"Before I joined Tzu Chi, I suffered from insomnia for four years. Life had no meaning,” she said. In 1991, she saw a tape of Master Cheng Yen which talked about the relationship between the body, the heart and the self. “She really enlightened me. In early 1994, the Master told us to set an example for others by working with our hands to do recycling. I wanted to do that. When you visit people’s homes with the commissioners, you come to understand that life is impermanent. So I started to do it.”
Chen went so far as to offer a space of 330 square metres of her property, which her family had used to winnow grain, as a recycling station. For the last 16 years, it has become the main such facility in her village of Bagualiao, in Renwu township in Kaohsiung county.
Every Wednesday and Saturday mornings, the station is full of up to 100 volunteers. Chen has installed a conveyor belt that carries on it recyclables of every kind. Volunteers stand on either side and sort out the pieces; they work at a high pace and seldom take a rest. As in other recycling stations, the volunteers sell the items to factories and donate the money they raise to the foundation’s television station (Daai TV). They receive no pay but take joy in their work. “One person said that the outside looks like a ‘Great Love Factory’, so we took that name,” Chen said. “We feel the great love and it really is a factory.” It began as a collection point and has turned into a full-fledged station; people from companies and schools come to see their work, to learn what they are doing.
For Chen, the station is not only a form of exercise; it has been the doorway to a new life. “It helped me come out of the pit of despair. Once I met another woman who was depressed and never went out. I told her: ‘come on, help with the recycling! You will forget your troubles!’” The change and the donation of her land for the station have brought Chen great rewards. Every week hundreds of fellow volunteers come to join her; each one gives generously of their time and effort and fills the station with the humanity of Tzu Chi, the warmth of its Great Love.
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