Kathmandu: Buddhist Tzu Chi Charity Foundation was founded by Cheng Yen in 1966. Cheng Yen lived a frugal lifestyle on self-sustaining, yet she endeavored to alleviate sufferings and bestow happiness to the impoverished people. Now Tzu Chi has spread across 128 countries. The Foundation provides aid to support more than two hundred over schools and construct 40 units of new hospitals. When disaster
To start with, what initiatives have your organization taken to provide support to Nepal during the disasters?
In Nepal, we constructed 1,800 units of permanent houses during the 1993 major flood for the flood victims in three villages which we called Great Love Village. Now these 1,800 families are living a self-sustaining moderately affluent lifestyle. We also provided the children of these families with education grants. Now these children have achieved very good accomplishments. During the 2015 earthquakes, we arrived in Kathmandu immediately upon receiving the news. At that time, the airplane could not land in Nepal due to the air congestion and so we had to land
We immediately set up a treatment area to treat and conduct surgery to those injured victims . Because there was no light, we had to rely on using the solar light to treat the wound or to perform the surgical treatment. We even helped in the birth of the first baby after the earthquake disaster.
Actually, our support to Nepal goes way back since 1993 during the major flood to 2015 major earthquakes and up until now, Tzu Chi has never left Nepal, the homeland of the Buddha. The Buddha was born in Nepal and grew up here for 29 years before he left this sacred land in Nepal to go to India. Nepal is the homeland of the Buddha. It is also the homeland for us, the Buddhist disciples. Wherever we work, we do not forget to introduce Nepal as the homeland of the Buddha. Now we are doing these charity works in Lumbini, in the hope that Buddha’s accomplishments will be known to the people worldwide.
Recently we performed a live musical sign language performance drama of the “Life of Buddha” that attracted more than 20,000 spectators. From October 20-22, we will be performing at the Taipei Arena. If we are able to broadcast just a short section of the live performance, we will try to set up Zoom so that you can join and see the actual scene and how we have the drama on the “life of Buddha” from his birth to how he grew up in Kapilavastu to when he left Kapilavastu to renounce his secular life for spiritual cultivation on stage.
What other activities does the Foundation engage in apart from charity?
Tzu Chi does not get involved in political activities. We only offer assistance and spread love. In 1991, Tzu Chi went to Mainland China for disaster relief work. Tzu Chi has a huge mass of volunteers and they were all the local volunteers in Mainland China. We have hospitals in Beijing and Hebei. During the flood disaster in Harbin, Tzu Chi distributed 200,000 of relief provisions to the disaster victims. We had built schools and the Great Love Village there, but we never participated in politics. In Lumbini, we will reach out to provide aid to the impoverished areas.
How did your Foundation help Nepal during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Nepal did not approach Tzu Chi for help but we spontaneously approached the government of Nepal and said that we are willing to offer help to the country. At that time, we chartered nine units of airplanes loaded with Covid-19 medical devices including N95 and surgical masks. We delivered these medical aid provisions to medical institutions in Kapilavastu. We provided medical aid to the rural villages up in the mountains. Because there were no roads, we used donkeys and horses to carry the medical supplies up to the mountaintop. We hope to provide our assistance, driven by pure love, kindness and compassion, to other places as long as there is the need. We are most willing to work together with the country and co-operate with the country’s needs to do what the country requires. While doing so, we comply with Tzu Chi’s principles.
What are some of the notable activities that Tzu Chi has conducted in Nepal?
In 1993, Tzu Chi spontaneously approached Nepal to find out how we could help you in disaster relief. The process was quite tough because at that time the people were not familiar with Tzu Chi. But we were able to construct 1,800 units of the permanent houses.
In 2015, we went back to that place again. When the people saw our blue and white uniform, they recognized the uniform and said ‘we know your people.’ The local people asked Tzu Chi volunteers where they came from. They said they came from Taiwan. The local residents there said ‘we are living in Taiwan village.’ We realized that they called the Great Love Villages ‘Taiwan villages.’ We connected with them through love and kindness, caring concern and enthusiasm. We tried all means to render our help and support to them.
How do you get connected with Nepal?
Tzu Chi was founded on the grounds of Buddhism. Tzu Chi attaches special importance to Nepal because it is the birthplace and homeland of the Buddha. Like I said earlier, the Buddha was born here and grew up here. He bestowed love and concern everywhere. He gave up his own luxurious lifestyle and let go of the worldly fame and status to be the King. He left his fabulous palace to seek the path of liberation and enlightenment.
When I came to Nepal, I found the residents very friendly and amicable. They have mutual respect for each other. They are full of kindness and love and they are forbearing and accommodating. In Lumbini village, for example, there are those who live a very good life. There used to be caste-based discrimination in the past but there is no such discrimination at the moment. People live there together in harmony. This makes me feel that people in Nepal are very amicable, respectful and friendly. Despite these good things, Nepal still has impoverished places. This is because of lack of education and poverty. So children cannot still pursue their education. We must let these impoverished children pursue their education so that in future they would be able to live a good life. “Education Promoting Zero Dropout Plan” is very important for Nepal. We must thoroughly implement this Plan and convince the parents to allow the children to go to schools.
