Fordham TCCA Attends Homeless Canvassing

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Fordham TCCA Attends Homeless Canvassing

Students and Tzu Chi members give supplies to an individual experiencing homelessness. (Sarah Huffman/The Fordham Ram)

Students and Tzu Chi members give supplies to an individual experiencing homelessness. (Sarah Huffman/The Fordham Ram)

Students and Tzu Chi members give supplies to an individual experiencing homelessness. (Sarah Huffman/The Fordham Ram)

Students and Tzu Chi members give supplies to an individual experiencing homelessness. (Sarah Huffman/The Fordham Ram)


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By Sarah Huffman

Fordham Tzu Chi Collegiate Association (TCCA) participated in a homeless canvassing event on Sunday, Feb. 10. Students from Fordham, students from other colleges and members of the Tzu Chi Foundation went out to various parts of Manhattan and brought supplies to homeless individuals.

Attendees rode the subway to the Tzu Chi Center on East 60th Street at 9 a.m. Sunday morning. The Fordham students were joined by members of other chapters from schools such as Stonybrook University and New York University. Fordham TCCA President Abby Tse, FCRH ’20, said they had 12 students from Fordham and 20 people from other chapters signed up. She said she would consider this a successful turnout rate.

Students packed drawstring bags filled with blankets, socks, scarves, hand warmers, water bottles, sandwiches and various other snacks to distribute people who are homeless. The blankets and scarves were donated by an entrepreneur who makes them out of recycled water bottles. Volunteers and a local baker donated all the food.

Members of the Tzu Chi Foundation presented an orientation slideshow including a video of all the charity work that the Tzu Chi Foundation does around the world. The slideshow also explained the proper method for approaching people experiencing homelessness.

They said canvassers should meet those experiencing homelessness at eye level and crouch down if needed. They should then show them everything in the bag and try to have a short conversation with them.

The members of the foundation emphasized that if an individual acted hostile or angry, no one should react in response; participants’ safety was the number one priority.

Foundation leaders concluded the orientation by reminding everyone that they are trying to bring love, hope and relief to the community and to remember that the homeless are people, too.

They emphasized that everyone should think about why they are volunteering for this event and they should appreciate the opportunity to give, learn and practice kindness.

The larger group split into four smaller groups made up of five or six people. The areas targeted included Grand Central Station, Penn Station, Union Square Park and Port Authority. Each group was assigned a different area.

The groups then departed to their assigned areas and gave out 10 to12 bags to homeless individuals on the street. The homeless individuals were generally receptive to the supply bags.

There were a few instances where individuals did not want to take anything that they did not need. For example, one man could not eat sweets, so he gave a bag of cookies back to the canvassers. A Tzu Chi foundation member commented that homeless individuals often will not take things they do not need because they would rather someone who needs it receive it.

Another Tzu Chi Foundation member said it was important to remember that it is not about who deserves the supplies more, but rather helping anyone they can.

An attendee from Parsons University said “We don’t think about the homeless day-to-day but we need to.”

A member of the foundation said helping the homeless is not just one event and people should think about it all the time.

Prior to the event, Fordham student Matene Toure, FCRH ’20, said she was excited and nervous because she had never done anything similar to this before but she thought it would be heartbreaking to see those experiencing homelessness.

“I want to be more mindful about what is going on in the city that I’m living in. I’m from the Bronx and I went to school in the city. It’s something that you always see but it’s never on your mind,” said Toure. “I really want it to be on my mind more often. There are people that are not as privileged as I am and it’s something I should be more mindful of and appreciate more what I have.”

Toure said it is important for Fordham to have events like this and engage in the wider NYC community. She said it gives students a better perspective of the wider community that we need to talk about.

“Clubs like this [TCCA] are spaces to have these conversations and we want Fordham to see that just doing things like this is not hard,” said Toure.

After the event, Alexa Lenore Tomas, FCRH ’20, said, “It was a very eye opening experience. Some of them don’t respond much, but you know you’re doing something for them.”

Tse said Fordham TCCA chose to hold this event because they empathized with the homeless population and recognized they could do something to help them. She said this is an annual event that the NYC Tzu Chi Foundation organizes and the Fordham TCCA chapter is proud to co-host this event for the first time.

“We hope that the homeless will be able to stay warm during this cold, harsh winter,” said Tse. “We also want to show the homeless that there are people who care and will treat them with respect and kindness.”

Before the event, she said she thinks the attendees will enjoy this event because it is meaningful and they are actively trying to make this world a better place.

The TCCA is the college chapter of the Tzu Chi Foundation. Local chapters other than Fordham include Columbia, Cornell, Stonybrook and NYU. TCCA also has chapters across the United States and around the world.

The Tzu Chi Foundation is an international, non-profit humanitarian organization founded in 1966 by a Buddhist nun, Dharma Master Cheng Yen. They are focused on four missions: education, humanistic culture, medicine and charity and their goal is to alleviate suffering in the world through the practice of gratitude, love, respect and compassion.

“We hope that members across the college chapters would grow spiritually and mentally from their experiences with us and take the virtues that they have learned and practice it throughout their lives,” said Tse.