Tzu Chi Events Around the World

The United States

At three in the morning on March 18, when most of the city of Santa Ana was still asleep, people began lining up on the street. They sat in folding chairs with blankets wrapped around them waiting for the opening of a free medical clinic at the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Ana in Orange County, California.

Each year since 2013, Tzu Chi volunteers in Orange County have held three free clinics in Santa Ana for low-income families and people without medical insurance. They offer services in both traditional Chinese and Western medicine, including dentistry and ophthalmology. They measure blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. With the help of medical professionals and bilingual volunteers, people who can only speak Spanish are also able to receive some medical attention.

The March 18 event was the 14th clinic provided by Tzu Chi Orange County. When the sign-in area was opened in the morning, young and old seeking medical help proceeded in orderly lines to register, with assistance from Boys & Girls Club staff members.

At the opening ceremony, Andrew Do, Orange County Board of Supervisors chairman, presented a certificate of gratitude and made a donation to Tzu Chi. He said that the city badly needed free medical services because most of its residents were immigrants or low-income families.

The venue was set up with spacious areas for different medical specialties. The Chinese medicine section had partitioned cubicles for patients receiving acupuncture treatments and Tuina massages. A booth was set up to promote marrow donation, encouraging people to put their love into action by signing up as bone marrow donors. Another booth taught children how to care for their teeth, and it also kept them entertained so their parents could focus on receiving care themselves. Drawing paper and crayons were provided to help keep the children occupied.

Crescenico Luis came to the free clinic to see several doctors. He also brought along a coin bank to donate to Tzu Chi. “This is just a small token of my appreciation,” he said. He hoped that his donation would be helpful to someone in need.

Yvonne McKinley has volunteered at the event for four years. She said that once a female patient who had seriously poor eyesight came to seek help. After she put on the new eyeglasses she had received at the free clinic, she looked around with an amazed expression as if she were seeing the world for the first time. She smiled like a small girl stepping into Disneyland for the first time. “That smile was just priceless,” McKinley remarked. She said that similar touching stories happen at the free clinics all the time.

A stream of warmth flowed, as suffering from illness was relieved and volunteers found happiness in serving others. Thirty-five medical professionals and 135 support volunteers served 124 patients on this day.

Dentists fix dental problems at a free clinic held by Tzu Chi for the underprivileged in Santa Ana, California.  Huang You-bin


The Chong Ai Development Center in New Taipei City offers day and night care services to mentally challenged people. Tzu Chi volunteers have been paying monthly visits to the institute since 2017. Volunteers do what they can to help residents and lead group activities for them.

The director of the center, Zhou Shi-yi (周詩儀), told visiting volunteers one day that one of their residents had a cataract so far advanced it was beyond surgical removal. Had it been diagnosed earlier, it might have been possible to restore the resident’s eyesight. To help prevent similar regrettable situations from happening again, the volunteers contacted the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) and arranged for a free clinic on March 15 to examine the eyes of the residents.

Volunteers moved the needed equipment to the center at noon on the day of the clinic and set it up. Director Zhou pointed out that taking the residents to the doctor’s office to have their eyes checked would be a monumental task. Moreover, it would be quite a challenge for the doctor to examine them because they likely would not cooperate. The director was very grateful to the volunteers for coming to the center to provide the medical services, making it easy on everyone.

After the equipment had been set up, the clinic was opened to residents. Most weren’t comfortable with having their eyes examined, but volunteers and center staffers patiently guided them to cooperate with the medical professionals. Volunteer Dong Shou-mei (董壽梅) visits the residents every month, so she knows them very well. She stayed next to those who were being examined to offer emotional support. She said to them, “What do you see? The nurse will put two magical drops in your eyes, and you’ll have an interesting feeling.” Giving the residents large doses of encouragement helped the examinations run more smoothly.

One male resident had such poor eyesight that when he walked he had to grab onto something to feel secure. Dr. You Jian-zhang (游建章), an ophthalmologist, examined him and discovered that he was so nearsighted that he required a prescription of over -10 diopters. The doctor asked optician Huang Qun-chen (黃群宸) to fit him with a pair of glasses.

Dr. You has been with TIMA for seven years. He was glad to have this opportunity to serve the residents. He emphasized the importance of eye exams since early diagnosis of eye problems followed by professional treatment can help preserve or improve one’s vision. Optician Huang had started his business not long before. He was more than happy to give free eyeglasses to the disadvantaged.

The free clinic lasted for half a day and served 55 residents. Several of them were diagnosed with myopia. After Huang fitted them with eyeglasses, they could see clearly and walk with confidence again. Their smiles made the staffers and volunteers very happy.

