Tzu Chi Events Around the World


Many underprivileged people in Guatemala experience difficulty in making a livelihood, which has only been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to a request for aid from the municipal government of Palencia, Tzu Chi volunteers held a food distribution in the town on October 3, 2021. That same day, volunteers also donated medical and personal protective equipment to local firefighters to help safeguard them from the threat of the coronavirus.

The distribution was held at the newly inaugurated Plaza Bicentenario in Palencia. Guadalupe Alberto Reyes Aguilar, the mayor, personally directed municipal workers, police officers, and firefighters to lay out 500 sets of relief items on the plaza in neat order.

The event started with a simple but dignified ceremony, during which the mayor gave a short, moving speech. “I know poverty sometimes makes us feel sad,” he said. “It dampens our spirits and even makes us afraid. But even under the worst circumstances we must not lose hope, faith, and a heart of charity.” He then went on to thank Tzu Chi for being a long-standing friend to people in the town. He said the foundation had first aided Palencia’s residents in 2004, and that not only residents of Palencia but people in other regions of Guatemala had received help from Tzu Chi too. “I invite all of you who are benefiting from the distribution to thank the foundation’s volunteers in their country’s language. They are from the other end of the Earth [Taiwan]. ‘Xie xie’ is ‘thank you’ in Chinese. Let’s convey to them our respect and gratitude. Xie xie!”

As typical in a Tzu Chi distribution, participants were invited to drop money into coin banks held out by volunteers to help other needy people. This was to inspire love in everyone’s heart. The mayor was the first to donate. Many other people deposited their spare change into the coin banks too. Tzu Chi had been helping people in the town for a long time. Many aid recipients pulled at volunteers’ sleeves to say “thank you” to them.

Five hundred families received rice, cooking oil, sugar, pasta, multigrain powder, and biscuits. Volunteers also donated medical and personal protective equipment to local firefighters at the event. The donated items included oximeters, blood pressure gauges, thermometers—ten each—and 1,000 pairs of medical gloves.

Government workers in the town of Palencia, Guatemala, arrange relief items in orderly rows in the town’s Plaza Bicentenario for a Tzu Chi distribution. The distribution, held on October 3, 2021, was to help local people affected by the pandemic. Ye Wu Li-zhu


Tzu Chi volunteers in Ciudad del Este, the second largest city in Paraguay, held a regular monthly distribution at the local Tzu Chi office on September 20, 2021, benefiting 50 needy families. The aid was tailored to the families’ needs; some received assorted food items, some rent subsidies, others medicine, etc.

Analdo had been an aid recipient since 2016. He arrived at the office to collect two months’ worth of cervical cancer medications for his wife. He thanked Tzu Chi for the medicine that helped his wife better fight her disease. Andres, another aid recipient, was studying to become a doctor. He understood the pain of people too poor to afford medical treatment, and he wanted to help. Tzu Chi has awarded him scholarships since 2018 to help him fulfill his dream. “If I become a doctor, I’ll do my utmost to help those most in need,” he said. Rodrigo, 18, came to the office to get food for his family. He was accompanied by his mother, who was supporting five children alone. Rodrigo suffered from presbyopia, an eye condition that normally affects older people. Besides getting food for his family, he received a pair of custom-made glasses to help him see better.

In addition to helping those 50 families, volunteers visited 12 more in September to deliver aid to them. One of the families lived in Domingo Martínez de Irala. The breadwinner of this family made a living by fishing but he could barely support his wife and five children on his modest income. Volunteer Silvio Ayala Meira had learned during an earlier visit that the children in the family were sleeping on two tattered sponge sheets stacked together and decided to help. He and other volunteers delivered two beds and mattresses, five blankets, and some clothes to the family on September 10. The mother, Mercedes Castro, was extremely grateful, especially for the beds. Her children had never slept in a real bed before. The young ones were overjoyed.

The children warmly and enthusiastically waved goodbye to the volunteers when it was time for them to leave. The volunteers embarked on their journey home, their hearts brimming with joy at seeing the kids’ happiness.

A man received a wheelchair at a distribution held at the Tzu Chi office in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, on September 20. Fifty families received aid tailored to their needs on that day. Cai Qi-ru

The United States

Torrential rains brought by Hurricane Ida caused the Elizabeth River in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to overflow on September 1, 2021, flooding streets in Elizabeth and devastating the Oakwood Plaza Apartments that abutted the river. The local government responded by housing displaced residents in five hotels. Tzu Chi New Jersey held four aid distributions from September 25 to October 9 at four of the hotels, helping 141 families.

