Introducing Tzu Chi's Happy Campus
Dharma Master Cheng Yen has written, “The most precious heirloom is a legacy of love and kindness.”
Since 2004 Tzu Chi’s Happy Campus Program (HCP) has brought that legacy to life in San Francisco Bay Area schools. Working closely with teachers and school officials, volunteers help make schools more supportive and relevant to students with many pressing needs.
Happy Campus annual programs initially included 1) gifts of books to twelve low-income public elementary schools, 2) free backpacks for six pre-schools, and 3) college scholarships for high school students.
Then during the 2005-2006 school year the “Food Pantry” distribution program was begun at John Muir Elementary School. Free uniforms were also given to students at three elementary schools.
In 2007 we initiated weekly math tutoring for John Muir students, along with free uniforms for an additional eight schools. By 2008 we had expanded the Food Pantry program to Gordon Lau Elementary School, where we offered 6,000 pounds of food to more than 250 families each week.
The following year special “Love Bags” filled with family-sized portions of healthy food and fresh groceries—were distributed every Friday afternoon to students who lived in shelters, many of whom told us, upon returning to school Monday morning, that they hadn’t eaten anything since the previous Friday’s school lunch.
School recycling initiatives at eleven schools help students get into the recycling habit by encouraging them to bring cans and plastic bottles to classrooms every day to be recycled.
Volunteers, parents and students work together to count, crush and transport cans and bottles to the recycling station. Money raised from such recycling supports school field trips and pays for classroom supplies.
Recycling money also helps students contribute to international relief. In 2008 John Muir donated $500 to Si-Chuan Earthquake Relief. The students’ diligence and caring activism led to Muir’s designation as one of three environmental model schools in California.