Monday, Aug 20th

Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Monday, 06 June 2016 00:00

Beyond What the Eyes Can See

Written by  Chong Pei Fen / Ben Tre, Vietnam

The sincerest love and care could be felt in the heart even without a word said. [Photograph by Fu Wing Hoong]

Vietnam is experiencing the worst drought and saltwater intrusion in a century. The dry spell since October 2015 has caused a sharp fall in harvest and badly impacted the livelihood of the local people, particularly the poor villagers who depended on agriculture. At the request of the local People’s Aid Coordinating Committee (PACCOM) and after due assessments, Tzu Chi decided to provide relief supplies to affected villagers of An Hiep and An Duc Communes in Ben Tre Province.


On June 3, 2016, a team of 18 volunteers from Tzu Chi KL & Selangor (majority from Tzu Chi Entrepreneurs’ Group) was despatched to Vietnam to support the local volunteers in the relief distribution.

The team arrived safely at the Ho Chi Minh International Airport around 10 am local time, and was warmly welcomed by the Vietnamese volunteers. After lunch, the Malaysian team, together with six Taiwanese volunteers, person-in-charge of Tzu Chi Cambodia and some Vietnamese volunteers, departed for Ben Tre Province, some three hours’ bus ride from Ho Chi Minh City.

A team of volunteers visited the local authorities to discuss and finalize the arrangements for the relief distribution, while the rest headed straight for the Ben Tre Primary School, where the relief distribution would be held, for an on-site briefing. After the site visit, volunteers returned to Ho Chi Minh and settled for the night.

Early the following morning, volunteers made another trip to the school, but this time, with cleaning paraphernalia. Volunteer Ta Thi Len and 11 fellow volunteers from Hai Duong Province in Northern Vietnam also joined the team. Soon after arrival, everyone sprang into action – sweeping the floor, washing the toilets, cleaning the classrooms, preparing the relief goods, decorating the venue, and so on. It was scorching hot and humid. Everyone sweated profusely but was drenched in joy knowing that what they were doing would make the aid recipients feel loved and respected.

Despite the long journey of more than 1,000 km on land and air transport the day before, Ta Thi Len was full of vigour. She shared, “Overseas volunteers have come here to help us on their own expenses, and have dedicated their time and energy willingly. Moreover, they are so joyful in their work. I could feel their Great Love. It is a tremendous source of motivation for us. As a local volunteer, I must seize this opportunity to learn and contribute what I can.”

Volunteer Phung Dong Hung from Ho Chi Minh, who participated in a relief distribution for the first time, also expressed his appreciation to the Taiwanese and Malaysian volunteers for sharing Tzu Chi’s spirit and their experiences with the local volunteers. He was deeply moved to see how the volunteers had worked with enthusiasm and mindfulness throughout the day for his countrymen.

We hear your cries

As early as 7 am on June 5, while volunteers were making final preparation for the relief distribution, some villagers were already seen waiting patiently near the school gate. Among them was a teary-eyed elderly woman, who expressed emotionally when a volunteer showed her concern, “I am overwhelmed by the thought that Tzu Chi had come all the way from Taiwan to help me…” Her words tugged at the volunteer’s heartstrings.

“… Sincerely I give you an understanding smile, staying by your side to end your worries, just when you raise your head and your tears flow no more, oh, how it moves my heart…” At 8.50 am, this heart-warming song, “Love in the World”, enveloped the school compound packed with aid recipients from 919 households and over 400 government officials and Tzu Chi volunteers.

Following the sign language presentation, Duong Van Chuong, Deputy Chairman of Ba Tri District Committee, delivered his speech. He thanked Tzu Chi for responding to the request for help promptly and providing material aid, especially drinking water, to the villagers who suffered from the drought.

Then, Taiwanese volunteer, Chen Jin Hai conveyed the Master’s messages and concern for the victims. Although the Master could not be there for the affected villagers personally, her compassion was deeply felt. Tran Van Tuan, Deputy Head of the An Duc Youth Group, approached Tzu Chi volunteers to find out more about the red envelop of blessings from the Master. He also informed them of his intention to share its significance with fellow committee members.

The distribution started after a ceremonial presentation of rice to the village representatives and a prayer for peace and safety. Guided by volunteers, the aid recipients moved in orderly queues to receive the relief goods. Each household was allotted with varied amount of relief supplies – 60-litre pail with lid, cooking oil, rice, 20-litre bottled water, water redemption voucher, oats and sugar, depending on the number of household members.

Volunteers also thoughtfully formed a serving team to assist the aid recipients to carry the relief goods, and a caring team to serve water to all. On the other hand, volunteers from the sign language team engaged the aid recipients, who were waiting for their turns, in performing the body and hand movements to the songs aired. The cheerful atmosphere diverted everyone’s attention from the blistering heat.

Nguyen Tan Dat, Chairman of Ben Tre Union of Friendship Organization (UFO) was moved to see the caring team in action. He commended, “This seemingly small gesture is indeed a show of respect and gratitude!” Do Minh Duc, Deputy Chairman of Ben Tre UFO, remarked that the distribution event was a success. He expressed his heartfelt appreciation to Tzu Chi for not only bringing material aid to the affected villagers, but also love to Ben Tre. On behalf of the UFO, he welcomed Tzu Chi to organize more activities there.

