From Charity to Medicine
The economy of Taiwan in the 1970s took a giant leap, thriving at a rate only second to Japan in Asia. It was a time when hard workers were rewarded for their labors, and everyone can afford a family. As the nation began to break out of its plight, poverty continued on the east side of the Central Mountain Range.
Upholding the teachings of Ven. Yin Shun, “For Buddhism and all living beings”, Mas-ter Cheng Yen in 1966 founded Tzu Chi Foundation, and immediately engaged in pov-erty relief with its members. She recognized the vicious cycle of poverty and illness and, in 1972, founded Tzu Chi Foundation Affiliated Free Clinic on no. 28 Ren’ai St., Hualien City. The free clinic served as a the basis of the Foundation’s future medical mission.
Soon after the foundation was founded, Master Cheng Yen recalled, she and few com-missioners visited a low-income family in the countryside of Hualien, and were wel-comed by a horrific sight. The man of the house, paralyzed by occupational hazard, lay helplessly by the front door as a rodent, unafraid of the approaching visitors, feast away on the rotten flesh of his lower limb. Not long after, the wife, as thin as the corn stalks she was carrying, returned home with four young children. The scene was heartbreak-ing. “At the time, Hualien was in no shortage of cases like this one. I founded the free clinic, for I have witnessed how poverty prohibit people from seeking treatment. We engage in medical outreach during weekends and holidays in Yuli and Taitung to the underserved populations,” recorded Master Cheng Yen.
The charitable contributions of Nurse Teng Shu-Ching and Nurse Lin Pi-Chi, Physician Chang Cheng-Wen, and Surgeon Huang Po-Shih from the provincial Hualien hospital were the sustainable force behind the free clinic's operation. They spent the two-hour lunch break every Tuesday and Saturday in the free clinic, serving underprivileged pa-tients near and far. Dharma masters from Jing-Si abode and Tzu Chi commissioners would arrive at the clinic around 9 am to sweep the facility, and assist patients with reg-istration, check-in, and prepare medical records. After servicing over 140,000 person-time visits over 14 years, the free clinic completed its intended mission and closed down in Dec. 1986, four months after the Hualien Tzu Chi General Hospital inauguration.
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