Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation rescues impoverish South Africans and offers them hope

by Stacey Wang, Daily Bulletin, March 16, 2011

SAN DIMAS, CA (USA) -- Hatred and anger once filled her heart, but the love and care of others helped change that.

As an impoverished black South African, Sheila-Gladys Ngema had every reason to be embittered. She was a victim of violence under the country's former segregation laws and lived in the forest amid political strife all around her.

"Where we were living, no one came to help us because everyone was too scared to come through the renegades," she said.

The Zulu woman was rescued by South African businessman Michael Pan, a volunteer on behalf of the international humanitarian organization, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, who has established hundreds of career training classes in the city of Durban.

Ngema was provided with food and clothing as well as sewing and gardening classes, which have helped her sustain herself.

Spreading the good will shown to her, Ngema joined the foundation in 1995 and uses her learned skills to care for orphans and AIDS patients in South Africa.

"We are able to give better than we received," Ngema said about the thousands of once-victim Zulu women like her who now volunteer with the foundation.

Ngema discussed her life-changing experience alongside fellow Zulu volunteer, Tolakele Maria Mkhize, this weekend at a nationwide seminar tour called "Love Without Borders: Empowering Zulu Women in South Africa." The women spoke on behalf of their organization, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, on March 5
in San Dimas.

"Everybody was crying because their story was so touching," Tzu Chi volunteer Grace Chen said.

For speaker Mkhize, the 70-year-old discussed how her attitude transformed from selfish to selfless because of the love that was shown to her.

"I was a woman who didn't care about other people. I only cared about myself and my family," Mkhize said about her former self.

Initially, she visited the organization only to collect the free food and clothes provided those visiting.

"The goal was to grab the food and clothes and run away home, not to help others," Mkhize said.

Eventually, she felt compelled to help her community and now provides care and food for 5,000 people.

"She's willing to spread this kind of love with the community," Pan said.

Tzu Chi is a nonprofit organization founded in 1966, which focuses its efforts on charity, medicine, education, environmental protection and disaster relief.