PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — St. Maarten Tzu Chi Foundation volunteers inspired Pointe Blanche Prison inmates during their visit to the facility on Saturday, January 24.
This was the twelfth year that Tzu Chi volunteers have visited the facility as part of the Foundation’s Buddhist year end/New Year’s Blessings celebrations. A total of 13 volunteers participated in the visit, which culminated with presentations of gift packages to the 145 inmates in the facility and the 45 staffers, who were on duty. The gift packages included essentials that the inmates can use such as tooth brush, soap, towel, juice, cashew nut, cup noodle, Club Social, wheat biscuit, exercise book, chocolate and two books containing the inspiring teachings from Tzu Chi Founder Master Cheng Yen: “Austerity to Prosperity” and “Power of Heart.”
The programme started with volunteers welcoming inmates who graciously showed up to participate. Volunteers showed a video presentation of last year’s visit to the facility, much to the excitement of inmates, who were happy to see themselves on television.
Three volunteers also overcame their fears of public speaking and delivered an inspirational performance of “Under the sky – only three business.”
Inmates were also treated to a performance of the sign language song the “Three Nos.” This song sends an inspirational message that there is no one in the world that one cannot love; no one in the world that one cannot trust and no one in the world that one cannot forgive.
Volunteers also gave a brief history of Tzu Chi and how it was formed. An accompanying video was also shown. The four missions of Tzu Chi (charity, medicine, education, humanity), were also explained as well as the eight footprints (international relief, environmental protection, bone marrow transplant, community volunteer) and the Tzu Chi “magic soup” (gratitude, contentment, understanding, accommodation). Inmates were told that Thu Chi’s greatest cosmetic is the “smile” of its volunteers.
Volunteer Shung Hing explained what the Jing Si Aphorisms were to inmates and also recited a few of them as a source of inspiration. Some of the aphorisms that she shared included “Nothing is impossible with confidence, perseverance and courage,” and “Persevere even when it is hard to go on, release even when it is hard to let go, endure even when it is hard to bear, this is how we build character.”
Tzu Chi St. Maarten founder Commissioner Sandra Cheung rewound the clock in history sharing the story of how it was when she first started visiting the prison. The initial days were tough; but she persevered and today, more than 200 volunteers have visited the prison during the annual visits sharing inspiration to inmates.
Volunteers also did a demonstration on the benefits of enzymes and how homemade enzymes can be made using water, sugar and the peel of fruits such as oranges. Apart from being an environmentally cleaning agent, enzymes also keeps away mosquitoes and keeps one’s environs fresh and germ free.
Volunteer Roger Yee-Fong explained what Tzu Chi Hong Baos were before these were presented to inmates.
The visit wrapped up with volunteers presenting the gift packages to inmates. Many inmates said after the event that the visit was enlightening, inspirational, educational and an enjoyable experience. Inmates said they looked forward to seeing the volunteers again next year.
Volunteer Jenny Alvarez, who visited the prison for the first time with the group, said she was happy to have had the opportunity to be an inspiration. “I really was impressed the way it was conducted from the performance of the all volunteers to the receptive welcome from the inmates.
Volunteer Roger Yee-Fong said the reaction of the inmates who participated in the programme with Tzu Chi had been attentive, responsive and “quite welcoming.”
“During our usual discourse of Tzu Chi’s four Mission Statements of charity, medicine, education and humanistic culture, there were active participation and interaction by many inmates. As Tzu Chi volunteers, it is our duty to express compassion and friendship to these inmates as every human being deserves and not to be judgmental,” Yee-Fong said.
Volunteer Margaret Steeman said the programme had been well-planned and executed for the inmates. She said even though she was a bit hesitant at first, she was happy that she went on the visit and it had been rewarding for her as well. “I noticed that the inmates were very attentive during the event as we could feel their reaction, especially when answering questions from what they had seen during a video we showed,” she said. “I was amazed at the beginning that they participated so eagerly. And I am sure that the inmates enjoyed the Tzu Chi visit very much with their happy face in the end.”
Source: 721 news Tzu Chi inspires inmates during annual visit to prison