Stringing a Strand of Pearls at the 2019 TIMA Global Forum

TIMA  |  March 29, 2019

Author: Julienne Chi
Editor: Dilber Shatursun

That every person is a bright and shiny pearl is the belief of Tzu Chi volunteer, Suong Chang, as she works with fellow volunteers to put on one of Tzu Chi USA’s biggest events: the 2019 Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) Global Forum.  

As this year’s program coordinator, Suong’s cheery and optimistic outlook is that each person has his or her strength, and that it is a cherished opportunity to work with her fellow volunteers. But, the same outlook has not always been so cheery.

In 1994, after the sudden death of her father from a stroke, Suong was distraught and could not accept his death at such a young age. Crying frequently long after, she could hardly carry on with daily life. Hearing of Suong’s depression, a Tzu Chi volunteer came to visit and comfort her. She advised her to let go of her grief.

At first, Suong could not comprehend what it meant to ‘let go,’ but as she started reading the books and journals that contained Master Cheng Yen’s teachings, she slowly learned more and regained her old self. She refocused her grief and channeled it through volunteering and attending Tzu Chi events.

Suong’s professional background as a teacher and her outgoing personality, too, have lent themselves to the leadership roles she’s taken so far.  However, she stays humble and must constantly remind herself that there are multiple ways of accomplishing the same task.

As a leader, Suong makes a point to listen to input from others to make the best decision to achieve the goal at hand.  She says, “To be hung up by a disagreement is to put the obstacle in your own path.” She refers to the Master’s reminder that one of the main benefits of organizing an event is what you learn throughout the process.

One must be able to work with volunteers from differing backgrounds and experiences.  Suong recalls that when she first started volunteering at Tzu Chi, another seasoned volunteer told her:

If you want to be a good volunteer at Tzu Chi, you must not pick and choose the tasks that you want to do, but take on the tasks that have not yet been done.

As the program coordinator for the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of Tzu Chi USA during the 2019 TIMA Global Forum, she worked tirelessly to design the program with 16 fellow volunteers whose Tzu Chi volunteer experience ranged from a few years to over 20 years.  She believes strongly in the idea that

Everyone is a bright and shiny pearl with his or her own strength. You just have to know how to find the best fit for that pearl across the whole strand.

This is the principle with which Suong has navigated through Tzu Chi over the last 24 years, stringing a long strand of pearls along the way.

As we near the opening ceremony of the 2019 TIMA Global Forum and the 30th Anniversary of Tzu Chi USA, Suong gleefully awaits to showcase the various programs that her string of pearls has put together to celebrate this special occasion.