term Aid or Immediate Assistance. Applying the principle of Sincerity, Integrity, Trust, and Honesty in all its missions, every form of aid is personally handed over to the beneficiary to make the most out of every single penny collected.
The Mission of Charity is the groundwork of Tzu Chi’s establishment. Case visits are carried out to achieve the standard of directness, priority and conservation. Case visits help cultivate blessings and wisdom among volunteers. By visiting the beneficiaries in their house, volunteers cultivate blessings in reaching out to help them. Volunteers also develop wisdom by gaining awareness after being exposed to the different sufferings in life.
Every aspect of Tzu Chi’s charity work, from case visitation to aid provision, from follow-up to reevaluation, is performed by the Tzu Chi commissioners themselves. Material assistance and emotional comfort are given especially at times when they are most needed. Tzu Chi provides aid generously to those really in need, but will not spare a single centavo if it is meant to be wasted, therefore allowing every drop of donation to reach the beneficiary.
What Tzu Chi values the most is not the outcome of the relief or assistance, but the cultivation of the innate kindness in every being, to allow more people to willingly give of themselves to others, and eventually grow the sense of spirituality within. In “Educating the Rich to Relieve the Poor”, the rich gains happiness from giving, learns to share loving kindness to help the poor, and ultimately discovers one’s meaning in life. By “Relieving the Poor to Educate the Rich,” the poor are inspired to be rich within and be filled with love, and are guided to walk out of their miseries.
Tzu Chi’s Mission of Charity started in Hualien. The mission gradually spreads to different districts in Taiwan until it reached foreign soils. In 1991, Tzu Chi started its International Relief Program as it headed on to help the victims affected by the cyclone disaster in Bangladesh. Up until the start of 2007, more than 64 countries across five continents have received Tzu Chi’s aid. In December 2003, Tzu Chi was officially registered as a member of the United Nations Non-government Organization (NGO).
Firmly believing that “Nothing is more valuable than life,” Tzu Chi Foundation, which started simply by giving care to people in Taiwan, has now expanded to become a comprehensive global humanitarian organization. Tzu Chi demonstrates first hand that they overcome obstacles in politics, religion, racial differences, and geographical distance to provide relief and hope to the victims of sickness, war, disasters and poverty. As long as Tzu Chi is needed in disaster situation and it is within the capability of the Foundation, Tzu Chi helps at all cost, bringing hope for the desperate and suffering beings.