My Anchor in Life

By Cai Cui-rong (蔡翠容)
Abridged and translated by Syharn Shen (沈思含)

My Anchor in Life

By Cai Cui-rong (蔡翠容)
Abridged and translated by Syharn Shen (沈思含)

Sophia Tseng (曾淑珍) was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, and it was Dharma Master Cheng Yen's (證嚴上人) words of wisdom that helped her go through the arduous ten-month treatment. Having fully recovered, she is determined to continue dedicating herself full-time to doing Tzu Chi's work.

Living in Canada, Sophia Tseng has found her anchor in life serving as a Tzu Chi volunteer. (Photo by Bai Kun-ting)

Back in 1988, Tseng left her own business with the hope to do some charitable work, but she didn't know where to donate her money to help people in need.

"At a hair salon one day, the owner told me that a Dharma master planned to build a hospital in Hualien and asked me if I wanted to donate money to help build it," Tseng recalled. At the time, she has never heard of Tzu Chi, but with an eager desire to help, she immediately agreed. The hair salon owner also asked if she liked reading books before handing her a Tzu Chi Monthly magazine. This was how Tseng learned about Master Cheng Yen and Tzu Chi's work. "From then on, I started reading Tzu Chi Monthly magazines for eight years until I immigrated to Canada in 1996."

Tseng encourages a student of the Tzu Chi Academy in Burnaby to share his thoughts. Believing that the hope for the future lies in education, Tseng later became the principal of the academy. (Photo by Xie Yao-zhou)

During those eight years, Tseng didn't attend any Tzu Chi events or activities, but the stories about Tzu Chi volunteers and Tzu Chi's work that she read in the magazine greatly inspired her. "Master's teachings helped me brave the most challenging period in my life. I had to run my own business while taking care of my father who suffered from stroke and my mother-in-law in a semi-vegetative state." She is deeply grateful for Master Cheng Yen's words of wisdom, which gave her support to care for her parents.

After moving to Canada, Tseng didn't know where to find Tzu Chi, and it was not until 1997 that she learned about the set up of the first Tzu Chi Academy in the country. She quickly enrolled her son in the weekend school. "And this was how I got connected to Tzu Chi Canada."

Together with a fellow volunteer, Sophia Tseng prepares breakfast for students at Byrne Creek Secondary School. Tzu Chi has been helping with the school's breakfast program to feed its students, most of whom are refugee children from all over the world with their family stuck in poverty. (Photo by Liu Yi-rong)

In 1998, the thought of becoming a Tzu Chi volunteer started to fill Tseng's mind, so she often went to her local Tzu Chi office to borrow books and cassette tapes. When a volunteer asked if she wanted to become a Tzu Chi volunteer, she said yes right away and started helping out with stamping books, a simple task that gave her an important realization. "It was then that I truly understood the many processes and hard work involved before a copy of Tzu Chi Monthly could reach my hands." She also had to opportunity to support Tzu Chi's collegiate volunteers for two years, an experience which has taught her much about Tzu Chi's spirit and values.

After becoming a certified volunteer in 2002, Tseng started to carry out Tzu Chi's work in Burnaby's communities and was determined to introduce Tzu Chi to the locals. One day, Tseng seized an opportunity to introduce Tzu Chi to then-mayor of Burnaby Derek Corrigan, who would later find Tzu Chi a wonderful organization. In 2003, at a Tzu Chi performance event, Mayor Corrigan commented that many organizations go to him for something, but when Tzu Chi volunteers go to him, they ask what Tzu Chi can do to serve society.

During a teaching demonstration given by new teachers of Tzu Chi's academies, Tseng joins in an exercise with the teachers. (Photo by Wu Qun-fang)

Over time, Tseng took on different roles in Tzu Chi Canada, and at one point became the principal of the Tzu Chi Academy in Burnaby. With little experience in the field, Tseng decided to inspire others with her own actions. Each weekend before classes started, she would always stand at the entrance to greet and bow to the students and their parents. Many felt somewhat awkward at first, but after some time, people started to greet each other good morning as well.

Through hardships, illness, and many of life's ordeals, Tseng has found her anchor in life serving as a Tzu Chi volunteer and hopes to keep living out Tzu Chi's spirit and values to inspire joy, giving, and goodness.

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