March 23, 2022
Tzu Chi Philippines holds volunteer training session at BTCC
By Ben Baquilod
Tzu Chi volunteers from all over the country gathered for a day of training at the Buddhist Tzu Chi Campus (BTCC) in Sta. Mesa, Manila on March 20, 2022.
A sea of gray filled the campus as volunteers all the way from Cebu, Davao, Leyte, and Zamboanga flew in to join volunteers from Manila, Marikina and San Mateo, Rizal, and Angeles City, Pampanga. There were also participants from Bicol, Bohol, and other parts of the Philippines who attended online.
“It’s really nice to see all of you here today,” greets Tzu Chi Philippines CEO Henry Yuñez in his opening remarks at the Jing Si Auditorium. “For more than two years already, I could hear voices online, but I could not see anyone. It’s really touching to see that there are so many people willing to come and move forward even though the pandemic has not been completely eliminated.”
A testament to this dedication of Tzu Chi volunteers is the presence of Harvey Yap, who flew all the way from Zamboanga to attend the training. “I’m a bit excited, and scared because of the responsibilities that may come after you become a certified commissioner. But also excited for the opportunities that may come, and I hope I can share these back home in Zamboanga,” says Yap.
Yap first encountered Tzu Chi back when he was a college student in Manila. “I’m a bit of an introvert, and I have trouble socializing with people. So, during college, I decided that I want to explore different organizations. I need to put myself out there,” Yap recalls. He then searched for organizations online, and found out about ABS-CBN Foundation’s Bantay Bata and Tzu Chi Foundation. “So, I sent email to both, and it was Tzu Chi who replied and invited me to join activities. That’s how I got involved,” he shares. His first volunteer experience was a visit to a home for the aged in Pampanga.
Several years forward since moving to Zamboanga 12 years ago, Yap began to be active again when the pandemic started, leading Tzu Chi Zamboanga’s pandemic relief efforts. With a renewed spirit, he now works actively with Muslim communities in his province.
As a Muslim, he finds Tzu Chi’s teachings very much in line with Islam. “It’s about serving people. That’s just it. It’s about serving people, loving people, helping them. It’s very much the same,” Yap says.
“They never experience someone giving them something without expecting anything in return. They were a bit surprised because they thought everyone has an agenda,” Yap adds. This pure intention, he believes, is how Tzu Chi was able to build trust and develop relationship with them.
As he does more volunteer training to cultivate more of Tzu Chi’s ways and wisdom, Yap looks forward to Tzu Chi having more presence in Zamboanga and its surrounding islands. “I hope to plant more Buddhist seeds in these areas to where people are scared to go.”
Another volunteer, Claire Santos, was beaming with joy as she officially becomes a training commissioner. Santos was a beneficiary of Tzu Chi’s disaster relief efforts in Maly, San Mateo, Rizal when ‘Habagat’ (Southwest Monsoon) ravaged her house in August 2012. “We were so happy to see Tzu Chi volunteers because it was the first time that a foundation that big came to help us. And they were not choosing who to help. They help everyone,” Santos recalls. Inspired by Tzu Chi’s unconditional love, she decided to become a volunteer and joined Tzu Chi’s activities.
“I feel very happy that we get to see all the volunteers again, especially the ones we’ve been longing to see. I am really happy today,” Santos says excitedly. Now moving up after ten years of apprenticeship, she expressed how grateful she is to be part of Tzu Chi that has helped her grow over the years. “As long as there is Tzu Chi, I’m here to do the work. I will continue my service to the foundation, for the sake of my fellow volunteers and the people who need our help.”
Santos has always felt at home. It’s like being in family, she says.
Just as how CEO Yuñez put it. “Tzu Chi is a big family,” says Yuñez as he recognized the efforts of all volunteers and staff who worked together to mount the event. “I’m very thankful to the brothers and sisters of the training committee, the group leaders, for accompanying our participants in this journey. I’m also grateful to the kitchen team, the livelihood team for the preparation that have started a few days ago.”
After the morning session, trainees were divided into Filipino, English, and Chinese speaking groups. Sessions include teaching of Tzu Chi etiquette and sign language, and sharing of Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s story.
Trainees were divided into small groups for sharing and discussion of what they have experienced and learned as Tzu Chi volunteers.
“We’re together because we have affinity,” CEO Yuñez says to the volunteers.
As he wishes everyone to go together on the path of Tzu Chi to help each other achieve more, Yuñez leaves words of wisdom from Dharma Master Cheng Yen herself, “It is never too late for deep-rooted affinity to blossom. Do not worry over a distant journey as long as one finds the way.”