Care for New Immigrants in Massachusetts

Northeast  |  March 31, 2023
Tzu Chi volunteers and Devens Department of Public Works Director Shane Melone holding care packages group photo
Tzu Chi USA Northeast Region's Boston Service Center volunteers and Shane Melone, Devens Department of Public Works Director (left), take a group picture in the warehouse. Photo/Steven Cheng

Written by Mei Yi Yang, Xu Yi Chai, Ji Gui Lin
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

Tzu Chi USA Northeast Region’s Boston Service Center responded to the Massachusetts state government’s call for supplies for new immigrants by donating 100 Tzu Chi eco-blankets and scarves, 100 care packages, 17 boxes of diapers of various sizes (2,010 units), 14 cans of infant formula, 12 boxes of feminine products (526 units), 20 children’s toothbrushes, and one bottle of baby shampoo.

The United States has always been open to new immigrants, and there has been an influx of arrivals from Central and South America in the past few years. In September 2022, the Massachusetts state government started to accept immigrants to the U.S. coming through the  Mexico–United States border. In response to the growing number of arrivals, former Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker opened an intake center in Devens, in the central part of the state.

Answering the Appeal for Community Support

The new immigrants arriving at the intake center in Devens are from Mexico plus South American and Caribbean countries, including Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Haiti. The center is an emergency shelter intended to house them briefly, primarily women, families with children, and pregnant women. Their stay lasts for about three to five days. As the flow of people increases, the center appeals to the public for donations of daily necessities, baby items, and feminine products.

Learning of these pressing needs, Tzu Chi Boston Service Center volunteers began gathering supplies from the public. In the spring of 2023, they sought donations from all walks of life, and supplies poured in. The items collected resulted in 100 care packages filled with personal care goods, including toothpaste, toothbrushes, lotion, lip balm, combs, disinfectant, soap, shampoo, and more.

care packages of toothpaste, toothbrush, lotion, lip balm, comb, disinfectant, soap, shampoo, and more
Tzu Chi prepares care packages of toothpaste, toothbrush, lotion, lip balm, comb, disinfectant, soap, shampoo, and more. Photo/Emily Hsiao

The year before, Tzu Chi Boston only collected winter clothes. But this call to action was broader than protection from the cold, as the volunteer in charge, Hsiao Hui Ching, said, “the intake center is in urgent need of women’s and baby products.” Moreover, the supplies donation drive from the community was only the first part of the task, as buying the rest of the items was next.

Devens Department of Public Works Director Shane Melone (left) talking to Tzu Chi volunteer
Shane Melone, Devens Department of Public Works Director (left), talks with Tzu Chi volunteers as they unload the donated supplies in the intake center’s warehouse. Photo/Emily Hsiao

The Art of Supplies Procurement and Packaging

People may think shopping is the simplest thing, but buying and then subdividing a large amount of a single item into individual packages isn’t easy. For one, the goods must be appropriate in terms of quality and available in the required supply. 

Xu Yi Chai, a Tzu Chi volunteer who had not participated in such a mission before, made a list of items that precisely met the requirements regarding price and quality in a short period. Next, the Boston Service Center team prepared for the challenge of purchasing the supplies, as no store could supply the same item in hundreds. The volunteers searched more than ten stores or ordered directly from vendors to complete all the procurements in just four days.

Preparing the care packages was also a key task of the mission. On that day, Tzu Chi volunteers Wei Wen Cheng, Yu Xiang Chen, and Fei Jun Tong organized the items for packing neatly one by one, just like preparing a beautiful gift, so that everyone who received it could feel the sincerity behind it. Volunteers Mei Yi Yang and Ming Zhen Wu then thoughtfully put the care packages along with Tzu Chi eco-blankets and scarves into one Tzu Chi eco-friendly bag for the new immigrants to carry away.

A Special Delivery on Women’s Day

Heavy snow on the ground
On delivery day, snow is still on the ground, but the new immigrants’ pressing needs motivate the team to work quickly more than the frigid temperature. Photo/Steven Cheng

On March 8, 2023, the day marked for delivery of the supplies to the intake center, many volunteers and friends from the community came to help and loaded the goods into three vehicles. The fact that the date coincided with Women’s Day 2023 added significance to the endeavor, as many items were for women, babies, and children. Even though it was cold, everyone was glad to help and eager to get the supplies to the new immigrants at the center as soon as possible. 

Donated supplies fully loaded in 3 vehicles
The volunteers load the donated supplies in three vehicles for transport to the intake center. Photo/Steven Cheng

Once they arrived on site, Shane Melone, Devens Department of Public Works Director, and Hillary Clark, Recreation/Events Coordinator, Devens Recreation, warmly welcomed Tzu Chi’s support, and everyone worked together to move and arrange the supplies inside. Tzu Chi volunteer Ji Gui Lin told them about the production of Tzu Chi eco-blankets from recycled plastic bottles using DA.Ai Technology, elaborating, “the quality of the blankets is very good,” then explained the contents of the care packages. The staff was glad to learn more about the donated supplies and grateful.

Although it was a simple supplies delivery activity, the process of preparation and procurement still touched the new volunteers and gave them a clearer understanding of the Tzu Chi spirit. Completing the mission on Women’s Day added extra meaning to an already meaningful day.

Female volunteers group photo
As the supplies delivery date, March 8, is also Women's Day 2023, the female volunteers take a group photo together as a souvenir. Photo/Steven Cheng

As Master Cheng Yen’s Jing Si Aphorism states, “Giving is not the preserve of the rich, but the participation of those who have a heart.” Along the way, everyone also enjoyed the rice balls and snacks specially prepared by the volunteers to keep the energy of love alive.

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