Kirsten Clarke (right) guided students in understanding the meaning of flower arrangement and encouraging their creativity. | Photo courtesy of Andy Chiang 

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Tzu Chi Academy at Cupertino, Northern California, has been providing Chinese language education for over 20 years. The school emphasizes a balanced curriculum of Chinese language courses and humanistic cultural education, making it a top choice for Chinese-speaking families in the area. On March 2, 2024, the school offered a special flower arranging class led by Kirsten Clarke, a wildfire survivor and retired teacher.

Kirsten, a retired high school teacher, lived in the "Last Chance" community in the mountains of Santa Cruz, Northern California, for over forty years. In the summer of 2020, the community was devastated by the Bay Area lightning complex fires, which also consumed Kirsten’s home. For the past two to three years, Tzu Chi Silicon Valley volunteers have continuously supported the wildfire survivors of the "Last Chance" community, building strong friendships with families like Kirsten’s.

With years of experience in flower arrange, Ki Kirsten was invited by Tzu Chi Academy at Cupertino to teach students from grades one through six. Each student experiences flowers and plants differently, and Kirsten enjoyed watching the students express their creativity. She also fostered a sense of gratitude in them for the natural resources provided by the land.

Kirsten Clarke (right) brought flowers from her surroundings, including wild plants that grew back after the wildfire, to share the beauty of coexisting with Nature. | Photo courtesy of Andy Chiang

The volunteers and teachers at Tzu Chi Academy in Cupertino carefully craft cultural courses that enrich the students' Chinese language skills and deepen their cultural appreciation. By involving community members encountered through Tzu Chi's relief efforts, the school effectively leverages available resources to support the growth of both students and their families.

Written by Ching-pou Chang and Joy Chen, Tzu Chi USA
Edited by Jhen Ye, Dept. of Literature and History, Tzu Chi Foundation