Written by Cishi Zhang
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska
The Tzu Chi USA Headquarters Region held a fruits and vegetables distribution alongside a school backpack donation event on August 22, 2022, at Del Vallejo Leadership and STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Math) Academy in San Bernardino County, in the Inland Empire metropolitan area adjacent to coastal Southern California.
San Bernardino is one of the poorest counties in California. The school’s social workers wrote to Tzu Chi asking if they could do a food distribution in the area. The Tzu Chi USA Headquarters Region agreed to distribute fruits and vegetables monthly to help students from disadvantaged families and school staff.
Early in the morning on the distribution day, volunteers arrived one after another. Veteran and new volunteers joined forces to set up two distribution points. A long line of cars was already waiting before 8 AM. Once the event went forward, the food pantry delivered 162 portions of fruits and vegetables, as well as masks, COVID test kits, and other pandemic safety supplies.
Some volunteers help load the supplies received into the trunks of care recipients’ cars, while others help direct traffic to ensure a smooth flow of vehicles. Photos/Shengping Liu
New School Backpacks, New Shoes, New Beginnings
This monthly food distribution coincided with the back-to-school day for various schools. Usually, students will get new backpacks, stationery, clothing, shoes, and so on at this time of year if their family’s financial situation allows. Unfortunately, students from disadvantaged families may not receive such gifts, despite their needs.
Tzu Chi’s heart goes out to these underprivileged students. In addition to providing food and pandemic safety supplies, volunteers specially prepared new school backpacks and stationery for students, an unexpected gift that made them feel loved.
After learning that Tzu Chi was to donate school backpacks on Del Vallejo Leadership and STEAM Academy’s back-to-school day, the Academy’s social workers provided a list of 25 students from 21 families that needed the donation the most, including those in foster homes. In addition to the backpacks and stationery, the Inland Chinese Association partnered with Tzu Chi to donate two pairs of new sneakers to each student.
The Inland Chinese Association has been active in the area for over 30 years, and the partnership with Tzu Chi has been promoted by Gary Liaw and Tzu Chi volunteer Xinghua Zhuang Hua for a long time. The sneakers provided to the boys and girls were beautiful, practical, and stylish, and the children held the brand new shoe boxes with excitement in their eyes as they left.
An Appreciated Presence
Edward McMillion II, Vice Principal of Del Vallejo Leadership and STEAM Academy, worked with Tzu Chi at his former school, and was happy to reconnect with the Foundation.
The Tzu Chi volunteers serving during the distribution were also grateful to be there and have the opportunity to help the community.
It was the first time that volunteer Yunhao Zhang took part in a distribution. “I’m very happy to come to the school to help distribute the fruits and vegetables, and I feel a sense of accomplishment. I’d like to continue to participate this year,” he shared. Jiting Zhang was also a newcomer, saying, “Today is my first time participating in a distribution, and although it’s a bit demanding physically, I feel very happy. I’m grateful to Tzu Chi for giving me this chance.”
Volunteer Feifen Zhang joined Tzu Chi because her son is a Tzu Chi Youth Group Member, and she met many volunteers when she came to do community service with them. What she likes the most about Tzu Chi’s activities are the food distributions and free clinics. She also mobilizes people to join the volunteers, saying, “This community just needs our help, they’re in great need of food, so if anyone has free time, you can join together to help people who need it.”
Tzu Chi volunteers strive to support underprivileged students and their families in many ways, yet this is just one of Tzu Chi’s missions. Your generosity and love empower them all!