Tzu Chi Events Around the World

Volunteers clean up at a school in Santa Ana, Ecuador. Downpours in early April caused severe floods in that country. Tzu Chi volunteers from seven countries joined local volunteers to conduct a cash-for-work program. Zheng Wei-yuan



In early April, heavy rains caused serious flooding in three provinces of Ecuador. Tzu Chi volunteers from the United States and Argentina arrived there first to evaluate the damage. More volunteers from Paraguay, Canada, Brazil, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic followed to form a 36-person delegation from seven countries. They joined 21 local volunteers and initiated a cash-for-work program on April 24 in places including Portoviejo and Santa Ana, Manabí Province.

Eight local volunteers from Canoa, also in Manabí Province, were themselves victims of a strong earthquake that had rocked Ecuador in April last year. At that time, they had received help from Tzu Chi. This time around, they wanted to help, so they came forward to translate and care for flood victims.

Tzu Chi volunteers and the locals worked together to clear away the mud and debris on the streets. They also cleaned up local schools so that students could resume schooling. Elderly or physically challenged people were especially grateful to receive the cleanup help. Volunteers also visited victims’ homes to comfort them.

Every participant of the program received 15 U.S. dollars per day for their work. In nine days, from April 24 to May 2, 57 volunteers led local people to work over 17,000 shifts. Local governments provided large machines and trucks for the project. The work relief program cleaned up towns, prevented epidemics, and gave the participants a little money to help them regain their footing.

On April 21, Tzu Chi volunteers in New Zealand distributed prepaid cards to flood victims in Edgecombe, North Island. Zhang Li-zhen


New Zealand

In April, Cyclones Debbie and Cook pounded New Zealand in quick succession. The town of Edgecumbe, North Island, was badly ravaged. The rains brought by Cyclone Debbie caused a river to burst through a concrete levee in Edgecumbe on April 6, forcing the evacuation of 1,600 people. Then on April 13, as people were still reeling, Cyclone Cook inflicted more damage on the same town. Many homes there were damaged or flooded, making people’s lives very difficult. After visiting the area to assess the situation, Tzu Chi volunteers went there on April 21 to give out prepaid cards and soothe victims’ rankled nerves.

In addition to the Tzu Chi volunteers, 500 other out-of-town volunteers went to Edgecumbe to help clean up in the aftermath of the cyclones. They donned gloves and other protective gear to clean up muddy streets and houses. Many victims also returned home to clean up.

Experts examined the damaged houses, declared 15 of them uninhabitable, and restricted the use of 250 others. Tzu Chi volunteers decided to distribute prepaid cards to 200 of the families on April 21.

The distribution was held at a local school. After a traditional Maori ceremony praying for a smooth recovery for everyone, Tzu Chi volunteer Tu Hao-zhong (凃皓中) explained how the distribution would proceed. Local government officials and residents wearing Tzu Chi volunteers’ vests helped with the distribution.

This was the first time many victims had met after the flood. They asked after one another and cheered each other on. Tu told them how Tzu Chi had started with a small group of housewives each saving a little money every day to help the needy. The story inspired an elderly woman to donate 50 New Zealand dollars (US$35) to Tzu Chi to be used to help less fortunate people. Her act, radiating out like ripples in water, inspired many other people to donate as well.

Tzu Chi volunteers bowed deeply and used both hands—a gesture of respect—to present prepaid cards to the flood victims. The cards were each worth 700 New Zealand dollars (US$484). One elderly couple hugged a volunteer tightly to express their thanks. Another victim, Richard, had lost his house, where he had lived for 46 years, and he looked very downcast. A volunteer handed him his prepaid card and held his hands tightly. Another victim told volunteers, “My eyeglasses were washed away in the flood. Thanks to your gift money, now I can get a new pair.”

Ani Brunet from Auckland Civil Defence was deeply touched after she witnessed how Tzu Chi volunteers conducted the distribution under the foundation’s guiding principles of directness, priority, timeliness, respect, and gratitude. She said that she had heard touching stories about Tzu Chi, and that this time she had seen it for herself and had learned a lot.

At the end of the event, volunteer Zhang Wen-de (張文德), CEO of Tzu Chi New Zealand, conveyed to the recipients the best wishes of Tzu Chi volunteers around the world. He also expressed his wish that they would soon rise from the disaster and return to their normal lives.

A scene at the free clinic held by the Tzu Chi Orange County service center on April 2  Jian Wan-ping



On April 2, Tzu Chi volunteers in Orange County, California, held a regular free clinic that is offered three times a year. Over the four years that volunteers have held these clinics, they have discovered an increase in the number of return patients and patients with chronic illnesses. This time they brought in a mobile pantry to give out fresh vegetables and fruit. They also taught patients about healthy eating habits in the hope that they could become healthier and less dependent on medical care and medications.

Much of what would be needed for the event was shipped to the venue, the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Ana (B&G), the day before the event. On the morning of the free clinic, volunteers arrived at five to set up. The first patients, a couple, arrived even earlier than the volunteers. They were already there at four.

About a dozen students from the University of California at Fullerton volunteered that day. Dr. Chen Fu-min (陳福民) of the Tzu Chi International Medical Association went over the do’s and don’ts with them before turning them loose to serve patients. Some B&G staffers who could speak Spanish also volunteered to help patients who spoke only Spanish fill out their forms, and they interpreted for them so that they could communicate better with their medical care providers.

Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do was on hand to see the event for himself, and he took a tour of the Tzu Chi Vision Mobile Clinic and Dental Mobile Clinic. He praised the 200 volunteers at the venue for giving their time to serve people in the community.

