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Buddhist foundation grateful to Pope

/ 04:51 AM January 19, 2015

MANILA, Philippines–An international Buddhist organization assisting survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) in the Visayas has expressed its gratitude to Pope Francis for his “mercy and compassion to the poor,” especially to the disaster-stricken.

The Tzu Chi Foundation has been one with the Pope in doing charitable work for the poor in the country and overseas, according to its spokesperson, Rey-Sheng Her.

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“Tzu Chi shares the common value with you (Pope) and has been doing this for five decades in nearly 90 countries,” Her said in a statement, speaking on behalf of Tzu Chi founder Master Cheng Yen.

“We shall continually be doing this altogether to show the harmony of religions, and the power of love and compassion to the world.”

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Francis went to Tacloban City in Leyte province on Saturday to console the victims of Yolanda, the strongest storm on record, which killed more than 6,300 people in Eastern Visayas.

He also blessed the Pope Francis Center for the Poor in nearby Palo town. The center was built last year to serve as a home for the elderly and sick.

Her said the Tzu Chi Foundation, which was founded in Taiwan in 1966, had collaborated with the Catholic Church in the Philippines to help the storm survivors.

It brought relief to families across the disaster zone, initiating cash-for-work programs in the worst-hit villages, and installing prefabricated schools and houses for the displaced.

The foundation was helping rebuild Sto. Niño Church in Tacloban, which was left in ruins by the typhoon, tapping volunteers and supporters from more than 50 Tzu Chi offices worldwide, including those in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Canada and the United States.

The foundation has been active in the Philippines since November 1994, with local chapters in Manila and Cebu.

According to Michael Siao, who is in charge of the cash-for-work program, Tzu Chi pays workers P500 a day to clean up and start rebuilding their own neighborhoods.

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It’s not just about putting money in their pockets but “reviving the community spirit,” Siao said, noting that Tzu Chi also launched similar projects in Marikina City after Tropical Storm “Ondoy” (international name: Ketsana) struck in 2009, and in Rizal province after the onslaught of heavy monsoon rains in 2012.–Reports from Gervie Kay Estella and Inquirer Research

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TAGS: Buddhism, papal visit, Pope Francis, Tzu Chi Foundation, Yolanda
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