Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

Mar 25th
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Committed to Giving

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Digging holes in the ground, putting in the seeds, and waiting for them to grow—the Zulu volunteers said with smiles that their vegetable gardens were like “monkey farms.” Without any farming skills, the volunteers used love to tend the gardens. Unfortunately, the gardens provided barely enough produce for the thousands of AIDS orphans the volunteers fed. To help more AIDS orphans, four Zulu volunteers visited a farm in Taiwan to learn agricultural skills after attending a training camp at the Tzu Chi headquarters. Hopefully, the new skills they learned will help them increase the productivity from their gardens back in their home country.

Beatrice Ngenzeni Sibisi is busy weeding a kitchen garden with the help of several orphans. They are all soaked with perspiration under the scorching sun. They want to get the seeds planted before the advent of the rainy season. The garden may not produce much, but it is their main source of food.

Over a hundred orphans depend on Beatrice and the garden for their only meal every day. Why does a small community like Beatrice’s have so many orphans?

South Africa has over 40 million people. More than five million of them have AIDS. The number of children orphaned by AIDS is beyond calculation. Seven years ago, when Tzu Chi volunteers went to promote AIDS prevention in the countryside, they discovered this group of children who had no one to care for them. The volunteers began to plant vegetables and provide food for them.

Since then, volunteers have set up 61 food stations in Durban to feed 3,000 orphans. Over 90 percent of them were orphaned when their parents died of AIDS.

At mealtime, Beatrice’s house is filled with children. They range in age from three to thirteen. When they receive their food, they hungrily gobble it down. The older ones help feed the younger ones.

Volunteers also give the orphans winter clothing and help solve their housing and education problems. The volunteers’ continuous charitable efforts have helped resolve misunderstandings that local residents had about AIDS, and have even inspired them to join the ranks of those that care for AIDS patients.

Dissolving hatred with love
Volunteer Brenda Matebula not only provides daily hot meals for over 30 orphans, but she has also adopted five orphans herself.

“Whenever I see these orphans, I think of my own childhood. I wasn’t welcome anywhere. The memory of that makes me want to embrace them with Great Love.”

When Brenda was a girl, one of her relatives contracted AIDS. Brenda’s friends were terrified of the disease and refused to go near her. Her neighbors treated her family with hostility, eventually driving them away. “We had to keep moving. I felt worse than an animal.”

Isolated from friends and neighbors, Brenda’s relative eventually passed away. Brenda was filled with anger and resentment. She hated herself for being so powerless. She also lost her trust in her neighbors.

After Brenda got married, she discovered that her sister-in-law had also contracted AIDS. Like all others who suffered the same fate, the sister-in-law was shunned wherever she went. But instead of extending care to her, Brenda chose to ignore her too. She tried to rationalize her actions: “Why should I care? It’s her problem.” In the end, the sister-in-law, unable to stand the disapproving and fearful looks from others, took her own life.

Her sister-in-law’s suicide filled Brenda’s heart with guilt and remorse. After moving to Durban, she became acquainted with Mini Ngcobo, a kind, elderly Tzu Chi commissioner. Brenda told her about the tragedy. Mini encouraged her to talk to Tzu Chi volunteers. “Maybe they can help you feel better,” she suggested. Brenda thought to herself, “Things can’t be worse than they already are. Why don’t I give it a try?”

Brenda said she would never forget the day she went to see the Tzu Chi volunteers. “They didn’t ask me who I was and they didn’t care about my past. They simply gave me hugs when they saw me.” Their kindness and compassion touched Brenda deeply. When she learned that the volunteers were taking care of AIDS patients, she decided to join them.

She took her sister-in-law’s four children into her own house. She looked for suitable families to adopt the orphans in her community and helped find schools for them. Ironically, some of the orphans she looked after came from the families who had once driven her family from their community. Brenda bore no grudges, and instead she helped them just the same.

Brenda said that she used to drink a lot as an escape from her loneliness. She had a bad temper and hurt a lot of people. Even her two sons suffered from her unsteady temper. But now, things are different. Both of them now look up to Brenda as a model. They even help to take care of the orphans.

Brenda felt that if she had been involved in Tzu Chi earlier, maybe her relative who had died of AIDS would have been able to die peacefully. “Even my sister-in-law wouldn’t have committed suicide, because she would have known that there was still love in this world.”

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" Constantly practice goodness when you are healthy; plant the seeds of goodness to reap the fruits of blessings, thus, paving the way to a healthy life. "
Jing-Si Aphorism

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