Tzu Chi provides assistance to hurricane evacuees

ReliefWeb, Sept 5, 2005

Texas, USA -- The Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation has begun providing emergency assistance to Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Texas, as Tzu Chi members across the world started to raise funds for the relief efforts.

<< These women survey the destruction brought to Biloxi by Hurricane Katrina.

Tzu Chi has committed US$4 million for emergency help to the victims who have been evacuated from New Orleans to Beaumont, Houston and Dallas.

On Sept. 4, the first day of Tzu Chi's providing direct aid to the victims, 710 evacuees visited the Tzu Chi relief office set up inside the refugee reception center in Beaumont, which is about five hours by car from New Orleans.

Tzu Chi members greeted the evacuees warmly, as if they were family, not refugees. Each evacuee was given a US$100 Wal-Mart shopping card, a 30-minute telephone card and a letter from Dharma Master Cheng Yen, founder of Tzu Chi.

In the letter, Master Cheng Yen expressed heartfelt sympathy for their suffering. She said, "We hope the aid that we give can also be a source of comfort and support to you -- knowing that it contains the love and good wishes of people around the world."

Telling the victims that "living on this planet, we are all connected to one another," the Master assured the victims that Tzu Chi will remain by their side to help them overcome this disaster and rebuild their lives.

Soon after the devastating hurricane struck New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities, Master Cheng Yen urged Tzu Chi members across the world to launch a fundraising drive. "Those who are safe should reach out to those who are suffering," she said.

Tzu Chi has set up a relief coordination office in Houston and has mobilized hundreds of volunteers for the relief effort.

Tzu Chi is sending its volunteer doctors affiliated with the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) to provide free medical services to the evacuees. Three roving medical vehicles of the Los Angeles-based Tzu Chi Free Clinic are ready to leave for Texas. Under consideration is the plan to provide hot meals for evacuees in Dallas.

During the weekend, Tzu Chi members in more than a dozen countries started to raise funds, including the United States, Canada, Argentina, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, France, Austria, Paraguay, and Taiwan.

In Canada, Tzu Chi members in Vancouver raised funds at the city's annual Taiwanese Culture Festival. At the event, Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell officially proclaimed Sept. 4 as "Tzu Chi Day" of the city.

Besides donating money, the mayor even wore Tzu Chi's volunteer vest and carried a donation box to solicit donations. The Tzu Chi members in Canada have so far committed US$1 million for relief efforts.