Building Partnerships That Support Families Through the Pandemic

Greater Washington D.C.  |  September 7, 2021
Ivania Fields calls in help from the Tzu Chi Greater Washington DC Region to assist Maryland families in need of relief. Photo/Wendy Tsai

Written by Wendy Tsai
Translated by Diana Chang  
Edited by Dilber Shatursun & Adriana DiBenedetto

In October of 2019, Tzu Chi’s Greater Washington DC regional volunteers met a social worker named Ivania Fields. She’d been working with the YMCA that partnered with JoAnn Leleck Elementary School, where Tzu Chi volunteers have hosted grocery distribution events for several years. Although she transferred to another school in January of 2020, the friendships Ivania had made with volunteers left a lasting impression. 

Working side-by-side with Tzu Chi volunteers, she witnessed firsthand how they served families by providing groceries with gratitude, respect, and love. So, after getting started at Rosa L. Parks Elementary School in Hyattsville, Maryland, Ivania called upon Tzu Chi volunteers once again in January of 2021. This time, it was to assist families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overcoming the Obstacles

Before the turn of 2021, operations within the Tzu Chi Greater Washington DC Region had been a bit strained. The COVID-19 vaccine had just begun its rollout, but still, there were no promises that pre-pandemic activities could safely resume at capacity. Even so, volunteers safely and successfully carried out grocery distributions and donated medical supplies through heartfelt collaboration and diligence.  

Ever since Ivania contacted Tzu Chi, the needs of Rosa L. Parks Elementary school have always been in the minds of volunteers. Following several careful evaluations, volunteers held a distribution with Rosa L. Parks Elementary school, providing 60 families with 30 pounds of food. 

Volunteers prepare to distribute food to students at Rosa L. Parks Elementary School. Photo/Wendy Tsai
Jing Si Rice is provided for Rosa L. Parks Elementary School students, the last of Tzu Chi’s supply at present. Photo/Wendy Tsai

On January 23, social workers, administrators, and staff joined together with Tzu Chi volunteers and Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association volunteers for the event. A total of eight volunteers set up the distribution station at the entrance to the school. The outdoor station was used for registration, and a care package containing essentials was given to each family outside. Volunteers also placed Go Veggie posters at the site generating awareness for environmentally friendly lifestyle choices.

A Tzu Chi volunteer holds a Go Veggie poster, encouraging families to try eating vegetarian meals at least once per week. Photo/Wendy Tsai
Community support is crucial, and even more so in such profoundly challenging times. Photo/Wendy Tsai

Ivania expressed that Tzu Chi is a bit different from other charity organizations she’s worked with, in that Tzu Chi not only provides humanitarian relief but actively promotes a culture of boundless compassion. It was this aspect that truly touched her heart. 

Frank Chen, Executive Director of Tzu Chi’s Greater Washington DC Region, also embraced the opportunity to introduce the origin of Tzu Chi’s bamboo banks and more to school staff members. The principal of Rosa L. Parks Elementary School had also memorized a Tzu Chi piece titled “Gratitude, Respect, and Love” by the end of the event.

Nearly 60 households benefit from the distribution. Photo/Wendy Tsai
Eight volunteers work in harmony to serve their community. Photo/Wendy Tsai

Start with good intentions and one will head in the right direction. Make good vows and one will have the strength to contribute.

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