Sixty-eight people needing help received a brand-new winter jacket in Whalley on Sunday at the Gateway Shelter, courtesy of Surrey’s chapter of an international charitable organization called the Tzu Chi Foundation.
“All of them we purchased locally. Not only the jacket, we give the people one bag with gloves, scarves, toothpaste, toothbrush, socks — everything we purchased from a local store,” said Tom Torng, director of administration and public relations for the foundation.
It’s an annual volunteers’ tradition — dubbed the Winter Gift Event — that was first started in 2002.
“Usually in the past 16 years I do remember on average every year we prepare 120 to 140 jackets but this year the number is less,” he said. “Maybe some people don’t come over here.”
The Gateway Shelter is located at 10667 135A St.
Torng said Tzu Chi means compassion and relief, and that the organization operates in 60 countries. It’s full name here is Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation, Canada, and it has 40,000 regular donors and more that 2,200 volunteers working out of nine offices in Surrey, Vancouver, Richmond, Calgary, Toronto, Mississauga, Richmond Hill, Montreal and Ottawa.
Internationally it was founded in 1966 by Dharma Master Cheng Yen, but Canada’s headquarters in Vancouver was opened in 1992 by its CEO, Gary Ho. Torng said Yen sent representatives from Taiwan and China with a simple message: “When you go to Canada don’t forget you are standing on other people’s land, standing under other people’s sky, you do need to service your community.
“So that’s why we keep running the program every year,” Torng said.
The Surrey Chapter’s office in Cloverdale opened in 2013, though the organization has been serving this city since 1997. While Surrey’s 410 donors and 300 volunteers focus on charitable pursuits south of the Fraser River, such as running a breakfast program in schools in Guildford and Newton, the Vancouver chapter also runs a similar jackets program in that city’s Downtown East Side.
Torng said Tzu Chi is the largest Chinese-based and Buddhist-based charity foundation in the world. Although it’s a Buddhist foundation, he said, it’s not a religious organization. “We service not only the Buddhists, we serve people of different cultures, different religions, different languages and so-on. Our master said we just help the people in need, we just provide our service based on the Buddhism concept but we don’t want to deliver any religious service, message, training. What we do is beyond the scope of a religion culture, politics, language barrier. We don’t serve for the Buddhist only, we serve also for the Christian, for the Muslim,” he said.