More than material aid

It was indeed sad to see the villagers, who were poor to begin with, to suffer from the impacts of drought. Eighty-one-year-old Nguyen Thi Sieu, who lives alone, shared that although she had previously received relief aid from many other organizations, none felt the same as this. She found the relief distribution full of human warmth. She said, “I am very happy to receive the drinking water from Tzu Chi because I have just used up my water. I wish Master Cheng Yen good health, and I hope all of you, Tzu Chi volunteers, will stay healthy. I really wish I could live to see you coming to my village again…”

Another elderly woman, Huynh Thi Xung, who also stays alone, was all smiles to get the relief supplies from Tzu Chi. She informed that the provision of rice from Tzu Chi was wonderfully timely because she had run out of rice. Grinning from ear to ear, she thanked the volunteers and added that she appreciated their kindness from the bottom of her heart.

Villager Pham Thi Thu Ha was intensely touched to learn that some volunteers had travelled from overseas to help her. From the Master’s messages, she could feel the love of the Master and Tzu Chi volunteers. She choked back tears and said, “When I touched the packs of rice, oil and other items, I could feel the love that came with them. I am truly moved to receive the Master’s blessings. I will keep the red envelop of blessings properly because it signifies the Master’s love for us and it brings us happiness. It also reminds us to help the less fortunate. I will remember these gifts from the Master forever.”

The two sessions of relief distribution held in the morning and afternoon had benefitted a total of 1,637 households (919 households and 718 households from An Hiep and An Duc Communes respectively). Volunteer David Liu, who came from Taiwan Tzu Chi Headquarters to oversee the relief distribution, thanked the government officials for the support and help rendered, and all volunteers for their dedication and contribution. He also called on to everyone, especially the young helpers, to join the ranks of Great Love.

It was undoubtedly physically exhausting to work under the searing sun from early morning until late afternoon, but the joy the volunteers felt was immense. We could not be more gratified to see the beautiful smiles on the faces of the aid recipients and to be rest assured that now, they have rice and clean drinking water supplies that can last them for at least two months. Faced with language barrier, it was almost impossible for us to communicate with the aid recipients verbally, but through eye contacts and genuine smiles, we knew that they felt our sincerity and love. May the seeds of Great Love planted in their hearts sprout and permeate everywhere.

 

The dry spell in Vietnam since October 2015 caused the soil to crack and the harvest was poor. [Photograph by Van Thien Luong]   Tzu Chi volunteers visited the Ben Tre Union of Friendship Organization (UFO) and shared with them Tzu Chi’s principles and humanistic culture in relief distribution. [Photograph by Beh Chun How]

The dry spell in Vietnam since October 2015 caused the soil to crack and the harvest was poor. [Photograph by Van Thien Luong]
 
Tzu Chi volunteers visited the Ben Tre Union of Friendship Organization (UFO) and shared with them Tzu Chi’s principles and humanistic culture in relief distribution. [Photograph by Beh Chun How]
 
The Ben Tre Primary School was packed with aid recipients, who looked forward to receiving the relief supplies. [Photograph by Fu Wing Hoong]   Volunteers ushered the aid recipients to the distribution site. The elderly woman in a purple top was overwhelmed by the thought that Tzu Chi had come all the way from Taiwan to help them. [Photograph by Fu Wing Hoong]

The Ben Tre Primary School was packed with aid recipients, who looked forward to receiving the relief supplies. [Photograph by Fu Wing Hoong]
 
 
Volunteers ushered the aid recipients to the distribution site. The elderly woman in a purple top was overwhelmed by the thought that Tzu Chi had come all the way from Taiwan to help them. [Photograph by Fu Wing Hoong]
 
Volunteers performed sign language interpretation of the song, “Love in the World”. [Photograph by Fu Wing Hoong]   Duong Van Chuong, Deputy Chairman of Ba Tri District Committee, thanked Tzu Chi for providing material aid, especially drinking water, to the villagers who suffered from the drought. [Photograph by Fu Wing Hoong]

Volunteers performed sign language interpretation of the song, “Love in the World”. [Photograph by Fu Wing Hoong]
 
 
Duong Van Chuong, Deputy Chairman of Ba Tri District Committee, thanked Tzu Chi for providing material aid, especially drinking water, to the villagers who suffered from the drought. [Photograph by Fu Wing Hoong]
 
Everyone prayed piously for peace and safety. [Photograph by Fu Wing Hoong]   Volunteers assisted the aid recipients to carry their relief supplies to the main gate. [Photograph by Beh Chun How]

Everyone prayed piously for peace and safety. [Photograph by Fu Wing Hoong]
 
 
Volunteers assisted the aid recipients to carry their relief supplies to the main gate. [Photograph by Beh Chun How]
 
Pham Thi Thu Ha (in pink top) was utterly moved by the love from Master Cheng Yen and Tzu Chi volunteers. She said, “I will remember these gifts from the Master forever.” [Photograph by Fu Wing Hoong]  

Pham Thi Thu Ha (in pink top) was utterly moved by the love from Master Cheng Yen and Tzu Chi volunteers. She said, “I will remember these gifts from the Master forever.” [Photograph by Fu Wing Hoong]