Tzu Chi volunteers gave a free eye clinic at the Chong Ai Development Center in New Taipei City on March 15, 2018. Lin Wen-zhi


Painting on a ceramic plate is perhaps a simple task for most children, but it is quite challenging for the children at Huellas de Inclusión (“footprints of inclusion”), who suffer from Down syndrome or other intellectual disabilities.

Founded by special education teacher Karina Graciela Guerrero Valderrama and a few other professionals more than a year ago, Huellas de Inclusión offers counseling services and organizes assistance programs for children with mental disabilities and their parents. The organization has also set up a small drama group, which has performed several times in public. Although the children in the group are not professionals, they do their best to perform, and their acting has touched many people in their audiences.

As much as the drama group means to the children, the troupe was equipped with a very rudimentary sound system, which often broke down. Huellas de Inclusión did not have enough money to replace the system, so Valderrama sought outside help. She eventually found Tzu Chi and expressed hope that the foundation could help.

On December 13, 2017, Tzu Chi volunteers visited Valderrama for the first time. Due to lack of funding, she had opened the foundation in her own home. She told the volunteers about her near-, medium-, and long-term plans for the children her foundation was helping. She hopes to help her children become independent.

Volunteers visited the foundation a couple more times afterwards. During one visit they saw the children painting on ceramic plates. Tzu Chi helped sell these pottery works at an event in January 2018 to raise money for Valderrama’s organization.

During the volunteers’ visits, the mothers of some children talked about the hardships and the happiness of raising their kids. They choked up when they mentioned how their children had been bullied because they could not communicate well with other people. The drama performances had afforded the children an opportunity to smile again. When they smiled, their mothers smiled too.

The troupe currently had six children in it, but if they had better equipment, the theater program could benefit more children. After evaluation, Tzu Chi volunteers decided to help solve the drama group’s problem with their sound system.

Volunteers first researched sound system needs for stage performances. On March 5, they purchased two speakers, one mixing console, and two wireless microphones. Volunteer Liao Qin-jiu (廖欽久) donated three big mirrors from his company so the children in the drama group could see themselves act when they practiced and make corrections accordingly.

Ten volunteers visited Huellas de Inclusión on March 10 to make the donation. They also gave the children at the foundation a hands-on lesson in making sushi. One child said happily that he liked the sound system and the sushi-making class. He thanked Tzu Chi for everything. Valderrama also promised the full cooperation of her foundation if Tzu Chi should need any assistance from them in the future.

Volunteers set up sound equipment that Tzu Chi Chile donated for the drama group at Huellas de Inclusión. Courtesy of Tzu Chi Chile


Following a free medical clinic in February, Tzu Chi Indonesia conducted another one on March 18 for underprivileged people living along the Angke River in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Salimi, 65, and his wife, Maunah, 58, arrived early that morning, even before volunteers had finished preparing the venue for the event. The couple had come to the February clinic with good results, so when they learned that there was going to be another clinic offered, they wanted to arrive early and wait.

Maunah said that her husband had a cold, a cough, knee pains, and dizziness when they came to the February clinic. He was diagnosed with an acute respiratory tract infection and hypertension, the cause of his dizziness. As for herself, she had hyperglycemia, blurred vision, and numbness in both legs. She was diagnosed with diabetes. The medicine that they received at the clinic took care of all their problems except his knee pain and the blurriness in one of her eyes. They were happy about how their condition had improved as a result of the visit.

The doctor who saw Salimi on March 18 advised him to change some of his lifestyle habits, including eating more nutritious food, reducing his intake of salt, drinking less coffee, and exercising more. Manuah’s doctor advised her to cut back on sweet food, not to put sugar in her coffee, and to drink more water.

Salimi said that he and his wife had gone to a health center for their problems, but their conditions had not improved. Since they had no money to go to a major hospital, they thanked Allah for the free treatment they were receiving.

Jumiati came to the event with her aging mother, who had difficulty walking. A volunteer got the mother into a wheelchair and pushed her to see the doctor. She was diagnosed with acute tuberculosis and required hospital care. The doctor wrote a referral letter for her and Jumiati said that she would take her mother to the hospital the next day. She thanked the doctor for the letter because it could reduce the medical bill.

Seven doctors, one lab technician, ten pharmacists, and 56 volunteers staffed the free clinic and treated 66 patients. 


A Tzu Chi volunteer talks with a patient at a free clinic that Tzu Chi held for needy people living near the Angke River in Jakarta, Indonesia. Chen Li-ju


May 2018