Tzu Chi Canada has more than quadrupled the size of its headquarters in Richmond, British Columbia, as the Buddhist charitable organization expands its work around the region.
Regional Canadian government leaders gathered for an opening ceremony March 19, at the non-profit organization’s new offices in Richmond, a city immediately south of Vancouver.
Leaders present included member of Canada’s Parliament Alice Wong, and Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, as well as representatives from local community groups that have benefited from Tzu Chi’s support. Several expressed their gratitude for the efforts of Tzu Chi volunteers.
“Any time there is any kind of disaster, you can count on the Tzu Chi organization to be a great assistance,” Brodie said. “We certainly welcome you to the re-establishment of this great office. We have this office right in our community and we know they are going to do great work. We look forward to working with Tzu Chi for many many years.”
Wong echoed his thoughts, and pointed out the importance of Tzu Chi Canada to the region’s large Chinese-origin community.
“Tzu Chi Foundation is the largest non-governmental organization in the Chinese-speaking world, and your efforts have improved the lives of countless people,” Wong said. “Your values of sincerity, integrity, trust and honesty are also Canadian values. And we are proud you are a part of Canada’s national fabric.”
Event organizers sought March 19 for the event because it’s also the birthday of Guanyin Bodhisattva (in Sanskrit, Avalokitesvara) according to the lunar calendar.
“We chose to have the opening ceremony on Guanyin Bodhisattva’s birthday because it is very meaningful and symbolic. Guanyin Bodhisattva is described as having a thousand eyes and a thousand arms because she can see and help relief sufferings whenever and wherever needed,” said Doris Wu, director of Tzu Chi’s Richmond district. “Our master, Dharma Master Cheng Yen, encourages us that if we can recruit 500 volunteers, together we will also have a thousand eyes and a thousand arms, and we can help relief sufferings everywhere just as the Guanyin Bodhisattva can do. Therefore, we hope with this new Richmond Office we can recruit more volunteers, and be able to carry on more charitable works.”
The new 3,000-square-foot facility, which Tzu Chi purchased and opened late in 2013, includes office space, a meeting room, and a commercial kitchen.
The facility features a Buddha hall, as well as a dining hall that also serves as a multi-function assembling space.
The Tzu Chi bookstore-café makes available Buddhist and spiritually enlightening publications, and beverages.
Activities at center include regular volunteer gatherings, dharma sutra study groups, community classes, and seminars featuring topics on humanitarianism, and on spiritual cultivation.
Through these events, Tzu Chi wishes to inspire and enlighten more people to find their intrinsic nature of loving kindness. The office will also serve as an emergency help center when accidents strike.
Tzu Chi Canada opened its first Richmond office in 2006 in a leased 800-square-foot space. As the group’s charitable works expanded over the years, the space became insufficient to support the growing activities.
Tzu Chi Canada is experiencing a major expansion this year. With two new offices opened in Richmond and in Surrey, B.C, another city to the east, Tzu Chi strives to “recruit more living bodhisattvas” in our society.
“Tzu Chi” means “compassion relief” in Chinese Mandarin. As its name suggests, the vision of Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation is to help those in need with compassion, and to inspire more people to do good deeds to help make the world a better place.
Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation is a world-wide charity founded by Dharma Master Cheng Yen in 1966. Originating from Taiwan, Tzu Chi Foundation currently operates offices in 47 countries, supporting humanitarian projects in 84 countries.
Tzu Chi volunteers are actively and constantly involved in community events and services, because they believe that Buddhism is not just about meditation and chanting in a temple. Instead, it is more about reaching out into the community to relief sufferings and to fill people’s hearts with inner happiness and contentment.
Established in 1992, Tzu Chi Foundation Canada currently has nine offices with over 2,000 volunteers serving more than 80 service stations and various charitable programs across Canada. In British Columbia alone, an average of 108 Tzu Chi volunteers provide services every single day.
Tzu Chi volunteers, following Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s guidance, bring the essence of Buddhadharma into practice, by conducting charitable and humanitarian services.
In the greater Vancouver area, Tzu Chi volunteers dedicate their efforts to providing senior care, food bank and hot meal services, winter relief aid distribution, a free clinic providing traditional Chinese medicine and health seminars, emergency social services, and global disaster relief.
“It’s just been so amazing to watch the Tzu Chi volunteers come in and help us set up our breakfast program, for example, or donate funds to help provide money to start the program,” said Iha Farquhar, community school coordinator at Byrne Creek Secondary School in nearby Burnaby. There Tzu Chi Foundation helps to run the breakfast program and Christmas Hamper Program.
Byrne Creek Secondary School serves many students and families from all over the world, who have come from war-torn or famine-stricken areas. Many of the families are living with extreme poverty, and many of the students come to school hungry.
“The support from Tzu Chi is exactly what the kids needed. They needed to know that they were cared for and loved,” Farquhar said with great emotion. “And for that I’m really grateful. Just personally grateful. But also, I hear from the students often. They worry that the volunteers might not come. They talk about [Tzu Chi volunteers] being there a lot. They want to see the volunteers there. They look forward to it, and I think that’s a real value.”
The breakfast program is just one example of Tzu Chi Canada’s contribution in the local community.
During the summer festival season in Vancouver, Tzu Chi volunteers participate as “green ambassadors” to help with recycling, site cleaning, and advocating environmental care.
“I have never seen as committed a group of volunteers as the group here. The work is hard, messy, and dirty. But the people are willing to do it. They are organized and highly motivated,” said Ian Williamson, community outreach coordinator of Metro Vancouver.
Williamson said he was particularly impressed by Tzu Chi volunteers’ dedicated recycling work during the annual TELUS TAIWANFest, an annual event Tzu Chi has participated in for over a decade.
Tzu Chi volunteers apply their core value of “universal compassion” to Mother Earth as well as all living beings. Therefore, they are devoted to environmental protection efforts, hoping that one day people can live in peace and harmony with each other in the society, and in harmony with nature.
Dharma Master Cheng Yen taught her disciples that “the most joyful and fulfilling life is a life of giving.”
Yet, “giving is not the privilege of the rich, but the privilege of the sincere,” she said.
Tzu Chi volunteers diligently follow Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s guidance, and carry out the essence of Buddha’s teaching into humanitarian works around the world.