Author: Julienne Chi
Editor: Dilber Shatursun
Along the walkway up to the Gratitude Hall at the Tzu Chi USA San Dimas campus, flags from 16 countries swayed in the breeze on the morning of March 29, 2019, signaling the magnitude of the 2019 TIMA Global Forum.
Inside the Hall, you can hear and feel a buzz of excitement amongst the attendees from around the world as emcees welcome all to the opening ceremony. Cheers and applause erupted as each country was announced.
Representatives from each country walked down the center aisle and up to the stage waving a small flag, and many wore their native or traditional costumes. One costume that drew a loud cheer was a lady in a long green tunic representing the United States; she was dressed as the Statue of Liberty, complete with a crown, torch, and tablet. Other notable costumes were manifest through the vibrant colors in clothing from Honduras, Mexico, and Singapore.
Emcees highlighted the characteristics and culture of each country as they walked. Everyone clapped excitedly and some snapped photos of the scene until the last of the countries was up on stage. The imagery and excitement likened the opening ceremony to the Olympics, where all countries come together to celebrate the boundless abilities and capabilities of mankind.
Next in the program was a special performance by the students of the Monrovia Great Love Kindergarten and Walnut Tzu Chi Elementary. These young Tzu Chi students learn about character education within their weekly curriculum, with “compassion” being the latest topic.
The young but resolute voices rang out across the hall, passionately reciting a poem- and with sign language- about the story of Dharma Master Cheng Yen building the Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital. Seeing these young, docile faces shining under the spotlight- relaying the hardship that Master overcame in building that first hospital- brought tears to many attendees.
To recognize the work of Tzu Chi volunteers locally and around the world, LA County Supervisor, Kathryn Barger, awarded county proclamations to Dr. William Keh, CEO of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation in the US; Dr. Han Huang, CEO of Tzu Chi USA, Dr. Chin Lon Lin, Chief Convener of TIMA and CEO of the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, Stephen Huang, Executive Director of Global Tzu Chi Volunteers, Powen Yen, CEO of the Tzu Chi Charity Foundation. Supervisor Barger commended the work of Tzu Chi volunteers, expressing a personal gratitude to Tzu Chi for setting up its first clinic in her hometown of Alhambra where she grew up.
To close out the opening ceremony was State Senator Connie Leyva, who congratulated Tzu Chi USA on its 30th anniversary, noting that she met Tzu Chi soon after she was elected in 2014 and was impressed with everything that Tzu Chi does, from providing blankets to bringing out the mobile medical clinics to offer quality care to many in her district.
Senator Leyva affirms that Tzu Chi embodies the spirit of helping others and doing the most good for the most people. She commented that sometimes people think kindness is a weakness, but she believes that kindness is its own kind of strength. She looks forward to many more opportunities to partner with Tzu Chi to help people in need.