Thursday, March 03, 2011

Tzu Chi in South Africa

By working with and empowering the local population, Tzu Chi activities in South Africa are becoming more sustainable and rooted in the community. For example, volunteers in Durban provide lunches every day to more than 5,000 AIDS orphans, often their only full meal of the day.

(Photos by Huang Chun-kai. 11/18/2010)

Since beginning the lunch program, the volunteers have also established more than 120 "vegetable gardens of love," which they cultivate themselves. They use the produce at 120 food stations for the lunches for the orphans. They also provide rice, corn flour and other foods to supplement the vegetables.

Tzu Chi volunteer Bathobile Maphumul cares for a "Vegetable Garden of Love"
(Photo by Yuen Ya-chi, 10/9/2010)

The most classic illustration of this "long-term sustainability" approach is Tzu Chi's job training program, which teaches Zulu women vocational skills, such as how to operate a sewing machine to sew clothing. The first training center was set up in Durban in 1995, and to date, several thousand women have participated in the trainings, which allow them to make an income and support their families. The city now boasts 524 such centers.

In 2004, the “Blue Bank Project” was launched near Ladysmith. Like the sewing training centers, the Blue Bank Project also assists local residents to become self-sufficient by providing them with cloth, sewing machines and needles so that they can make clothing for sale. ("Vows and Commitments in South Africa")

Furthermore, as one woman noted, the benefits are not just material: the independent income is personally empowering, because the women no longer have to beseech the male head of household for money to buy basic necessities like salt.

Many of these Zulu women went on to become Tzu Chi volunteers, returning to train others and most notably, beginning outreach projects in the larger Zulu community, such as caring for AIDS patients. Today, they form the backbone of Tzu Chi's volunteer corps in South Africa. They have moved from being the recipients of aid, to giving to aid to others even more impoverished or marginalized. In this way, the cycle of caring continues onward, with Taiwanese and Zulu volunteers working hand in hand to spread the seeds of love.

Video: Tzu Chi in South Africa

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