The Vision Mobile Clinic has a complete set of eye examination equipment, as well as equipment for making eyeglasses. Because making glasses takes a long time, the clinic accepted only 15 patients for the day. In the Chinese medicine clinic, many people tried acupuncture for the first time. They commended the treatment for effectively relieving their pain.

Tzu Chi volunteer Zhu Yi (朱益) had asked B&G staffers to call past patients and invite them to come to the free clinic for follow-ups. The calls helped the patient return rate to jump from 31 percent at the November 2016 clinic to 51 percent this time.

The free clinic, staffed by 35 medical professionals and 170 helpers, treated 118 people, 60 of whom were return patients. The mobile pantry gave out 113 packets of vegetables and fruit. Marisela Barcenas, a nutritionist, taught people how to properly cook or use the vegetables and fruit for healthy diets.

On April 22, Tzu Chi volunteers and people from the general public picked up garbage on a mountain in Fuding, Fujian Province, to mark World Earth Day. Guo Biyan



On April 22, World Earth Day, 80 people, including Tzu Chi volunteers, cleaned up part of Mount Yandun in Fuding, Fujian Province.

Mount Yandun, with lush, dense trees and plants, is a popular destination for the public. Unfortunately, many visitors leave garbage behind. Volunteer Zhao Meiqiu (趙美球) stated that they organized this event to mark World Earth Day and to raise people’s awareness of the importance of keeping the environment clean. Carrying large bags and tongs, participants picked up garbage along hiking trails. They were very thorough, trying not to miss any trash.

When some of the volunteers reached the mountaintop, they saw an elderly man exercising there. The man saw what the volunteers were doing and praised them for their good deeds. “What a nice thing you’re doing! You make the environment more beautiful,” he said. Volunteer Zheng Erting (鄭爾婷) took the chance to share with him the importance of protecting the environment. She also suggested that he consider taking some garbage down the mountain each time he visits it. The man nodded his agreement.

A garbage can at the top of the mountain was overflowing badly. The receptacle had not been emptied for a long time. In fact, the large amount of garbage had caused the can to crack, and the trash stunk in a horrendous way. The volunteers braved the foul odor, emptied the bin, and sorted recyclables from real garbage before they took everything down the mountain.

Volunteers also promoted vegetarianism to hikers on the mountaintop. They wanted people to know that vegetarianism was a good way to protect the environment and reduce one’s carbon footprint. They had brought along a signboard for people who wanted to be vegetarian to sign their names. Wen Keyi (溫科移), with his daughter in tow, remarked that eating vegetarian was good for one’s health and helped nurture compassion, so he often took his daughter to vegetarian restaurants.

Many other parents also brought their children along. Zhang Liangyou (張良游) said that this event could help his son, Dingkai (鼎凱), to be more aware of environmental preservation. They would take care not to litter in the future and to lead a more eco-friendly life to protect the environment.

Wu Jikun (吳繼坤), a fifth grader at Tzu Chi Elementary School in Fuding, took part in the event with his father, Zhongyou (忠友). The boy said, “Our teachers teach us to protect the Earth. If we don’t protect our only home, mankind might go extinct.” He added that he never littered and that he saved water for reuse; for example, he watered plants with the water he had rinsed his face with.

Towards the end of the event, participants brought down enough garbage to fill a truck. They were happy and smiling because they knew that the mountain was now a little cleaner and it could breathe a little easier.

Great Britain

On April 17, Tzu Chi volunteers from Manchester and other places in the United Kingdom held a soup kitchen at the Cornerstone Day Centre in Manchester. The center provides services to vulnerable and disadvantaged adults, including street people and refugees. Tzu Chi volunteers started visiting the place in October 2016.

Nineteen volunteers served hot meals to 120 people, of whom 24 also received haircuts and 20 received health examinations. Volunteer Zhang Yao-hua (張堯華), who ordinarily organized cooking on their visits, was on a trip to Taiwan to visit her family, so volunteer Yang Xiao-mei
(楊曉媚), who ran a takeout restaurant, agreed to prepare some of the food this time. Yang’s husband, Xie Yong-sheng (謝永生), was touched by her determination, but he was also worried that cooking for so many people would be too physically demanding for her. On the day of the event, he got up very early and fixed the fried rice and noodles that would be needed for the day.

Wang Su-zhen (王素真), of Worcestershire, was concerned about Yang driving to Manchester alone and for the first time, so she drove down to Oxford to pick her up. Together they drove to Manchester, which lies to the north of Worcestershire. After the event, Wang drove Yang home before going back to her own home. She drove nine hours and 450 miles that day.

The volunteers also provided free health checkups and free haircuts. Huang Huan-yang (黃煥洋), a member of the Tzu Chi Collegiate Association, asked the people who wanted to have their hair cut to register with him first. Then they were invited to have lunch or a health checkup while they were waiting for their haircut.

When lunch was ready to be served, people lined up to receive their food. Volunteers served them with respect, sincere care, and smiles. The food the volunteers prepared had always been popular at the center.

Some of the underprivileged people at the center already knew about the bamboo coin banks in Tzu Chi’s history. One of them said to the volunteers, “Your master used this kind of coin bank to encourage people to save money and help the needy,” and he dropped some coins into a bank on a table.

After the event, the volunteers gathered together to reflect on the day. Although they had run into various kinds of difficulties in the process of carrying out this event, they appreciated what they had learned from the experience because they knew it would help them do a better job next time.

Summer 2017