It was the sixth time that members of the Tzu Chi Collegiate attended the U.N. event, which opened on August 3. Of the total of 37, eight participated in the opening at the U.N. building, while others visited the Red Cross and disaster relief organizations in New York. Six went to South Africa to take part in activities to help children. For everyone, it was an excellent learning experience, full of surprises. They participated in classes, spoke to a wide variety of people and took the opportunity to promote the humanistic ideals of the foundation.
The opening ceremony was held at 9.30 a.m. on August 3 in a conference hall seating 600 people. The Tzu Chi Collegiate was the only organization dressed in uniform, of blue and white. As the other attendees sat down, the Tzu Chi members stood up, forming a light blue ribbon that caught the eye. Condoleezza Rice, the U.N. representative from the U.S. gave a brief and insightful speech in language that the young people could easily understand. Then a screen in the hall showed the closing speech of Ban Ki-moon, Secretary–General of the U.N., at the U.N. Security Council one week earlier. In the past, the council did not discuss the topic of young people; but this time Ban not only mentioned them but also twice paused for a while when he passed the main assembly hall.
The young members of Tzu Chi took the opportunity to interact with other international youth groups at the assembly and made friends with other young people who shared the same aspirations to help the world. It enabled them to expand their perspectives. After the opening ceremony, the participants gathered at the conference hall each day to listen to the speeches; in the afternoon, seminars were hosted by different organizations.
The young Tzu Chi members lost no chance to learn. After each speech, they were encouraged by other Tzu Chi volunteers to interact with the speaker and ask searching questions. They also took the opportunity to introduce the foundation. One of their groups had the chance to interview the chairman of the assembly, Patrick Sciarratt. He had a very good impression about Tzu Chi and fully supported the young people in hosting a seminar.
The lunch period was a very important time for the Tzu Chi young people to interact with the other participants from around the world. Every day, the Tzu Chi chapter from Chinatown, New York prepared vegetarian lunch boxes and delivered them to the UN assembly in order for the young volunteers to eat and interact with the others. Some of them generously shared their lunch boxes with the others.
On the third day, the Tzu Chi Collegiate held their seminar, which they had prepared for a long time. The speakers were Liu Si-Jia and Huang Huai-Shuen and their topic “The Effect of Vegetarianism on the Environment”. In order to make the speech more convincing to the audience, two members collected a great deal of data and statistics to show how vegetarianism supports the eco-system. The seminar lasted 30 minutes and was the first they had presented during eight visits to the assembly. Initially, they had no opportunity to speak, then they were given two minutes and this time, finally, a full half-hour presentation. The seminar left a deep impression on those who attended. One of the professionals from the education industry invited Tzu Chi to a high school in New York to give a speech and teach the students how to do charity work.
Translated by Kay Taso
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