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Tender care for the sick
From rejecting and fearing AIDS patients to accepting and caring for them—this is the common experience that binds most of the native African volunteers to one another. Other volunteers started out as Tzu Chi aid recipients only to become care providers themselves. Joyce Nkosi is one of them.

“Only one word can describe the life I used to lead—‘awful,’” she said. A stroke had left her husband bedridden, so Joyce had to support her family by cleaning her neighbors’ houses and washing their clothes. Day in and day out, she worked hard to eke out a living.

One day she met some Tzu Chi volunteers when she accompanied her husband to a doctor’s appointment. They invited her to their monthly gatherings. She went and was warmly welcomed.

The volunteers later visited her and her husband in their home. Their warm attention touched Joyce deeply—she felt “flattered.” Her husband hadn’t had any visitors in a long time; the volunteers’ visit made him feel very warm.

Joyce took the volunteers’ advice and began planting vegetables at her home to help decrease her family’s expenses. Her husband adopted a vegetarian diet.

“It was incredible!” Joyce exclaims. “My husband could walk a month later with the help of a crutch!” The couple referred to the volunteers as “doctors” and “nurses,” because they believed it was they who had cured his problem.

Moved by the kindness of the volunteers, Joyce began going with them to visit Tzu Chi aid recipients. She now takes care of seriously ill patients and those suffering from AIDS. She helps change their clothes, kneels down to help them take sponge baths, and gives them massages. She even encourages her neighbors to pitch in to help.

Joyce also looks after children orphaned by AIDS. Her loving example has helped induce a drastic change in her neighbors’ hostile attitude toward AIDS patients. They even help Joyce cook meals for AIDS orphans.
Joyce’s husband still can’t leave home to work, and they are still poor. However, the couple feels that they are much richer than before. Now, their life is filled with love.

“Now I give joyfully without thinking of asking for anything in return,” said Joyce. With a change of mindset, she can now face her hardships with tranquility. “If there is anything I want, it would be that everyone could become a Tzu Chi volunteer, so they can become as happy as me.”

In South Africa, the native volunteers cultivate yams, potatoes, cabbages and carrots. However, their kitchen gardens do not produce much because the volunteers don’t know much about farming. The volunteers have to solicit donations to make up for shortages when their gardens don’t produce enough food.

In late November 2008, when Brenda and Joyce went to Taiwan to be certified as Tzu Chi commissioners, Gladys and Beatrice went with them. Later, they took a trip to a farm in Yunlin, southern Taiwan, to learn agricultural skills. They hoped to increase the production of their gardens so they could feed more orphans.

“Our cabbages are as small and hard as guavas,” said Pan Ming-shui (潘明水), a Tzu Chi volunteer in South Africa. Wang Yu-zhang (王玉彰), the owner of the farm and also a Tzu Chi volunteer, taught the women such farming basics as how to cultivate seedlings, how to plant them and use composting to help them grow, when to water the vegetables, at what intervals they should be planted, how to inhibit the growth of weeds, etc.
“On this trip, I learned how crude our farming methods are,” Beatrice remarked. “Our gardens are like ‘monkey farms.’ We simply dig holes, put in the seeds, and wait for them to grow. No wonder we have such poor produce!”

Pan said that according to Zulu tradition, tribal chiefs allocate land to the people. A chief had agreed to provide over two acres of land to Tzu Chi volunteers to grow vegetables. Pan hoped that their improved agricultural techniques will result in more food for more children.

More than ten volunteers work in Beatrice’s kitchen garden. Before she went to Taiwan, they had already turned over the soil to get it ready for the new farming techniques. They hope to turn it into a model garden. They will plant cabbages, tomatoes and lettuce for the first batch of crops. Beatrice said, “It’s my mission to bring back new farming techniques to South Africa, a mission that will bring hope to more AIDS orphans.”

By Qiu Ru-lian
Translated by Lin Sen-shou
Photographs by Lin Yan-hu