Our Tzu Chi volunteers are worried that this plan might not be fully realized simply by taking children to schools to study. The Buddha has said that regardless of any caste, everyone has the innate Buddha nature. We need to create a situation whereby the innate Buddha nature gets manifested. The only way to enable all people to be on an equal level is through education.
You talked about “Education in Promoting Zero Droplet Plan.” How do you implement it in Nepal? How would it contribute to the development of the country?
As I have already mentioned, the most important thing for transformation is education. Second, although Nepal is the birthplace of the Buddha, Buddhist devotees are few here. Thus not many people are aware of Buddha’s philosophy and teachings. We really want everyone to understand Buddhism and its philosophy. The Buddha has left behind the most important precious treasury and his wisdom. If everyone could hold this precious treasury in their hands and polish it and make it shine, everyone could understand Buddhism in accordance with Buddha’s heart of compassion to have mutual love for each other. Then the people would be able to transform themselves.
I have come to Kapalivastu many times. Each time, I saw that roads were dirty and the traffic was in a mess. This time it was different. I saw the traffic order is very good, the roads are clean and the environment is much better. I saw that citizens are willing to cooperate with mayors to accomplish development.
We plan to build schools in Kapilavastu. Basically, the women in the rural villages have never stepped out from their houses. We introduced education and skills programs such as sewing skills for them. Now they sew clothes which we buy thus helping them in income generation. With the source of income, they are able to support their household needs. They have benefited from the program. They are not confined to household chores like in the past.
We plan to construct houses there. The male members of the community will participate in construction and they will also acquire skills and technology to construct houses. Then we will employ them to build houses in other places. This way, they will earn for themselves too. When both men and women are engaged in income generation they can better support the health and education needs of their children. Apart from this, we will also establish medical care services. We can have public health care services in the community.
You participated in the Health Awards ceremony organized by Nepal Live Group. What did you feel about it?
As I was in that august gathering of award distribution on September 8, I was thinking your health magazine, Swasthya Khabar Patrika, is very popular in Nepal. Health magazines are popular in Taiwan as well. We are grateful to you for recognizing our efforts in Nepal’s health sector by honoring us with a letter of appreciation. I am happy to see that our supplies of medical devices, wherever we have distributed them, are being used by the hospitals. I am grateful to those hospitals who accepted our provisions of the medical devices. I strongly believe and hope that Tzu Chi will become one of the sustainable partners of Nepal.
That said, I would also like to emphasize that as much as physical health, mutual care and concern among the people and encouraging people to fulfill their social responsibility is equally important. Let me give you an example of a handful of rice. Suppose you are cooking a meal. You put five cups of rice inside the cooking pot, but you take out a handful of rice from the pot and put it in a container. When you do this for a month, for example, you will have collected enough to feed an impoverished family for one week. So this small act of kindness can do a lot to change the situation. This is what we have been doing in all places worldwide through our organization.
The second way in which you promote mutual well being is by working in cooperation with other overseas NGOs. Putting one dollar for charity, according to the International Economist, will have the effect of 13 dollars. If all the charity organizations from all places worldwide are able to come here to help out the people in need, they will be able to achieve a lot for Nepal.
Any final words to our readers?
Tzu Chi Master Cheng Yen believed in the idea of selfless contribution. She used to say that everyone has one lamp, when my lamp lights up your lamps, everyone’s lamp will be brightened up, yet the brightness of my lamp still remains. Every one person is like the firefly, with only one firefly, it will not glow, but with multi millions of fireflies, it will brighten up the world.
She really hoped to light up the brightness of love. In the same way, everyone has the power of love. If everyone can come together to participate, every day without affecting your daily livelihood, deposit 50 cents or one handful of rice or half handful of rice, to participate in this act of kindness, accruing sand to form a tower, accumulate together, then you can reach out to help other villages.
We envision a world where everyone has rice to eat, where there is no poverty. You can act as the little ant. It is not easy to eliminate poverty. But everyone puts in efforts, every one becomes the little ant and a firefly, everyone saves up one mouthful of rice, then we can make a difference in the lives of others. This is the greatest aspiration of Master Cheng Yen.
We are also collaborating with a medical institution on a fatal acute leukocyte disease patient. The medical team from Taiwan and the medical team from Nepal team up together in this initiative. We hope that through such networking, we have the opportunity to come together to uplift the standard of medical care in Nepal. I also hope that for a sustainable planet, everyone will come together to promote plant-based vegetarianism. When people eat less meat, it will also contribute to reducing climate change impacts. Your media can also promote this cause. We want to spread the teachings of the Buddha across the world. Let all the people around the world know Nepal better. Let all the people around the world know the birthplace of the Buddha.