Tzu Chi Volunteers Join Hands With the Fresno Community to Send Love to Local Afghan Refugee Families

National Headquarters  |  July 5, 2022
Tzu Chi volunteers in Fresno boost community efforts to send love to local Afghan refugee families. Photo/Kelly Liu

Written by Kelly Liu, Ling Cho
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto 

By the middle of 2021, violence in Afghanistan intensified and spread through the country, displacing an estimated 318,500 Afghans inside their homeland. What’s more, 80% of people forcibly displaced within Afghanistan are women and children. Nearly 6 million Afghans have been driven from their homes and country in search of safety and wellbeing. 

Impacted by this ongoing crisis, some refugees who fled to the United States have lived temporarily in Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Texas, with the help of the United Nations. In November of the same year, Tzu Chi volunteer Ling Cho learned via the Fresno Bee that an Afghan family would be relocated to the Fresno community, and urgently needed assistance. With this, Chang was moved to action, immediately coordinating with fellow Tzu Chi volunteers in the community to collect household necessities and deliver them to the designated organizations.

A Swift Solution for Rental Housing

Tzu Chi volunteers in Fresno work together to clean up the Service Center and help families move in. Photo/Kelly Liu
Since the end of 2021, Tzu Chi volunteers in Fresno, California, have been caring for local Afghan refugee families. Photo/Kelly Liu

The Tzu Chi Fresno office owner initially planned to repurpose the house for his own use after retirement, but upon learning Afghan refugees needed a place to stay, yet faced challenges due to budget constraints, he gave the building new life. Tzu Chi volunteers cleared out the premises as soon as possible so the family who had experienced war and displacement could have a place to live temporarily. 

A member of the family, Basir, expressed his appreciation and gratitude to the Tzu Chi volunteers for how quickly they were able to assist. Basir had arrived in the U.S. five years ago, initially staying in the Salinas area of Northern California, but the area’s high rental costs propelled him to seek housing in Fresno, instead. When his family was able to join him in the U.S., they chose to stay in Fresno together. Basir has also provided vital help as a translator during the resettlement process. 

Timely Delivery of Daily Necessities

Tzu Chi volunteer Ling Cho coordinates with community volunteers to collect furniture, delivering them to local Afghan refugees in need of support. Photo/Mengsha Zhang
Tzu Chi volunteers boost awareness of the situation among Fresno community residents, who donate bicycles for young children. Photo/Ling Cho

Five years ago, Basir came to the U.S. knowing no one. He was faced with restrictions on renting a home because he had no credit record, and he and his wife had rented a small room in a house. However, the landlady did not wish to share the kitchen, keeping five dogs in the space, and leaving the family no other option but to dine outside. Life was full of such difficulties. 

After moving to Fresno, the local church and local community residents offered living materials of all kinds. The warmth experienced upon receiving these materials made Basir emotional when recalling those hard times before moving to Fresno. “One day, I had a heart attack and thought my time was up,” he said, “but I never thought I would be saved.” After the life-and-death experience, Basir felt God had a mission for him: to help other people impacted by this conflict find a safe place to live, acquire the necessities, and start a new life with peace of mind.

When these refugees fled their homes, they brought nothing with them but the clothes they were wearing; they came a long way to a completely new country thousands of miles away from home, facing a new environment, a new language, and a new life, all of which were full of challenges.

With help from Basir, Tzu Chi volunteer Lizhen Zhu learned about the immediate needs of Afghan refugees, and delivered available supplies from her home to these families. The trauma the families had experienced left her heartbroken. And, she saw that Afghan families placed their hopes in their children, just like many first-generation immigrant families, determined to raise their children to become successful in a new country.

Love Is Never Absent

Tzu Chi volunteers in Fresno call on the community to pool their love and help Afghan refugee families by purchasing handmade bakery items. Photo/Ling Cho
Volunteer Lizhen Zhu, who also comes from a refugee family, can uniquely relate to the experiences of those she aids. Photo/Ling Cho

“I was saddened by what the refugees were going through and how they were feeling, because my father was going through the same thing during the fall of Burma,” said Lizhen Zhu. “We were very happy to have the opportunity to give, and we are very grateful for Ling Cho’s referrals. It touched my heart to see Tzu Chi volunteers doing their best to help. The process of starting a new life in a foreign country is certainly a difficult one for Afghan refugees, and I hope we can help them settle down soon.”

Currently, the Tzu Chi Fresno Service Center has set up an Afghan Refugee Care Team. The volunteer team organizes various aid activities, while ascertaining the exact needs of community neighbors so that they can continue to provide more in-depth care, build stronger communities, and a harmonious life.

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