A New Milestone—Tzu Chi Jordan Becomes a Registered INGO

After working in Jordan for nearly 23 years, Tzu Chi Jordan finally obtained approval this year from the government to become a registered international non-government organization. Holding firm to their commitment to serving the needy, Tzu Chi volunteers in the country will continue to bring light and relief to families afflicted by poverty and illness.

A Tzu Chi flag flutters in the wind in the village of Huweyja, in Mafraq, Jordan. A Tzu Chi delegation consisting of over 60 volunteers from Taiwan, the United States, England, and Holland visited the village with fellow volunteers in Jordan in late July 2019 to distribute aid to some Syrian refugees living there.

“You are the rose of my heart!” said Chen Chiou Hwa (陳秋華), the head of Tzu Chi Jordan, as he kissed the soft hands of a three-month-old baby girl named Rose.

It was August 23, 2019, and Chen was visiting the girl to see how her surgical wounds had healed after her stitches had been removed. He was happy to find that her wounds had healed well with almost no scars.

A few weeks earlier, in late July, Rose’s mother, Rousl, had brought her little one to a free clinic that Tzu Chi Jordan was holding for Syrian refugees and local needy people. Rose had been born with two extra fingers, and Rousl was worried her daughter would be stigmatized as she grew older as a result of the congenital anomaly. The mother was seeking to have the extra digits surgically removed.

Ye Tian-hao (葉添浩), a plastic surgeon from Taiwan and a member of the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA), originally wanted to operate on Rose onsite, but local regulations prevented him from doing so. Rousl waited until Ye had finished seeing all his patients for the day and pleaded with him again to help her daughter. She explained that if she took her daughter to the hospital for surgery, it would set her back 400 Jordanian dinar (US$565), a sum which she, a refugee from Syria, couldn’t afford. After evaluation, Ye agreed to do it. He and Chen Chiou Hwa asked Rousl to bring her daughter two days later to the hotel where Ye and a Tzu Chi medical team were staying for the surgery. After a great deal of hassle, Ye was finally able to remove the two extra fingers for Rose.

Three weeks after the operation—long after the members of the medical team had returned to their respective countries—a Jordanian doctor removed Rose’s stitches. The physician remarked that the Taiwanese doctor had done a great job with the surgery. He even waived his fee for taking out the stitches. The kindness of the two doctors saved Rose from the ridicule she might otherwise have had to face if she hadn’t had the surgery. Rose’s story was posted on Tzu Chi Jordan’s Facebook page and has attracted a lot of likes. Another heartwarming story posted on the page was that of Elaf, also a Syrian refugee. When she was four months old, she escaped to Jordan in her mother’s arms. Elaf suffered from an umbilical hernia, which had put her life at risk. Her mother sought help for several months looking for treatment, but was unable to find any organization willing to help them.

In March 2016, Tzu Chi volunteers in Jordan happened to be in the northern border town of Ramtha, which abuts Syria, extending aid to Syrian refugees. Elaf’s mother approached the volunteers and asked if they could help her daughter. The volunteers agreed and Elaf was subsequently taken to a hospital in Amman, the national capital, for surgery. Tzu Chi Jordan began implementing a medical aid program for refugee children after Elaf.

That was more than three years ago, and Elaf is now a vivacious little girl. This August, when Tzu Chi volunteers visited her and her family, she nestled up close to volunteer Abeer Aglan M. Madanat and talked to her nonstop. She told Abeer how she fed her younger brother and how they played and wrestled with each other. Abeer gently touched Elaf’s belly button and asked, “You used to hurt here. Does it still hurt now?”

“I’m Elaf, my father’s daughter. How is it possible for me to feel any pain?” Elaf put on a brave face, as if saying, “Come on, don’t you know whose daughter I am? I’ll never complain about pain.”

“Do you know my name?” Abeer asked again.

“I know you are one of the people in blue,” Elaf replied. Her surgery three years before had forged a strong link between her and Tzu Chi. “I love you all very much. My sister does too.”

“Elaf, I love you too. But why do you love us?” Abeer asked further.

“I don’t know why, but I just love you very much,” Elaf said.

“The people in blue,” as the little girl called the Tzu Chi volunteers who had helped her, had served the needy in Jordan for nearly 23 years. After they had worked for over two decades in the country, the volunteers’ efforts finally received official acknowledgement this year, when Tzu Chi Jordan was certified by the Jordanian government as an international non-government organization (INGO).

In April this year, Chen Chiou Hwa visited the Tzu Chi headquarters in Hualien, Taiwan, and reported this happy news to Master Cheng Yen. He told the Master that Tzu Chi Jordan had obtained approval from the government to become a registered INGO on January 23. After hearing that about this milestone, the Master expressed her expectations for the branch office: “Respect everyone regardless of their religious affiliations. Respect for life has always been a cherished value of ours. I hope every one of you will continue to put your love into action and bring light to more needy people in the country.”

Rousl (second from right) took her daughter, Rose, who was born with two extra fingers, to a Tzu Chi free clinic in Jordan in late July this year to seek medical help. Dr. Ye Tian-hao (first from left), from Taiwan, operated on the baby girl on August 2.
Dr. Ye Tan-hao operates on Rose

Life is priceless

What’s the significance behind Tzu Chi Jordan’s becoming a registered INGO? It means that the branch office will now have more latitude to participate in the discussion and implementation of local and international charity affairs. To the United Nations and its affiliated agencies, Tzu Chi Jordan is now a reliable partner in the international community, and the different sides can now work more closely together on refugee issues. This is a happy result of Tzu Chi’s longstanding philanthropic efforts in the country and around the world.

