In the open field next to the Pasir Ris MRT station, a resounding drum performance kick-started the annual Festive Charity Fair held by Tzu Chi Merit Organization. Throngs of people, including members of the public and volunteers of the NGO, filled the venue, which was imbued with a rich Chinese New Year atmosphere.
The bustling event was held from 19th to 20th January 2019, offering a wide variety of delicious vegetarian fare, Chinese New Year goodies as well as Jing Si’s publications and natural lifestyle products.
Since 2006, Tzu Chi has been organising a Charity Fair before the Chinese New Year season. It was held outside the Jing Si Hall in the few first few years before moving its venue to the open field near the Pasir Ris MRT station. The annual event is carried out with a strong focus on environmental considerations. It does not provide disposable utensils and packaging materials, and encourages shoppers to bring their own bags and containers.
At the Fair this year, students from an international school worked together with Tzu Chi volunteers to collect food scraps for composting into fertilizer to be used in their school grounds, thereby turning waste into useful resource.
Tan Jin Yu, who was visiting the Charity Fair for the fifth time, supported the green cause by bringing her own shopping bags. She had come early to enjoy her brunch and also bought plenty of goodies to stock up for the approaching lunar new year.
“My younger sister supports environmental protection, and I’ve learned to do so, too. I’ve also invited my friends to purchase their New Year goodies here to support charity,” shared Tan.
A month before the event, Tzu Chi Singapore started recruiting volunteers from the public via several platforms, including its official website, social media, and Giving.sg. These volunteers helped to mend the stalls selling New Year goodies, to do recycling, and to wash the dishes and utensils.
Yue Yan Zheng, who signed up as a volunteer via the Tzu Chi Singapore website, often volunteers at a home for the age. Volunteering at the recycling section of the Charity Fair was a new and refreshing experience for him.
“Many of the experienced volunteers shared with me how to sort recyclables, and I’ve learned a lot from them. Many hands make light work, and we can work very efficiently,” commented Yue.
Liu Bao Fen, who visited the Festive Charity Fair for the first time this year, was very surprised to see such a large-scale bazaar as she had expected it to be a small affair. She was especially impressed by the warm hospitality shown by the volunteers attending to the visitors.
After learning about Tzu Chi’s Missions, she was deeply touched by the international disaster relief efforts of the NGO and expressed her wish to support the organisation’s charitable causes by signing up as a regular donor.
Selfless giving in action
Tzu Chi Singapore also presented appreciation certificates to vendors that participated in the Charity Fair. One of them was She Mu Zhen, a fourth-time sponsor who provided a few dozen boxes of rice for the event this year.
“Besides supporting charitable causes, we can introduce healthy food ingredients to people, too. We are helping others with what we do, so I continue to be a sponsor of the Fair these few years,” said She. He also encouraged and asked his business friends to support the event, in the hope of raising more funds for Tzu Chi.
Liu Lian Hua (pictured below, centre) ran a food stall at the Charity Fair. Her mother, who passed away in December last year, was an active Tzu Chi volunteer.
“Mum was very grateful for the opportunity to join Tzu Chi, so we continue to walk her journey to show our gratitude. This is also the only thing we can do for her now,” shared Liu.
She started preparing the ingredients at 4am in the morning and even got her husband and children to help out.
“We want to let our kids learn about selfless giving. We contribute our efforts without seeking anything in return and also donated money as well. Although it is tiring work, we feel very happy. It is different from just donating money.”
Clad in a Tzu Chi volunteer vest, Vaithiyanatha (pictured below, right) and a fellow volunteer helped to load pieces of ice into a cooler, which provided cool air on the sweltering and humid day. Every hour, they had to add ice to and change the water in all the air coolers placed around the venue; both of them appreciated the opportunity to give of themselves over the weekend.
Their employer, Tzu Chi volunteer Yan Ya Fa, invited six of his workers to help with logistics matters at the Fair. He also guided them to do recycling during work days and encouraged them to adopt a Tzu Chi Bamboo Coin Bank to “save a little each day to help others in need”.
“Come and try this delicious ice-cream!”
Uta H.Dehnert, who hails from Germany, called out to passers-by as she helped to promote and sell ice-cream at the Charity Fair. Before coming to Singapore, she had learned about Tzu Chi at the NGO’s office in Batu Pahat, Malaysia.
Though drenched in sweat in the humid tropical weather, Uta was all smiles and very impressed with the team spirit displayed Tzu Chi volunteers. She said resolutely, “I will definitely give back to society and help those in need. As long as I am able, I will continue to volunteer.”