Our Happiness and Responsibility Love in Zamboanga
Long-term violence in Zamboanga, on Mindanao Island, has brought about a terrible state of poverty and deterioration in the social order of its people. However, despite the hardships of living within a country torn apart by conflict, the people are still generating a powerful love.
It all started when thirteen people came together with an idea to form a group to carry out good deeds. Of different races and religions, they came together in the interest of the poor. Over the past four years, they have succeeded, through a combination of hard work and kindness, to relieve the suffering and pain of tens of thousands of people.
Though this country is worn out from warefare, the love of the people in this land is as big and beautiful as the rainbow that often hangs above this place, shining down to offer hope amid the darkness and despair
Zamboanga is located on Mindanao, the southernmost island in the Philippines. This city of 700,000 people is situated an hour's flight from Manila. The city was founded by the Spanish in 1635, and many examples of Spanish architecture are scattered among the lush green mountains and crystal turquoise waters. Stunning as this harbor city is, its serene beauty has been marred by a complicated array of political problems.
More than 80 percent of the Filipinos living on Mindanao are Catholics, and the rest are mostly Muslims. Many in the Muslim community have been pushing for independence as a separate Islamic country, and protesters frequently launch anti-government actions. As a consequence, the city has become a battleground shattered by clashes between government troops and Islamic militants.
Zamboanga once was a prosperous and vibrant citv. L'nfortunatelv, in more recent times it has sunk into a devastating state of destruction and poverty since becoming a target for radical militants and terrorists. The endless fighting, deadly explosions, and threats of kidnapping have resulted in a serious decline in levels of public security. Sadly, Zamboanga has become a citv referred to as the dead end of the Philippines.
Four years ago, the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA), based in Manila, began offering free clinics in Zamboanga. Thirteen local citizens volunteered to learn how to assist with the work. They drove around and helped distribute medicine to people living in the slums. Later, they set up a local Tzu Chi liaison office in order to promote a subsidy program for patients suffering from hydro-cephalus and cataracts. So far, more than 20 free clinics have been held. The Tzu Chi Great Love Rehabilitation Center was finished in July 2004.
The thirteen pioneers include Yang Wei-shun, acting as the person in charge of the office, along with his wife, sister, two uncles and eight friends. Some of these people are Chinese and some are Filipinos, and they come from a diverse assortment of occupations, veterinarians, nurses, housewives, accountants, secretaries, teachers, real estate brokers, and owners of hardware stores or restaurants. Their ages range between twenty and forty years old. Because they work in the daytime, most volunteer activities are scheduled either at night or on weekends. However the volunteers also assist in hospital visits during lunch breaks.
Looking back upon what they have achieved, it is difficult not to be amazed by their sheer courage. However, these individuals instead focus on how encouraged and lucky they feel to have been witness to altruistic acts of devotion from other charities, medical organizations, and medical personnel.