The Fourth Tzu Chi Youth Camp took place at the Carmelite Learning Center in Tontonan, Loon, Bohol last August 19-21, 2023. This event brought together 134 enthusiastic participants and proved to be a transformative experience. The camp’s profound discussions, interactive activities, and meaningful connections made a significant and enduring impression on both the attendees and the surrounding community.

โ€œOrganizing this event is very challenging on our part because it needs a lot of manpower and personnel to do the activities and it requires Unity and fashion to do the task so that the event will be successful. In my part as a camp head, I encourage the personnel to be engaged and involved with willingness in their heart to do the task so that at the end of the day the event will be successful,โ€ Joel Araรฑa, the camp head stated.

The event was initiated with a thought-provoking opening remark by the venerable Bro. James Chua, a revered figure in the Tzu Chi community.

โ€œThe point of coin bank is not for money, but to inspire and understand Tzu Chi,โ€ Uncle Jamesโ€™s words resonated deeply, as he highlighted the essence of the coin bank not merely as a receptacle for money, but as a symbol of inspiration and a gateway to understanding the principles of Tzu Chi.

Sister Rita Tan, another pillar of wisdom within the Tzu Chi circle, graced the event with her teachings on proper etiquette. Attendees were guided through the intricacies of eating, walking, sleeping, and bowing, instilling in them a sense of respect, mindfulness, and humility in every aspect of their lives.

The evening sessions were marked by emotional and enlightening discussions, none more impactful than Brother Rey Peรฑalosa’s discourse on Filial Piety.

โ€œLet us appreciate, be grateful, and repay the love of our parents,โ€ Brother Rey Peรฑalosa stated and the attendees were guided through the importance of cherishing and honoring their parents, learning that love and respect for one’s family lay at the foundation of virtuous living.

โ€œThe activities that I am so very touched with are the activity that we are able to reflect on our parents, the love of our parents towards us and I am so grateful that I realized that I should have this filial piety towards my parents and also the suffering of this world and we should always be a blessing to everyone,โ€ Riza Balaba one of the campers stated

The second day began with a refreshing morning exercise, setting the tone for an active and enlightening day ahead. A lineup of distinguished speakers, including Brother George Su, Brother Jimmy Chua, Sister Jacqueline Ong, Brother Joseph Co, Brother Ferdinand Dy, and Brother Jack Gaisano, took the stage to share their insights and experiences. Each speaker brought a unique perspective, enriching the participants’ understanding of the core values upheld by the Tzu Chi community.

Sister Jacqueline Ong emphasized in her talks that, “Just like humans, animals have conscious experiences; they feel pain, experience joy, and even cry out in fear,” highlighting the similarities between humans and animals in terms of their conscious experiences and emotions. She is asserting that animals, like humans, are capable of feeling pain, experiencing joy, and expressing fear through vocalizations. By drawing this parallel, Sister Jacqueline Ong is emphasizing that by choosing a vegetarian diet, people can reduce the demand for animal products, which may involve raising and slaughtering animals in ways that could cause suffering. Instead, by consuming plant-based foods, individuals can align their choices with the belief that animals should be treated with compassion and respect.

In the afternoon, a hands-on activity brought the participants together, highlighting the importance of camaraderie and unity. Sister Marites Bea and Brother Ericson Go Giap demonstrated how to make a DIY fried eggplant with a cucumber dish, a culinary venture that went beyond the boundaries of the kitchen. This exercise emphasized that collaboration and teamwork were not just essential in the kitchen, but in life as a whole.

True to the spirit of youth camps, the attendees engaged in an array of games, fostering a sense of friendly competition, teamwork, and joy. As the day progressed, the participants shared their hidden talents during group presentations that entertained and inspired both peers and guests alike.

Youth participant Mark Anthony Boiser succinctly captured the essence of the camp experience. He emphasized the importance of unity. From the Jing Si Aphorism โ€“ “A single drop of water can be a riverโ€, Markโ€™s words echo the sentiment that each individual possesses unique potential, purpose, and responsibility and that by working together, remarkable achievements can be attained.

However, it was the evening’s exercise in vulnerability that truly tugged at the heartstrings of participants who opened up to their group “Mama” and “Papa,” sharing their feelings and reflections on who holds the most significant place in their lives. This exercise in emotional openness created an atmosphere of genuine connection and understanding, affirming the bonds forged over the course of the event.

A heartwarming message from Sister Michelle Sy, a group mama from Group 12, melted the groupโ€™s hearts: ‘Iโ€™m so happy and I enjoyed these three days as your group mama. Continue to create good deeds, value your opportunities, and remember that education is very important. I am sure you are all in good hands by joining Tzu Chi.’

As the camp comes to an end, Brother Michael Siao fervently emphasizes the vital importance of preparedness, especially when faced with life’s inevitable challenges, or what we often refer to as “the big one.” Through the wisdom imparted by Tzu Chi’s guiding principles, individuals are nurtured to develop a profound sense of readiness that extends beyond mere physical provisions. Brother Michael underscores that this preparation encompasses the nurturing of a resilient spirit and a compassionate heart. He asserts that if we respond proactively and wholeheartedly to Tzu Chi’s teachings, we not only equip ourselves with practical skills but also cultivate the inner strength required to navigate any adversity that comes our way. Just as a sturdy tree with deep roots weathers the fiercest storms, those who internalize Tzu Chi’s teachings are empowered to not only endure challenges but to transform them into opportunities for growth and service. Thus, the essence of Tzu Chi’s training lies in enabling individuals to confront life’s uncertainties with unwavering resolve, confident that their preparation will pave the way for graceful navigation through even the most tumultuous waters.

โ€œAs the Tzu Chi Bohol coordinator, I am immensely proud and deeply grateful to all the scholars for attending the Tzu Chi Bohol Youth Camp. Dharma Master Cheng Yen stated that any task we undertake, without unity, respect, and gratitude towards others, cannot culminate in a resounding success. Over the past few days, I have felt that we are fulfilling the Masterโ€™s intentions. Observing the students, or rather, the campers, along with the volunteers from Manila and Cebu, who have not only covered their own expenses but have also assumed responsibilities in the kitchen, logistics, livelihood, and every other role they’ve taken on, fills me with immense appreciation. I am hopeful that the endeavors invested in this event will yield benefits for our students. Through this experience, they are gaining invaluable lessons in organization, coordination, and collaboration with others. This event stands as the premier training ground for our future societal leaders. I extend my gratitude to all the participants of this event. With each passing year, my aspiration is that we can sow the seeds of love more widely, nurturing a harmonious society,โ€ Brother James Chua stated.

The Fourth Tzu Chi Youth Camp was undoubtedly a resounding success, a testament to the dedication of the Camp Personnel, Volunteers, and Staff who worked tirelessly to ensure its smooth execution. Their unwavering commitment to the ideals of Tzu Chi, coupled with the eager participation of the attendees, breathed life into this event and solidified its place as a catalyst for positive change in the lives it touched. As the participants departed with a renewed sense of purpose, the echoes of their shared experiences reverberated, reminding all that in unity and virtue, a lasting transformation could be achieved.