May 30, 2023
Tzu Chi Youth Still Thoughts Camp returns to BTCC
By Ben Baquilod
Tzu Chi Youth Philippines held the 2023 Still Thoughts Camp on May 26-28 at the Buddhist Tzu Chi Campus in Sta. Mesa, Manila. The event was the first youth camp held in four years and the 20th since it was first conducted in 1997.
The 3-day camp exposed the 41 participants to various lessons and interactive sessions including Tzu Chi’s history and missions, environmental protection, developing growth mindset, and filial piety. Divided in five groups, the campers actively participated in group games, campus tour, intimate sharing circles, and thanksgiving performances.
“We hope that our participants will know their own potentials and what they can do as youth,” said camp head Miaolin Li, who was once a participant of the Tzu Chi Youth Camp in 2016.
Seven years ago, Miaolin joined the camp as an extremely shy and introverted high school student, and the camp, she said, opened doors to knowing herself more and unleashing her potential. “It was an eye-opening experience. It also influenced my life decisions, such as what course to take in college.”
In a volunteer experience at the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) after the camp, she recalled of a touching incident with a young girl she met who was suffering from mental illness. When they were about to leave, the young girl hugged her tightly. “Initially, I didn’t how to react. But after that instance, I reflected about it and thought it’s her way of expressing gratitude for our visit,” she said. “I found that very meaningful, and that’s why I chose psychology as my college course.”
Today at 21, Miaolin is now providing therapy to children with special needs as a behavioral therapist—while actively doing volunteering work for Tzu Chi on the side.
“Tzu Chi has now become part of my life since I joined Tzu Chi Youth. Aside from helping others, it’s also about improving myself. And when I see even the little impacts we create for the people around us, I find it very fulfilling.”
One session that moved participants was the discussion on filial piety led by Ligaya Ng. Participants and facilitators alike found themselves in tears after listening to the talk and watching heartwarming video presentations about loving and caring for one’s parents.
“After the session, I realized how my parents love me so much and that they go the extra mile for me,” said Dan Perez, one of the youth participants. “I love my parents so much and I hope to make them proud in the future.”
Dan came to know Tzu Chi in November last year when her Auntie, Rosemary Perez, invited him to help her out during Fiesta Verde charity bazaar. He manned a kiosk and sold vegetarian cuapaos. “When we run out of stock, I would run all the way to the kitchen, carry three trays of cuapao, and run back,” he said. “That was a very fulfilling experience, because I was able to put smile on people’s faces.”
The same feeling of fulfillment was also what drew Alstein Lim, Dan’s best friend to join him in the bazaar and in the camp. “It was so much fun working together,” he said. “And in this camp, I actually got to learn more than I expected.”
Alstein vowed to put coins on his coin bank daily to help a Tzu Chi scholar, and to start telling his parents that he loves them more often. “Before, I think they’re just trying to restrict my freedom, to stop me from doing bad things. But now, I think they just really love me. So, I need to start being more conscious of that,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to volunteer more, especially with my friend, Dan, and to continue striving to become a better person overall,” Alstein added.
The best buddies also gained many new friends, one of them was Lance Ngo who joined Tzu Chi for the first time. His mother—who always encourages him to join programs and opportunities for him to become more sociable—signed him up for the camp when she saw the camp poster invitation online. “It's because of her that I really want to become more extroverted in a way, and really find myself. And I think in this camp, I was really able to do that,” Lance said.
Lance expressed gratitude to Dan, Alstein, and his groupmates for inspiring him to be sociable and be more active in the camp. He also thanked the volunteers and staff for working countless hours behind the scenes to make the camp possible.
“These three days may have been so short, but I’d definitely treasure and cherish this moment for my whole life,” he said.