Written by Jennifer Chien, Yanxin Piao
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Patrick McShane
The Tzu Chi free clinic team began providing compassionate healthcare services in the USA 30 years ago. And, for the last two decades, it has brought high-quality medical care to those in need in Bakersfield, California. One of the key volunteers who has helped bring this loving service to the community is Dr. Phu Truong. Dr. Phu Truong’s family of four living in Bakersfield, CA, has been volunteering for more than a decade and has even inspired their relatives to volunteer as well. Dr. Phu Truong’s two daughters, An Truong and Tu Truong, not only aspire to become doctors but also aspire to take over their father’s role as Tzu Chi free clinic volunteers in the future.
Volunteering as a Family
Dr. Phu Truong, DDS, recalled how he first started volunteering at Tzu Chi’s free clinics: “A long time ago, one of my friends suggested that if I was free one weekend, we should go together to be medical volunteers at the free clinic. I started to work with Tzu Chi and continued to participate in free clinics. My daughters, when they were in sixth or seventh grade, started volunteering at the free clinics as well.”
Phu Truong’s wife, Mimi Nguyen, has followed in her husband’s footsteps by becoming a Tzu Chi volunteer, and is happy to be able to bring her younger sister into the team, “My younger sister, Thy Nguyen, has also become a Tzu Chi volunteer,” she said happily.
Following in her father’s footsteps, Phu Truong’s daughter, An Truong, became a Tzu Chi volunteer: “My dad would always share his experiences with us after the clinics, like what he gained from participating in the clinics or how he felt about being a Tzu Chi volunteer. After listening to what he said, we wanted to volunteer together. We wanted to help, especially to be able to impact our neighborhood with free clinics.”
Naturally, Phu Truong’s youngest daughter, Tu Truong, became a part of Tzu Chi’s free clinic team in Bakersfield alongside her mom, dad, and sister. The family is part of a volunteer team that works tirelessly to help their fellow community members, “We grew up in Bakersfield, and we understand that there is a great need for more healthcare resources in this neighborhood.”
Marching with Tzu Chi
Phu Truong’s sister-in-law, Thy Nguyen, has seen many people in Bakersfield who could not afford to go to local hospitals. Well aware of the great need, she was happy to sign up to volunteer at Tzu Chi’s free clinics to help the community: “Tzu-Chi holds the clinics here so that they can all come here and receive free medical services, I can come together and help my brother-in-law.”
By reaching out to the community and taking part in charitable works, the actions of everyone combined can inspire further compassion. Sharing her gratitude with fellow Tzu Chi members, Tzu Chi volunteer Mimi Nguyen expressed that, “After the conversion, we practiced dharma and started to understand more about the world, learning that we need to practice compassion to help other people.”
Dr. Phu Truong’s family is grateful to be a part of the global Tzu Chi family, and thankful to be able to help Bakersfield community residents not just medically, but also spiritually. Dr. Phu Truong likened his activities to how he works on the Koi pond he keeps at home: “My pond is full of rescued koi. When I feed them, I recite the scriptures to pray for them.”
Bakersfield has two major industries, agriculture and oil; they are the economic pillars of this neighborhood. “Many of the residents here are first-generation immigrants who just barely earn enough, and there is a real and great need for care, especially at Tzu Chi’s volunteer free clinics.” Helping residents with financial constraints get treatment for physical illness is important, especially since many of them do not have dental insurance. When having dental problems, often all they can do is deal with the pain.
Estela Dorado, a local resident, says she has no access to medical care except at the Tzu Chi free clinic. “I hope to keep coming here because I’ve found that the Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM) acupuncture has been very helpful, and they’ve been treating my arm and other ailments.”
Pedro Ramirez, a local resident and care recipient, came to the free clinic with a bag full of coins, a sign of his love and inspired goodness and empathy. “I suffer from diabetes, and I found out from my friends that you were coming to hold the free clinic, so I started coming here to receive treatment, and I’ve been here for ten years. Every time you came, I always came and brought the coins that I had saved for three months; this is the time for me to bring the coins to donate. You have helped us, I want to give back.”
According to devout Buddhist An Truong, “Buddhism emphasizes the need to be able to spread love and compassion, so not only do we need to practice self-cultivation that helps our own development, but we should help people through free clinics like the ones by Tzu Chi, and the people who are receiving the services can also experience and spread their love and compassion.”