The Tzu Chi Relief team was back on site in Haiti for its 79th rice distribution mission from May 17 through May 24 in support of our long-term sustainable recovery initiatives. A total of almost 6,500 bags of rice were given to over 3,200 families residing in Port-au-Prince’s most impoverished neighborhoods of Cité Soleil and La Saline.
In addition to the continued provision of nutritious food distributions, the team nurtured healthy bodies, minds and spirits of community residents through an emotionally uplifting Buddha Bathing Ceremony and a local volunteer training program.
Years of political instability and recurring natural disasters have significantly restricted Haiti’s path to development. More than half of the country’s total population is chronically food insecure and 22% of children are chronically malnourished. Additional risk factors of extreme poverty and poor infrastructure continues to make Haitian communities vulnerable to malnutrition.
Johnson Chang, a Tzu Chi volunteer since 1999, expresses the team’s dedication and commitment to meeting the great and growing needs of disadvantaged Haitian communities. “We have a lot of compassion; we’ll try to change Haiti,” Johnson explained.
Nutritious Food for Those in Need
Upon first arrival in Haiti, Tzu Chi volunteers provided training for local volunteers and participating community members. Subsequently, a Buddha Bathing Ceremony was held in celebration of interfaith communities joining together to work towards the united goal of reaching zero hunger in Haiti.
The mission’s first distribution in Cité Soleil, one of the most impoverished communes in Port-au-Prince, on May 21st provided 1,938 families with over 3,800 bags of nutritious rice thanks to the hard work and dedication of 196 volunteers. Local residents, teachers, students and Haitian police all joined hands with Tzu Chi volunteers to deliver love and nourishment to families in need.
The mission continued to La Saline, another disadvantaged neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, where over 200 volunteers delivered almost 3,000 bags of rice to 1,311 families. In combination with the compassion from the Tzu Chi team, local volunteers, community school St. Antonie School teachers and students, and the Haitian police, it was truly a blessing to witness the major impact that a united effort can elicit.
Buddha Day, Haitian Mother’s Day and Our 53rd Anniversary
A triple-celebration event of Buddha Day, Mother’s Day and the 53rd anniversary of establishment of Tzu Chi was held to unite interfaith communities throughout the Northwestern Hemisphere and continue long-term emotional well-being for Haitian communities.
Buddha Day, also known as Vesak Day, is an auspicious day of reverence traditionally celebrated with a Buddha Bathing Ceremony where participants engage in a bowing pilgrimage in demonstration of spiritual growth. And, by bathing the Buddha, participants symbolically rid themselves of greed, while simultaneously gaining wisdom and compassion.
As Mother’s Day is celebrated on different dates around the world, the Haitian celebratory date happened to coincide with the scheduled Buddha Day event. Tzu Chi ensured to include special acknowledgment to Haitian mothers and women within the Buddha Bathing Ceremony. Gratitude was given to all mothers and women around the world for their substantial roles in our lives throughout the year.
Tzu Chi volunteer and former aid recipient Jean Charles Fancia explains the ceremony’s impact on his dedicated heart and commitment to Tzu Chi, which has lasted six years. “It’s something I’ve never seen before; after today, I’ll continue to do it,” Jean said.
Courage For Change
Before acting as honorary volunteers, interested participants in Haiti were provided with Tzu Chi training. Trainees are instilled with values of respect for all living beings and universal compassion, knowledge which will be shared within the community and help to spread a united goal of progress.
Tzu Chi volunteer James Chen lead the first training session with this opening sentiment: “I don’t want to only talk; I want you to share.”
The training served to not only unite residents towards a common goal to improve their community, but to also improve themselves spiritually on an individual basis. Smiling faces and eager spirits extended throughout the day as trainees prepared themselves to start changing lives.
The first formal training provision was a great success of spreading knowledge, courage and inspiration to these future world changers.
A Time for Transformation
While hunger remains a significant public health problem in Haiti, the scope of Tzu Chi’s impact continues to show great influence as lives are transformed, one person at a time. Disadvantaged communities continue to demonstrate in their resilience the strength to ensure a healthier future. Nourishment for not only the body, but also the mind and spirit are vital steps in this positive direction.
Help us bring lasting change to Haiti and around the world.