Tzu Chi aid to U.S. hurricane victims tops US$3 million

ReliefWeb, Oct 20, 2005

Taipei, Taiwan -- The Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation's relief efforts for the evacuees of Hurricane Katrina that struck several U.S. states in late August are still ongoing, and as of mid-October, its financial assistance to the evacuees in 11 states has surpassed US$3 million.

Tzu Chi's direct aid to Katrina victims as of Oct. 13, 2005 included US$3.04 million to 17,292 families in the form of shopping cards or checks, 35,000 pounds of rice, 303 medical kits, and 37 sets of mattresses, sheets and blankets.

The assistance to the victims of Hurricane Rita included US$7,000 (for 40 families), 200 electric generators and 1,152 cases of drinking water (worth US$140,000), 300 mattresses, 283 sheets, and 270 blankets.

After Katrina struck, Tzu Chi USA had mobilized hundreds of volunteers to help the hurricane victims in 11 states -- Texas, Georgia, Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, Mississippi, Nevada, California, Missouri, New Jersey, and New York.

In the case of providing aid to the victims in the City of Biloxi, Mississippi, Tzu Chi sent a four-member fact-finding team there from Atlanta on Oct. 6 to assess the situation and discuss the relief plan with representatives of the victims. They decided to distribute the relief materials on Oct. 11.

On Oct. 8, Tzu Chi hired a truck to transport the 35,000 pounds of rice from Los Angeles to Biloxi. The rice, donated to Tzu Chi for relief purpose by two Los Angeles firms arrived at the destination on Oct. 11 after traveling 3,100 km and crossing six states -- California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Twenty-six Tzu Chi volunteers from Georgia, Texas, Alabama, and California got together in Biloxi on the morning of Oct. 11 to distribute the relief materials. Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway, three city councilmen, several local policemen, FEMA staff members, and Red Cross volunteers were present to help.

After giving out US$188,100 worth of shopping cards to 1,265 households at the Biloxi City Community Center, the volunteers proceeded to a Vietnamese-American community to distribute 626 bags of rice (35,000 pounds) to 559 households at a Buddhist temple and a Catholic Church. They also provided 303 Tzu Chi medical kits at the church.

In order to handle the relief materials effectively, Tzu Chi members gave the aid to the recipients directly in person, and with two hands to show their sincerity. They produced a list of relief recipients beforehand through the help of local Red Cross volunteers and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) staff members.

Tzu Chi founder Master Cheng Yen launched a fund-raising campaign to appeal for support for the relief efforts. Tzu Chi members in 27 countries have responded, including those in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, South Africa, and Taiwan. Tzu Chi chapters in Canada have pledged to raise US$1 million.

In South Africa, one Tzu Chi volunteer from the nation's Zulu tribe organized a gathering at a community Tzu Chi built in order to raise funds for Hurricane Katrina. Telling the audience that, "All people living on this planet are one family, that no matter how far away the disaster victims are, they are nevertheless our family," the volunteer appealed for donations. To her dismay, the crowd started thinning after she said this.

After the volunteer put the room back in order, to her surprise, as she was about to leave, many people started returning to donate money. However, some individuals came to her and flipped over their hands, indicating that, though they wished to, they had no money to offer. To these people she handed them each a coin from her own pocket.

"I'm giving you this money now, so it's yours. When you put it in the donation box, you must be very earnest and think that this is your money that you are giving and pray sincerely for the disaster victims, that they may be able to soon recover and come out of hardship."

It is the hope of all Tzu Chi members that with so many people pooling together their sincere love, even small contributions will accumulate to truly help others that each contribution may be like a drop of water that merges with the sea.
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