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Tzu Chi's Winter Relief Efforts for Edinburgh's Homeless

In November, the weather in Edinburgh is typically chilly, with temperatures falling to 5 degrees Celsius and below. According to the forecast, Edinburgh was expected to see its first snowfall at the end of the month. With this in mind, we decided to distribute winter bags to the homeless on the last weekend of the month, hoping to provide them with warmth before the cold wintry weather sets in.

Among the items included in the winter bags were notes of encouragement on vegetarianism and ethical eating, Jing Si Aphorisms, as well as Tzu Chi’s red envelope of wisdom and blessings from Master Cheng Yen to the recipients. Volunteers also wrote heartfelt messages on the Christmas cards, wishing them peace and happiness during this festive season.

Before setting off with our winter bags, volunteers sang Tzu Chi’s Prayer song, praying for blessings and peace for all in the world. There was also a short briefing about Tzu Chi etiquette to ensure we interacted with the homeless and friends living on the streets in a respectful and compassionate manner. We were reminded to be mindful of their circumstances and to treat them with dignity and kindness.

Ten volunteers walked under the overcast weather, undeterred by the gentle drizzle and the wet pavement. Each volunteer carried two winter bags and headed towards the busy streets of Edinburgh. The Royal Mile was teeming with tourists and locals exploring the city’s rich history and culture. Volunteers walked through the nooks and crannies of the city and found many street sleepers huddled in sleeping bags or temporary tents.

During our distribution efforts, we saw some homeless people queuing eagerly in front of Care Van Edinburgh, a charitable mobile van from Bethany Christian Trust that provides hot food and beverages to people living on the streets. When we approached some of these people, a few of them were joyful upon receiving the winter bags from our volunteers. Through conversations with them, we learned that apart from locals, some of them were refugees and foreign nationals. Volunteers took the opportunity to explain the eco-friendly scarf and Tzu Chi’s red envelope of wisdom and blessings. When we shared the note about ethical eating, some street friends immediately pledged to have at least a vegetarian meal a day. The winter relief efforts went smoothly, and we distributed the 20 winter bags but were disappointed that we could not reach out to the individuals living on other streets.

At the end of the winter relief distribution, each volunteer was given an eco-friendly scarf as a gentle reminder to appreciate Mother Earth and to do our bit for our environment. All of us were filled with gratitude to be part of Tzu Chi. It was also one of our volunteers’ birthdays, and so we sang a birthday song to Hazel not just once, but twice!

Through the relief efforts and this simple act of kindness, we could share our love and compassion and do the best we can to help and serve our local communities. It was a heart-warming moment that brought us together. Seeing the warm and joyous smiles of the people living on the streets during the relief efforts made all the hard work worth it. May this world be filled with more blessings and peace!

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