Inspiration, Philippines, Visayas

Palo, Leyte – What We Can Learn from Tzu Chi Foundation

“Margie.”

The little girl told me when I asked about her name. It was an interesting experience for me, to be in a village where thousands of Yolanda(Typhoon Haiyan) survivors live.

We just finished our vegetarian lunch and instead of having some chit-chat with my new-found friends from DOT, tour operators and media partners, I decided to explore the place. That’s when I saw Margie, walking alone outside the school.

The place is called Tzu Chi Great Love Village, the biggest housing project for the Yolanda survivors located in Palo, Leyte.

Tzu Chi Foundation Palo Leyte
Home for Yolanda survivors, The Tzu Chi Great Love Village in Palo Leyte

When you hear about it being the biggest project, instantly, you would think it’s probably a government program. But this village, an elaborate and long term plan to shelter our people who were in need actually came from a foundation, an NGO not even Filipino – The Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation.

Margie was a bit shy at first, probably not expecting an outsider and a big man like me would just talk to her for no reason. But since I speak waray, I slowly gained her trust and she became comfortable.

She started her story by telling how thankful she is for the foundation, for giving them home.

Just like the other villagers there, Margie also has a sad story.

Yolanda left them homeless, and also hopeless for their future. If not for Tzu Chi, she couldn’t imagined what their lives would be. She spoke like an adult. Seems that Margie has already endured a lot of pain and challenges at an early age.

She told me her tatay (father) has a condition. His left eye got blurry (almost blind), when a debris fell onto him during the typhoon. Then after a minute, she told me her brother died but hesitated to go on. I asked her, “what happened?” but she just shook her head and I started seeing tears in her eyes.

At that time, I understood, so I just stopped.

We walked towards the door of their computer room.She was silent. We were both silent while looking at the kids typing on the computers.

Tzu CHi Foundation Palo Leyte
She’s Margie.

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Tzu Chi Foundation: What You Need To Know

On the second day of the tour, we were on our way to Palompon, Leyte to experience Kalanggaman Island when we talked about our itinerary for four days.

Inside the coaster bus, I was sitting beside my fellow blogger and friend, Joshua, and on the other side was Wilmark, the Region 8 contributor/correspondent of CNN Philippines. It was him who opened the talk about Tzu Chi Foundation which we visited on our last day in Leyte.

I noticed Wilmark spoke of high regard of Tzu Chi. From someone who also experienced the havoc of typhoon Yolanda, he seemed grateful for the foundation. It was Tzu Chi who first arrived in Tacloban for aide during the aftermath.

But one that really struck me was when he mentioned that Tzu Chi donated 30 million pesos for the rehabilitation of Tacloban’s Sto. Nino Church.

Aside from its help and relief efforts for the survivors, Tzu Chi, a Buddhist foundation donated millions to rebuild a Catholic church? At first, I needed to make a follow up question to Wilmark just to clarify what I just heard.

He said, “yes, you heard it right.”

Tzu Chi believes that in times of crisis and despair when there’s no one to hold on, people rely on their faith, the church. So they helped rebuild the church to uplift the spirit of the typhoon survivors, that there is hope after the devastating storm.

Tzu Chi Foundation was founded in 1966 by a Buddhist woman named Master Chen Yen. Witnessing the poverty in rural Taiwan, she realized that people were becoming poorer not because they lack money, but because they lack decent medical attention and facilities.

Armed with a dream and belief of better lives for her people, Master Chen Yen, led a group of women to inform and seek support about their plans of building a hospital in the province. Though, there were a lot of naysayers, Master Chen Yen persevered.

She continued helping people, nursing the diseased and continued seeking donations. After years of work, people were inspired by her dedication. Her supporters grew until they were able to hold fund raising campaigns.

After two decades of hardwork and perseverance, the first hospital in the province was built.

The inspiring story of Master Chen Yen has spread all over the world inspiring millions of volunteers. It was then that Tzu Chi started its relief efforts for calamity struck areas in the world.

Tzu Chi was the first NGO to penetrate Tacloban for aide and relief after the typhoon. If you could still remember what happened that time, they were even faster and more efficient than our own government.

Tzu CHi Foundation Palo Leyte
Warm welcom for us from the children of Tzu Chi Great Love Village

 

Exploring the Tzu Chi Great Love Village

Most would think that giving people some shelter is probably more than enough. But Tzi Chi is different.

They knew that the impact of the supertyphoon was so huge that giving people shelter might not be enough. People need the full support until they are able to stand up and walk on their own.

The houses in the village are powered by solar panels. Women are taught with livelihood programs like sewing and cooking while men are assisted to find jobs.

Children are being given the best education they deserve. They even have computer lessons. When we were given a chance to check out the students in the computer room, we were surprised they were really good with computers. I mean, this is a kind of education that is even at par with our public school system. Seeing the kids eager to type on their computers made us genuinely happy, and even grateful for Tzu Chi, for what they have given to these kids.

Tzu CHi Foundation Palo Leyte
The houses of the residents. All powered by solar panel

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Tzu CHi Foundation Palo Leyte
Livelihood program for women.
Tzu CHi Foundation Palo Leyte
Infrastracture.

 

Before we leave the village, a warm volunteer by the name of Henzy, invited us for a short video presentation.

There, we learned the inspiring story of Master Chen Yen.

Until they played the video of the Yolanda aftermath. Videos of the devastation, the desperate cry of survivors for help and the despair of a woman who lost all her children. Again, it was like the feeling when Yolanda happened went back.

I was trying to hold back my emotion. Then I looked at the others and saw some of them crying.

Tzu Chi knew that the immediate need of the people aside from water and food was to restore their dignity, their sense of value. So they launched the cash-for-work program wherein they gave people 500 pesos in exchange of cleaning up their community which at that time filled with debris.

This did not only brought back the people’s sense of value and hope but also triggered back the economy in the city.

Tzu CHi Foundation Palo Leyte
God Bless the Tzu Chi Volunteers. In some parts of the world, they are called the Blue Angels. Dressed in blue shirt and white pants.

By the time when we were back inside the coaster bus on our way to the airport, I couldn’t help but think about Tzu Chi and the awesome work they do.

It was inspiring but also painful.

A pain mixed with shame, that a foreign NGO could do all this for our people when we Filipinos sometimes are not willing to do.

In the midst of stories of Yolanda funds that are nowhere to be found, to the horrible situation of the Yolanda survivors at the government provided tents and shelters. All I could ask is why?

Why?

Tzu Chi has a long term and tangible plan for the Yolanda survivors, and it’s just shameful to think why our own government couldn’t do all this when they received all the millions of dollars of donations from all over the world.

It’s sad. But in the end, let’s try to focus on the good side. Let’s be thankful that there is Tzu Chi Foundation to show us how we should care for our own people.

If ever you feel the need to volunteer, to donate or to do something worthwhile, give it to Tzu Chi. I’ve seen them work so give it all. Let’s do our part in making sure that our help will go a long way.

 

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Watch this video.

Typhoon Haiyan: Tzu Chi brings hope to the Philippines

Contact Details of Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines

Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, Philippines – Still Thoughts Hall
76 Cordillera cor. Agno Sts., Brgy. DoñaJosefa, Quezon City
(632) 7320001
Email: tzuchiphil@yahoo.com  Website: http://tzuchi.org.ph/

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