Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

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Home Global Activities Asia Hong Kong Volunteers Bring Comfort to Street People

Hong Kong Volunteers Bring Comfort to Street People

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“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Min Min, happy birthday to you.” This was the joyful song in an underground tunnel in the Happy Valley district of Hong Kong. It was 9.30 p.m. on the evening of April 25; 12 Tzu Chi volunteers had brought a card, birthday cake, sweets and gifts to a street person named Min Min. In addition, seven other people who lived on the street joined in the party.

Min Min was happy and moved to say: “I am very grateful to the Tzu Chi volunteers for celebrating my birthday.”

It was during a visit in early March that the volunteers learnt that her birthday fell in April; they proposed that they help her celebrate the event. She is very grateful that they come on a regular basis each month to visit her and bring foods, clothes and daily necessities. However busy they are and whatever the weather – wind, rain or the cold of winter – they always come. The most precious thing they have given to the street people is the book of Jing Si Aphorisms, the sayings of Master Cheng Yen. It enables them to understand how to look after their own heart and what direction to take in life.

“A confused mind suffers agony; an enlightened mind feels at ease. A kind heart enjoys heavenly bliss; an evil mind experiences hell.” This is the aphorism which Min Min likes the most. She has posted the aphorism at where she sleeps. “That day I read many passages and felt that this was the best one. I feel that each word is full of meaning and enlightens me in different ways.”

Volunteer Wu Feng-xia said: “You are now living through a difficult period and perhaps you feel lost. But we hope that one day you will achieve your purpose and then be able to stand on your own. Bless you, Min Min.”

Another street person named Mr. Shi said with feeling: “We have received care from different organizations but never have people come to help us celebrate our birthday.” When the volunteers asked his age, he initially refused to say; but, finally, he opened up. The volunteers told him that they will in the same way help him celebrate the event.

Tzu Chi volunteers of Hong Kong island began this project of regular visits to the street people at the end of 2013. Since then, they have come each month at a fixed time. Their sincerity has warmed the hearts of those they visit.

Visiting street people in Yuen Long

Happy Valley is not the only area of Hong Kong where the volunteers are visiting street people. They are also doing this in Yuen Long, in the New Territories. According to a government plan for between 2013 and 2021, the population of the area will increase from 580,000 today to 710,000, a rise of 20 per cent; this makes it the area with the fastest increase of population in Hong Kong. It is a mixture of new and old districts, including historic villages and new developments, with high-rise apartment blocks, both government and private. Among this rapidly growing population, there are many old and poor people who need material and spiritual help.

During the daytime, the streets of the old district of Yuen Long are full of cars and pedestrians. In the evenings, the streets are lined by stalls selling famous sweets, lit by shining lanterns and with cars parked on the roadside. But, behind this prosperity, you can see people hidden from view in a nearby park; they go there every evening to sleep. The next morning at 6 a.m., park staff wake them up and ask them to leave.

It was the evening of April 26, a Saturday; the volunteers from New Territories West had come to Yuen Long for their visit to the street people. Volunteer Fan Xiu-mei lives in the area and, two weeks earlier, had brought a team of Tzu Chengs there to investigate. They looked at different locations, including parks, soccer stadia and below bridges; they found that many street people had lived for a long time in two parks on Xinjie and Kangle Streets. So they decided to mobilise the Tzu Chengs in the New Territories to start their work of looking after the street people of Yuen Long.

That evening at 10.30 p.m., ten male volunteers joined Ms Fan; they split into three groups and went into the two parks where they searched in every nook and cranny for the street people. Before they went to sleep, the volunteers talked to them. It was still springtime and it was cool in the late evening, but not too cold. It was not difficult to find the street people in the two parks.

One was a man named Yi, in his 60s. He used to be a chef in a famous hotel; he told the volunteers stories of his busy and glamorous life in the hotel. Although the place where he sleeps is dark, he is bitten by many mosquitoes. The volunteers listened with great patience to the people who live in such difficult surroundings.

Each day, to earn money, Mr Yi goes to collect waste paper and sells it. He was happy to hear from the volunteers about Tzu Chi’s recycling programs and the selling of the materials to help needy people. He said that he would take part in such a program held regularly in the Shuibian park in Yuen Long.

Another street person, named Huang, is aged about 60 years; he has been suffering from a chronic illness. He suffers from a skin infection which doctors have been treating for a long time, with no effect; as a result, he is unable to work. So he can only do odd jobs to make a living. The first time he saw the Tzu Chi volunteers, smartly dressed in their uniform, come to take care of the street walkers, he felt unease and was unwilling to accept the items they brought. But he was happy to talk to them and share with them his experiences, both sweet and bitter. Because rents in Hong Kong are expensive, he cannot afford to rent an apartment and has no alternative but to live on the streets. He has no fixed place to spend the night; sometimes he goes to Sham Shui Po and sometimes to Hong Kong island. One friend who lives in a subdivided unit nearby often comes to the park to talk to him; they have a good conversation – he considers this man a good friend!

That evening the volunteers were spreading seeds of love among these poor who live quietly in Yuen Long. The seeds will grow slowly as they build relations between them. The Great Love of Tzu Chi will spread into every corner of Yuen Long.

Article by Chen Zhi-jun and Zhou Guo-wei in Hong Kong