Buddhist relief organization aids Coast's healing process


BILOXI, Mississippi (USA) -- After Hurricane Katrina, Martha Boyce had a horticultural vision: to plant a therapeutic public garden that would help South Mississippians heal in the aftermath of the storm.

With shovels in hand, members of the Tzu Chi Foundation of Atlanta planted the first Mississippi Renaissance Garden tree Saturday at the Margaret Sherry Library Playground on Popp's Ferry Road.

Tzu Chi, an international Buddhist relief organization, brought 16 adults and nine teenagers to put a 10-year-old Live oak in the soil. The group has made eight trips to South Mississippi since the Aug. 29 storm and has donated nearly $1.2 million to the Coast's recovery effort.

After seeing the Mississippi renaissance Garden's Web site, Tzu Chi contacted Boyce, the group's coordinator, on Monday and wanted to come help right away.

"Whenever anyone has a disaster, we are there," said Lou Kuo, director of the Atlanta chapter of Tzu Chi, adding the group did recovery work after the Indonesia tsunami. "We care about the Katrina aftermath. We are taught great love and that life isn't permanent. We are taught when giving and serving we must have appreciation because the two keys of Buddhism are wisdom and mercy."

Boyce, whose own garden helped the retired schoolteacher of 30 years recover from an injury that still forces her to use a wheelchair at times, was moved to tears as the roots of the Live oak were covered with soil.

"This is a great day. You've helped us do something we couldn't do alone," she said.

The lone tree is just the beginning of a garden Boyce hopes will promote the spirit of the people of the area.

"We have a vision and that's all we need," she said. "We can see it in our hearts and in our minds, and soon you will see it take shape."

"This tree will bring squirrels here and bring the best of hope and love here," said Kuo.