The first distribution took place at Embassy Suites by Hilton on September 25. Twenty Tzu Chi volunteers worked with 13 Red Cross volunteers to serve participating families. Volunteer Zhang Wei-guang (張維光) kicked off the event by reading a consolation letter from Dharma Master Cheng Yen, then led everyone in singing the Tzu Chi song “Love and Care” to pray for peace for the world.

Pamela Brown, a survivor, burst into tears when she learned that she was receiving a cash card worth 600 U.S. dollars from Tzu Chi. She took a volunteer’s hands in hers and repeatedly thanked the foundation. She said that though she was in a low point in her life, Tzu Chi’s help had brought her hope. She said she would pray for the volunteers.

Volunteers respectfully handed over every cash card while conveying to the recipients the best wishes from Master Cheng Yen and every Tzu Chi volunteer. They told the victims that they were not alone and that Tzu Chi would always be there for them as long as they needed help. In addition to a cash card, every family received a box of face masks and a Tzu Chi blanket. The blankets were very soft to the touch, so recipients were greatly surprised when they learned that they were made from recycled plastic bottles. Volunteers took the opportunity to explain to them Tzu Chi’s environmental efforts, hoping to help raise awareness of the importance of environmental protection.

Volunteers’ efforts to promote environmental protection resonated with Nilaja Watkins, an elementary school teacher. She received Tzu Chi’s aid at the distribution conducted at APA Hotel Woodbridge on October 2. Watkins’s rented apartment, located in the basement, had been completely ruined in the floods and was no longer fit for habitation. Even so, she counted herself among the lucky ones—at least she had survived the disaster. Even though she was going through a difficult time, she knew she was faring better than many others. She expressed thanks for the help and care from Tzu Chi, and said she would share the story of the Tzu Chi blanket with her colleagues and students to inspire eco-friendly action.

“I thought it was just a typical rainstorm. Who was to know that my car and house would be gone when I woke up in the morning,” said a victim. There was a lot of helplessness and sadness behind this simple statement. It’s impossible to stop life’s impermanence from happening, but humanity’s saving grace is love and care. With love and care come hope and strength to carry on.

Volunteers explain to flood victims how to use the cash cards provided by Tzu Chi at a distribution on September 25. Heavy downpours triggered by Hurricane Ida flooded streets in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in early September, destroying homes and submerging cars. Tzu Chi helped victims by distributing cash cards, blankets, and face masks. Gao Shou-yong


Amidst a light drizzle on September 12, 2021, about 60 Tzu Chi volunteers in Surrey, in the province of British Columbia, gathered at a parking lot near the Guildford Mall. They were coming together with a mission: to clean up the streets near the mall. Tzu Chi volunteers in Surrey help clean up the streets once a month, from May to September—and they’ve been doing it for 25 years, ever since Tzu Chi Surrey joined the city’s Adopt A Street program in 1997.

Doug McCallum was the mayor of the city when Tzu Chi Surrey joined the program 25 years ago, and he joined them at that time in cleaning up the streets. As it happens, McCallum is also the current mayor, so he joined the volunteers again on September 12. He commended Tzu Chi volunteers for their 25 years of dedication in making Surrey a cleaner and more beautiful city.

Before the participants set out to clean up the streets near the mall, volunteer Guan Hui-mei (管惠美) led everyone in doing warm-up exercises to the tune of the song “A Clean Earth.” Then volunteer Chen Jun-hui ((陳俊輝) reminded everyone to watch out for their safety when cleaning up the streets and not to pick up hazardous objects.

The sight of the team of people bending down to pick up garbage around the neighborhood moved many citizens. Passing motorists honked their car horns and gave them thumbs-up in a show of support and appreciation. Pedestrians and people waiting at bus stops hollered to the volunteers: “Good job!”

Cai Jin-zhi (蔡金枝) was one of the volunteers who had joined the activity 25 years ago. “The Tzu Chi Surrey office had just been established,” she recalled. “Every month, as many as 70 to 80 people would come for the event. We made an impressive, long procession as we picked up trash along the streets.” She feels honored to be a part of Tzu Chi Surrey as it has grown over the years. She expressed hope that she would still be in the procession, cleaning the streets, 25 years from now.

“Keeping services like ours going for 25 years is quite a feat,” said volunteer Wu Mei-lian (吳玫漣). “It’s our duty as citizens to help our city stay clean. I hope our cleanup event will continue for many more years to come.” The other volunteers felt the same desire.

