The community of the Tzu Chi Foundation was extremely interesting to us as observers. Regardless of their identity as volunteers, the group of worshipers were a very distinct group.
The Tzu Chi Foundation of Flushing has a middle-aged, predominantly Taiwanese population. Within this population very few of the volunteers and members of the organization speak any English. Being that this community is situated within an American city, it was strange to us that hardly any of the immigrants ever learned English. However, this can be interpreted to mean that the members of the organization are so close to one another that they can get by just based on their small community, hardly giving them any reason to learn how communicate with the English-speaking world of Flushing. If this is so, then it explains why most of the members only speak their native language, even after years of living in America. However, it also gives a reason for the age of the community; children of immigrants and immigrants raised in the United States often prefer speaking English. The fact that the community only speaks a limited amount of English can make the younger generation feel excluded, despite the fact that the values of the Tzu Chi Foundation aim to include the youth in order to educate them.
Another interesting fact about the Tzu Chi Foundation, specifically in Flushing is that they don’t see themselves as part of the Flushing community, but rather as part of a larger global community, The Tzu Chi community. Additionally, even though they have a branch in Flushing, the Tzu Chi members in Flushing tend not to consider just Flushing their own local Tzu Chi community, but the entire Tri-State Area. When speaking with the few volunteers or youth volunteers who did happen to speak English, they told us that the Flushing branch of the organization is not very active. In fact, they have very few events, and that most occur in New York City. Due to the fact that the events take place in the city, they see themselves more a part of that community than they do the one they actually live in. This fact gives insight into how the people view themselves and their community. They find their volunteer work and the activities that they participate in to be more important than the region that they actually live in. Because of their dedication to the foundation, they see themselves as part of a larger community rather than the smaller community in which they are from.
This also explains why Ms. Yin put such an emphasis on the larger community of the world: the Buddhists of this particular community consider themselves to be connected to Tzu Chi as an organization, instead of simply to their individual community in Flushing.