A Candle that Lights Another

From our e-book “We are Here to Celebrate”

candlelight candles

Some people question, “I am just one person; how can I make a difference?” A candle that is used to light another candle is not dimmed in any way. However, the surrounding is now brighter with two candles lit. The other candle will go on lighting other candles and the world continues to grow brighter day by day. The following stories of Tzu Chi volunteers in Africa illustrate this [1].

Adelaide Njapha
Adelaide Njapha’s story was filled with blood and tears. “Some mobsters burst into house after house in the village, killing people and stealing valuables. They fired eight shots at me, and they killed my children.” Adelaide described the tragedy that happened over a decade ago as calmly as if she were relating someone else’s story. The horrible event was triggered by dissension between different political cliques. Although Adelaide did not belong to any of the groups, she still became a victim of their conflict.

“At that time, I really hated those people,” she said. After surviving the incident, she tried to locate the murderers with the intention of avenging the deaths of her children. She told herself she would ask a group of friends to kill those mobsters when she tracked them down. It wasn’t until a friend “Tzu Chi volunteers came from distant Taiwan and told us that they’d come here to give us love. They hoped we could also love our neighbors and the people around us.” The love she received from Tzu Chi helped soothe her pain and gradually she, a Catholic who knew that it was a virtue to forgive and forget, let go of her hatred and started forgiving the people who once hurt her.

“Tzu Chi, like my Catholic faith, teaches me to love others as I love myself.” After joining Tzu Chi, Adelaide bravely walked into an enemy village whose residents had once hurt her so badly, but she went there not to seek revenge but to bring love. “In the beginning I was afraid that they would kill me, but now I’m not afraid anymore because they all know what I’m doing there.”

After experiencing bloody violence and the pain of losing her children, Adelaide now focuses her life on raising her only granddaughter and caring for her people in an effort to resolve hatred and conflict with love.

Mini Qhelephi Ngcobo
In a corner of a village, some female volunteers were cooking food in big pots; the smoke from the burning firewood enveloped them. Children as young as five years old wolfed down the food handed to them. The amount they ate was enough to feed a regular adult, but they still looked like they could take in more. Tzu Chi volunteer Huang Chun-kai said that it was not because the children were too hungry; it might be their only meal of the day.

The rice and vegetables the children were eating were all donated by volunteers and villagers. Whenever there is a shortage of food, volunteers cook cornmeal for the children so that they can at least get some nourishment. Mini Qhelephi Ngcobo, who has adopted 73 orphans, is very grateful for the food donations from local villagers, who are doing their best to help out.

The stream of love has also affected young people. Mini said that students from a nearby university had joined up to volunteer their services, and that her nine-year-old son, Thabani Ngcobo, influenced by her charity work, had also started donating his pocket money to help people.

Thabani often plays with the orphans his mother has adopted, and he often sees his mother and other volunteers cooking meals for his playmates. Wanting to help, he saves his pocket money in a small can and then gives the money to the volunteers. “Please use the money to buy food for them.” Thabani’s naive words bring smiles to the volunteers’ faces. His little gestures of love indicate that new seeds of love have taken root in the native soil.

The Spiritual Masters advises us to serve without any expectations of reward. We may see this as difficult to do but the stories above shows that this is something that comes naturally. Adelaide and Mini were victims of circumstances themselves but the love of Tzu Chi volunteers changed theirs lives and they became volunteers themselves. They serve others because they remember the love they felt when they were helped. The joy of serving is the only reward they ever want.


[1] Source: Tzu Chi Quarterly, Spring 2008. Tzu Chi is a non-profit organization which is not affiliated with any religion although it was founded by a Buddhist nun. Its aim is to help those in need and alleviate suffering in the world.

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