Written by Yue Ma
Translated by Eli Xu
Edited by Diana Chang, Ida Eva Zielinska
In August 2020, Tzu Chi USA’s Midwest Region volunteers went to two senior communities in Chicago’s Ward 25 area as the COVID-19 pandemic began to worsen with the number of confirmed cases in the city escalating. They brought grocery and care packages, including masks, vital personal protection equipment (PPE) at this dangerous moment in time.
The volunteers stationed themselves outside the buildings to prevent increased person-to-person contact indoors. Moreover, they were quick to respond when it was apparent that a senior lacked any PPE at all. When one resident came out of the building to get the supplies, seeing that he wasn’t wearing a mask, the volunteers immediately handed over a pack containing several.
At the Las Americas Apartments Complex, Annie Hayes, a tenant, heard about the distribution and went looking for it. Arriving at the outdoor activity area, she saw many neighbors sitting in wheelchairs and leaning on walkers or crutches as they listened to Tzu Chi volunteers explain how to cook the Jing Si Instant Rice they got, along with other foods and masks.
Once it was Annie’s turn to receive supplies, she shared how many residents felt helpless during the pandemic, expressing her gratitude for this aid.
Tzu Chi volunteers collaborated with Byron Sigcho Lopez, a community activist and Alderman of Ward 25 in Chicago, to organize these distributions. More than half of the population in this community are Hispanic immigrants, and there is additionally a large concentration of Asian immigrants. Since many immigrants bear the brunt of the pandemic, they desperately need PPE to go out and work, continuing to support their families.
In the early stages of the pandemic, Tzu Chi had donated an ample supply of masks to Alderman Sigcho Lopez’s office for distribution in Ward 25. Tzu Chi volunteers were now continuing their aid efforts by helping seniors in the community through these distributions of masks, food, and other essential goods.
“We’re very fortunate to have the partnership and generosity of Tzu Chi providing some relief, some food bags for residents here,” Sigcho Lopez said, acknowledging Tzu Chi’s ongoing support in the community. Moved by the volunteers’ efforts, he continued, “In times like this, of course, seniors are the most affected. This goes a long way to make sure that we encourage the residents, especially seniors, to stay at home. They also give me a little bit of relief, and, more than anything else, we show that we care.”
With the support and affirmation from the Alderman, Tzu Chi’s bamboo banks also touched the hearts of the senior residents who received aid. Anthony Hughes, one of the care recipients, was quite moved, exclaiming, “I just want to thank all you guys for coming out and supporting our building and everything. I think it’s a wonderful thing to always be able to give and help support people, one day, I plan on volunteering for you guys.”
As the pandemic persists, only love can comfort people and alleviate their anxiety. The volunteers who served at these distributions were grateful for the opportunity to express their care, bringing aid and moral support to underserved seniors, wishing everyone continued health and safety. Their efforts were genuinely appreciated, as one care recipient aptly expressed:
During such distributions, not only are supplies offered, but heartwarming stories and Tzu Chi’s message of unconditional love and spirit of ‘one family’ are also shared, banishing the sense of isolation, loneliness, and despair that the pandemic can breed.