The fourth floor of the Tzu Chi Great Love Campus’s primary building is in worse shape than the third floor, as Tzu Chi volunteers see. Apart from the large amount of clutter, the rooms are missing some pieces of wooden flooring. The blanket of dust and dirt in the rooms and hallways is noticeably thicker, a darker tone of grey.
Of the six floors in the primary building, only the ground and second floors have been put to good use. The rest of the floors, at best, serve as storage facilities for equipment. Desk chairs still in good condition idle in the rooms, rarely taken out to help with Tzu Chi’s activities. Spare furniture and medical devices gather dust and dirt as the December breeze blows between the window flaps. Sitting with the equipment are scrap wood and fabric, perhaps some dating back to the complex’s former proprietor.
Nevertheless, the 40 Tzu Chi volunteers on December 19 know the importance of their task. Someday, these rooms will house impoverished youths seeking a way to a better life through hard work. Someday, the sounds of a healthy class will echo beyond the walls. It’s up to them to realize this dream.
Tzu Chi volunteer Molita Chua, overseeing the cleanup, hoped for at least 100 volunteers to get work done faster. But with Christmas fast approaching and the horrendous traffic that comes with it, she understands that not many have the time to spare. For that, she plans to continue the cleanup next year on a weekend.
“You really can’t stand the dust and dirt here, as it’s so thick. Nevertheless, the volunteers bear with it today and would do so tomorrow. They feel that they can do something to help others,” says Chua.
Fortunately, later in the morning, the volunteers received more pairs of helping hands.
Fresh from their hands-on classes at the machine workshop, the 23 students of the first Machine Operation Class (MOC) grabbed a sweeper or washcloth and got started. They were tasked with cleaning two rooms, once littered with unwanted scrap. This is no job for a lone wolf. The students have to work together.
“The room is dirty. It’s as if it hasn’t been cleaned in a long time. So my fellow students and I have to work together to get it done,” says 34-year-old Fairylyn Betorio, the oldest MOC student in the first batch.
The three-step cleaning process justifies the need to work together. One group sweeps the floor, another group cleans the windows, and the third one mops the floor with soapy water once the sweeping is done. More than the clean rooms, the experience taught Betorio about teamwork.
“I learned about cleaning as a team. If we all willingly work together, we can get work done. We’re happy to be able to do our part here,” she says.
Fellow MOC student Elpidio Valdez, Jr. has learned that teamwork knows no age. Despite being one of the oldest in the MOC class, he finds himself working just as hard as his younger classmates to achieve a common goal.
“Just because you’re the oldest in the group doesn’t mean you can order anyone around. You have to tell them their specific tasks and work with them,” says Valdez, 30 years old.
Even as Tzu Chi volunteer Rebecca De Guzman went ahead to clean one dirty room, she could only do so much on her own. Fellow volunteers later arrived to help her out.
“I experienced sweeping a thick layer of dust, carrying the mess out of the room, and mingling with my fellow Tzu Chi volunteers. And I’m happy to see this room clean,” she says.
In many aspects of life, teamwork is encouraged to accomplish great things. From a simple cleanup of a classroom to Tzu Chi’s larger activities, the importance of working together cannot be underscored enough. As a Jing Si aphorism goes: “Let many come forth to do a good deed together, of teamwork moves and inspires.” As the cleanup effort still has a long way to go before being complete, volunteers from all walks of life will have to learn to set aside differences and work toward a common goal.
One of the rooms on the fourth floor has become a closet of sorts for scrap materials. Volunteers have to take out the scraps first before proceeding to sweep the floor.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Dust kicks up with every sweep once more, but the volunteers have all but gotten used to it. After hearing about Tzu Chi’s plans for the unused rooms, they became more motivated to get the job done.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
With the aid of a water hose, Tzu Chi volunteers won’t have to carry half-filled buckets of water up and down two floors. The source comes from a faucet on the second floor comfort room.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
The dirt in the mops and rags has grown so thick that volunteers have to wash them in soap and water. They also have to clean the floors the same way.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
MOC student Fairylyn Betorio does her part in cleaning the entire floor. She and her classmates pitched in to help the volunteers, using their spare time before the Christmas party wisely.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Tzu Chi volunteer Rebecca De Guzman starts cleaning another room on the fourth floor alone. She cleans as much as possible before her fellow volunteers join in.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
One more round of mopping by MOC student Elpidio Valdez, Jr. will finish this classroom. As one of the oldest students in the class, Valdez has to lead by example.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】