The words Tzu Chi means Compassionate Relief in Chinese – a lovely way of expressing the help received by benefactors of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation. Originally founded in Taiwan in 1966, its Johor branch was established in 1995 with only 10 volunteers. Today, the foundation has more than a thousand volunteers; all of whom go through six months of training before working in the field.
In this society, compassion does not only mean to service humanity but also all living beings and Mother Earth as well. This means the members of Tzu Chi are encouraged to lead a meatless diet. Recycling is another one of their core virtues.
Lim Chiew Teng, Assistant Chairman of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Merits Society Malaysia (Johor Branch), spoke fondly of their founder Master Cheng Yen. She shared how Master Cheng Yen focuses on every detail when helping others. According to Lim Chiew Teng, their grand building was bought and renovated solely using contributions made to a special building fund; Master Cheng was stern about not using the money received through donations for the foundation – donations are meant for the recipients only. The Tzu Chi Merits Society also has their own manufactured and certified Halal and Vegetarian instant and delicious food products that they give out during disasters. This innovation by members of the society serves as a handy ration at times when heat and electricity are not readily available.
In 2016, when the nation was devastated by the fire that broke out at Hospital Sultanah Aminah, Tzu Chi volunteers were there to help pack the food aid received. Their involvement allowed for smooth distribution of food while maintaining cleanliness of the place. They sorted out different types of trash for recycling. As trained volunteers, they were also deployed to provide counselling and contributed RM1000 as solatium to the victims and their families.
Every month, they give out financial aid totaling up to RM200,000 to about 300 families who are poor, people who are ill, and single mothers. They continue to help until recipients are financially independent.
They believe that as we begin to care for the forests, rivers, and seas and become harmonious with the environment, the world will see fewer natural disasters. When living in harmony, there will be no greed for more wealth, but more willingness to lend a helping hand to those in need.