Written by Meituan Hwang
Edited by YingYing Lee
Translated by Ariel Chan
Today, at least 8.2 million Afghans have been tragically driven from their homes and country — the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul in August 2021 only intensifying the tumult and human suffering of the Afghan people. Many Afghans have since resettled in various states across the US, with the hope of a better future in states like California. Fremont, a city located in the Bay Area of Northern California, is one of the areas with the highest population of Afghan-Americans. When Tzu Chi volunteer Kevin Chiang heard that a group of refugee families would be moving into the community where his granddaughter attended school, he knew that there would be people in need of support. He invited volunteers Eileen Chen and Jason Lu to help establish contacts in the Afghan-American community so that Tzu Chi could help the newly arrived families.
Good Things Takes Time, Persistence, and Effort
After much inquiry, volunteers learned more about the Afghan Coalition, a 501(c)(3) non-profit community organization initially formed in 1996 by Afghan-Americans to help their fellow Afghans navigate and thrive in their new lives. Volunteer Chiung Huei Liu attended a meeting hosted by Alameda County Government and various local non-profit organizations on September 25, 2021, to prepare for the coming of newly arrived Afghan immigrants. Attending local meetings and building community relationships, volunteers spoke with the Afghan Coalition in late October 2021. However, due to various challenges, Tzu Chi volunteers officially interacted with the Afghan Coalition in July 2022.
Local Afghan Coalition manager Seema discussed some of the organization’s work for local refugees, including assisting Afghan immigrants with applications for social security cards, medical care, government assistance programs, housing, and more. The most significant task is maintaining a food bank for new arrivals, as some families have as many as 12 members, and even with government assistance, they still require help meeting their family’s nutritional needs. Seema raised food donations from nearby mosques or other institutions to help ensure everyone is properly fed.
While food could be obtained through the generosity of the community, Seema could only transport supplies in a small car each time. She often thought that having a cargo van would greatly help transport some of the food and supplies the families needed.
Continuing the Tradition of Giving to Those in Need
As luck would have it, Tzu Chi USA Northwest Region already had a cargo van that could be donated, and Volunteer Chiung Huei Liu proposed the idea. Seema gladly accepted the offer. Chiung Huei Liu immediately contacted Tzu Chi USA Northwest Region’s volunteer and General Affairs Director Yuhang Cai to tidy the vehicle inside and out and organize the relevant vehicle transfer documents for the donation process. Everyone was delighted that they could extend this gift.
On September 10, 2022, with beautiful clear skies above, Seema arrived at Tzu Chi’s Free Clinic in Milpitas, Northern California, to accept the vehicle donation. Tzu Chi USA Northwest Region Executive Director Minjhing Hsieh and volunteer Meixiang Huang were both present to witness this heartwarming donation ceremony.
Community Bonds Cemented With Delicious Food
Executive Director Minjhing Hsieh and Seema exchanged words of gratitude, appreciative of the opportunity to learn from each other. Seema also thanked Tzu Chi USA Northwest Region’s Loving Bread Distribution team, which collects unsold bread from businesses every Thursday and brings it to shelters for people experiencing homelessness, low-income households, low-income community service centers, schools, and more. This also includes the Afghan Coalition, an act of kindness and care that has left a deep impression on its members. The children shared that they especially enjoy items from Panera Bread and Donut Delight brought by Tzu Chi volunteers, as they wouldn’t usually have access to such treats. Executive Director Minjhing Hsieh expressed hope that Tzu Chi and the Afghan Coalition can continue working together to learn how best to care for newly arrived immigrants.
Two groups with different backgrounds have formed a miraculous connection despite their different life experiences. Just as Venerable Master Cheng Yen said, “As long as the affinity is deep, there is no need to fear the late arrival of affinity.” Tzu Chi volunteers in Northern California and the new Afghan immigrants are connected by their compassionate hearts formed from knowing and cherishing each other.