The entire event lasted for more than two hours. Volunteers set off for home afterward with a spring in their step after leaving the streets clean and tidy.

Doug McCallum (left), the mayor of Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, cleans streets in the city with Tzu Chi volunteers on September 12, 2021. Wu Qun-fang


Tzu Chi Myanmar has been helping vulnerable people in the country weather the economic impact of the pandemic since April 2020. In July this year, a third wave of the coronavirus erupted in Myanmar. In response, Tzu Chi volunteers donated medical equipment and supplies to local hospitals and isolation centers to help battle the crisis. In the process, they learned from government officials that the pandemic had caused many factories in Yangon to shut down. Many people lost their jobs as a result. Inflation had further added insult to injury. The officials expressed hope that Tzu Chi could help tide affected families over this trying time.

One of the areas hit hardest was Seikkyi Kanaungto Township. There were few employment opportunities in the town, so most residents supported themselves with odd jobs. Others traveled to and fro each day to an industrial zone in nearby Hlaingthaya Township to work. The pandemic had greatly strained the finances of many families in the area. With the assistance of local government workers, volunteers quickly obtained lists of families in need of help. A distribution was subsequently held in late September to aid the families.

Volunteer U Kyaw Khin (林銘慶) mobilized ten of his employees to help with the distribution so that older volunteers wouldn’t have to venture out for the event and run the risk of COVID infection. Along with a Tzu Chi staffer and 15 young volunteers from the Tzu Chi Collegiate Association, U Kyaw Khin and his employees set out to Seikkyi Kanaungto on September 23 to launch the distribution.

Seikkyi Kanaungto Township consists of nine communities, some of which are inaccessible by car due to a river. After meeting with the leaders of the communities, the Tzu Chi team decided to go personally to those communities accessible by car to distribute aid. As for those communities unreachable by car, their respective leaders were entrusted with the responsibility of transferring relief goods from Tzu Chi into the hands of the needy in their neighborhoods.

A total of 6,700 families in the nine communities received aid from the foundation on September 23 and 26. Each family received a 24-kilogram (53-pound) bag of rice and a one-liter (0.26-gallon) bottle of cooking oil.

Daw Sanay Ma, an aid recipient, was a new mother with a two-month-old baby. Her husband put food on the table by doing odd jobs, but the pandemic had made it difficult for him to earn enough money to get by. Sometimes he’d skip meals so that his wife could have enough to eat. A neighbor took pity on them and lent him a motor scooter to use as a taxi to make some money. He had worked for four days as a taxi driver now, earning 3,000 kyat (US$1.60) a day. “We’ve never received rice or cooking oil from a charity organization before,” said Daw Sanay Ma. “We’re very thankful to Tzu Chi.”

Mar Lar Thwe is a single mother with two young children. She made ends meet by selling food she made herself in her community. Business was bad because of the pandemic. She had had no capital to support her small business for some time and had been relying on neighbors to scrape by. Sometimes she was even forced to go hungry. The rice from Tzu Chi couldn’t have come at a better time. She planned to use the money saved from buying rice for her family to restart her business.

People living in Seikkyi Kanaungto Township, Yangon, Myanmar, line up to receive rice and cooking oil from Tzu Chi. The pandemic had hurt many families’ livelihoods in the town. Mg Myint Thu


A fire broke out in Tanjung Priok, Jakarta, on October 7, 2021, destroying 61 houses. Volunteers quickly inspected damage in the disaster area, then followed up with a distribution. Ten volunteers arrived at the disaster area on October 11 and handed out 120 sets of relief items to victims.

According to Arif Hidayat, a neighborhood chief, 19 fire trucks arrived at the fire scene after the conflagration broke out, and it took three hours for the fire to be extinguished. “Fortunately, no one was killed,” said the neighborhood chief.

Anna (a pseudonym), 58, was away from home working when the fire broke out. Her building, which she and her family shared with five other households, was burned to the ground. None of the residents had been able to salvage anything.

Anna was happy to receive the aid items from Tzu Chi, which included blankets, toiletry items, water buckets, etc. “Thank our good Lord, Allah,” she said. “The things you gave us are exactly what we need. Thank you so much. I’ll pray for everyone who helped us.”

“I hope the victims can feel how many people care for them,” said volunteer Gao Kuang-bao (高鑛寶), “and that the aid we distributed will ease their burden.”

November 2021