Our world is full of suffering, and Tzu Chi volunteers everywhere are doing their part to bring relief to the less fortunate. Among the less fortunate are many children. After Elaf, Chen and his fellow volunteers in Jordan helped more than 1,300 refugee children obtain medical care. Behind these 1,300 children were 1,300 families; this means that they have made a difference in 1,300 families.

“With love comes the power to help others,” said Yen Po-wen (顏博文), CEO of the Tzu Chi charity mission. “The value of one’s life is not measured by how much money one has, but by how much love.” Yen said those words on August 1, 2019, the day Tzu Chi Jordan put up its plate after being certified as an INGO. Yen and Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan together unveiled the new sign to celebrate the occasion.

Around the same time, a Tzu Chi medical team consisting of over 60 medical professionals and support volunteers from Taiwan, the United States, England, and Holland carried out a free clinic mission in Jordan. Prince El Hassan praised these volunteers’ efforts: “Your compassion has brought you once again to Jordan. Embracing a sense of mission and equipped with medical expertise, you traveled from various countries to Jordan to bring hope to local needy people and help them believe in a better future. If everyone could reach out to others in need as you are doing, a better world would be in our hands.”

Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan (left) and Yen Po-wen, CEO of the Tzu Chi charity mission, unveil a sign for the Tzu Chi Jordan office at the Tarabot Social Center on August 1, 2019, after Tzu Chi Jordan became a registered INGO in the nation.

Pulling out all the stops

In five days, from July 28 to August 1, the medical team conducted five medical events in four places, serving 2,517 patient visits. Each time the team arrived at a new venue, everyone, doctor or not, pitched in to help upload equipment and supplies so that everything could be quickly set up to kick off the event.

Some venues did not have steady electricity, which really tested the patience of the volunteers whose responsibility was to set up the equipment and make sure it functioned properly so that the large influx of patients could be served.

“Brother, the water at the dental clinic refuses to come out.” “Brother, something is wrong with this pedal. “Brother...” With requests for their help coming in one after another, the “handyman” volunteers were kept very busy. Beads of perspiration formed and sparkled on their faces as they bustled around fixing all kinds of problems. Their shirts became soaked in sweat, dried out, and were soaked again.

“It’s so hot!” The blistering summer sun blazed down, driving the temperature up and making the clinic sites very hot. The conditions were especially challenging in the equipment-intensive dental clinics, in which all the dentists and their assistants were garbed in insulation gowns. The temperature couldn’t be brought down even with the air conditioning going full blast. In the end volunteers could only open all the windows and allow the hot air from outdoors to spill in.

The large crowds coming for medical treatment contributed to the high temperatures, but the endless stream of patients indicated just how much in demand the free clinic services were. Volunteers who were unoccupied took to fanning the dentists and dental assistants with cardboard to help them feel cooler. But the “fanners” themselves got tired and hot too, and occasionally others took up posts behind them to fan them.

Mohamad Saeed, a Jordanian dentist who helped out at the events, said that though he still felt hot with the volunteers fanning him, their heartwarming gesture brought a lot of good cheer to him.

Mohamad Saeed, a Jordanian dentist (middle), and Dentist Kenneth Liao (廖敬興), of TIMA USA, perform triage at a free clinic in Ghawr Al Mazra‘a.

Love in the desert

In 1997, volunteer Lin Hui-zhen (林慧真) brought the seeds of Tzu Chi into Jordan, and a Tzu Chi office was set up in the country in September of the same year. Lin sadly passed away due to illness the following year, but Chen Chiou Hwa and others followed in her footsteps and continued to carry out charity work in the nation.

Volunteers there serve an area that extends from the border town of Mafraq in northern Jordan to regions south of the Dead Sea. Every summer and winter and around the month of Ramadan, volunteers travel across the desert and distribute daily necessities to people receiving long-term aid from Tzu Chi.

In 2011, Syrian refugees started pouring into Jordan. In the process of providing daily necessities and financial assistance for them, volunteers saw their need for medical care. In response, the volunteers, despite their small number, began helping refugees obtain medical care and accompanying them on hospital visits. To help more refugees, in 2014 a Tzu Chi free clinic and aid distribution team from Taiwan started visiting Jordan every year to render free medical services and help distribute aid.

Rose, mentioned at the beginning of this article, was treated by the medical team that visited Jordan in July this year. Not long after the team had returned to Taiwan, they learned via Tzu Chi Jordan’s Facebook page that local volunteers had gone to Al Abasyiah to hold more distributions. The team also saw a post on Osama, a refugee boy afflicted with Crohn’s disease. He used to be a bag of bones before receiving treatment for his condition, but after undergoing surgery with Tzu Chi’s help, he filled out and his complexion grew healthier. The team prayed for Rawaa, another refugee child who had received help from Tzu Chi. She suffered from a condition called “imperforate anus,” which occurs when the anal opening is absent or not in a normal position. The team prayed that her third operation would go smoothly.

Elaf said that though she doesn’t know why, she just loves the people in blue. What is love? This is probably a question none of us can answer, because love is intangible and indefinable. However, we can see it in Elaf’s smile, in Rose’s smile, and in their mothers’ smiles; we can hear it in the sound of reading that wafts from a classroom in the desert where refugee children go to school. The power of love is not to be underestimated. With it, hope can bloom in the most arid place.

Volunteers unload medical equipment and supplies for a free clinic in Ghawr Al Safi, Karak, Jordan.
A volunteer fans two medical workers with cardboard in a free clinic in Ghawr Al Mazra‘a, Karak, Jordan. The temperature at the time was over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).


November 2019