South African Volunteer Story

“My husband betrayed me. My house was burnt by him and his mistress”. It had been a terrible year for Sheila-Gladys, a woman from the Zulu tribe in South Africa. Torn by the segregation laws, her heart was filled with hate. She had no house, no hope, and was living on the edge of poverty like thousands of other Zulu women who couldn’t support their own lives. Caught in the cycle of poverty, she felt weak and powerless to help herself, much less help anyone else around her. With the threat of poverty and AIDS ever near, the Zulu women struggled daily to keep their spirits up.

However, when Sheila-Gladys met and started interacting with Tzu Chi volunteers, her will to begin transforming her life was reignited. Tzu Chi volunteers believe that, through love without borders, people can be encouraged to change their own life conditions by helping others change theirs. Empowered by the spirit of Great Love, Tzu Chi volunteer Michael Pan first made regular distributions of material goods, then soon established career training classes in the Zulu tribes, teaching the women to sew and tend to vegetable gardens.

Through loving encouragement, and lessons on crop growing, Sheila-Gladys turned her suffering and hate to love and tenderness for others. After becoming a respected care-recipient, Sheila-Gladys decided to join the volunteers in caring for AIDS orphans, eventually adopting several orphans as her own. She changed from a poverty-stricken woman, rushing to grab supplies for herself and her family, to a dignified care-provider, who works joyfully despite harsh living conditions. She learned that she has the power to give love and care to those less fortunate. Currently, along with Sheila-Gladys, there are over 5000 Zulu women who have become Tzu Chi volunteers, caring for over 5000 orphans and patients with AIDS. The 120 vegetable gardens they tend to provide one meal a day. It’s barely enough food, but it’s more than enough hope.

With the help of Tzu Chi’s career training and charity programs, not only did the Zulu women break out of their cycle of poverty, their actions are creating a rippling affect across the community. With just $5, you can help these South African women build community centers to feed the orphans and take care of AIDS patients. Join the Power of 5.