Tzu Chi’s CORE Program: Building Stronger Bonds with Residents

Southern  |  March 10, 2020
Tzu Chi volunteers from our Texas branch returns to Washington for a long-term recovery plan visit on January 17, 2020. Photo by Penchi Liu

Written by Chiaying Chao, Penchi Liu, Jennier Chien
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Dilber Shatursun

After disaster, recovery is a long journey. From Tzu Chi USA’s Southern Region, volunteers from its Community Outreach Recovery Education (CORE) program returned to Wharton, Texas, on January 17, 2020 to visit residents. The program is one that was developed to help families deal with the long standing after-effects of Hurricane Harvey. In our increasingly digital- and distant- age, CORE has focused on face-to-face interactions that, in the process, sow sincerity and trust with those in need of assistance.

In fact, the CORE program has paved the way for volunteers to have heartfelt conversations where residents are made comfortable enough to share sensitive struggles. This allows Tzu Chi CORE volunteers to more deeply understand the real problems vulnerable Texans are and have been facing since Harvey.

A Tzu Chi volunteer hugs a resident to give her strength and support. Photo by Penchi Liu

A Helping Hand

Barbara, a Wharton resident, raises five children on her own. They are the children of her own children, in addition to her niece and nephew. Feeling for them and wanting to care for them, Barbara has taken charge of the children. Without support from their own parents, she struggles to make ends meet with what little her pension gives her.

Hurricane Harvey damaged Barbara’s house, and she was unable to make repairs due to her financial situation. But in March 2019, she came across Tzu Chi volunteers.

They learned about her five grandchildren and sought to help by providing them school supplies and food for the whole family during the summer. This is a financially taxing time for many families, with many parents and guardians relying on meals at school to help feed their kids roughly nine months of the year. After receiving some of Tzu Chi’s care, Barbara felt relief.

Tzu Chi volunteers care for me and care about me in a way that I’ve never experienced before in my life. I can finally take my medication on time and not risk it one day after another.

A World of Change

Tayla, an unemployed single mother, currently relies on food stamps. Occasionally, she sold homemade food to get by. However, Tayla’s spending habits were not always the right match for her wallet.

Volunteers take their time in understanding what the residents need through an in-depth communication process. Photo by Penchi Liu
A face-to-face conversation builds up trust and a friendly relationship between volunteers and residents. Photo by Penchi Liu

A dedicated fashionista, she used much of what she earned on new clothing, with less left to go around to more pressing expenses. With the encouragement and effort of Tzu Chi volunteers, there have been some positive changes.

In fact, Tzu Chi solicited the help of a professional personal finance advisor to guide some of the residents on how to maximize their household budgets and balance their family’s expenses. They also gained access to free online training and other digital resources.

After a year of learning how to better take control of her finances for the better, Tayla is a different woman, with a look that is as confident as ever. Plus, she is graduating from a registered nursing program with a new internship to start. Tayla was enthusiastic when she told Tzu Chi volunteers about her progress, cheering “I did it!” 

Inspiring Unconditional Love

Tzu Chi volunteers’ visits and involvement in the community have brought both economic and emotional support, leaving a profound mark.

I'm not so afraid of facing the situations in my life because I know I have friends from Tzu Chi. You really are standing by my side!

Linda donates a bamboo bank full of change and adopts another bamboo bank on site. Photo by Penchi Liu

Linda, another Wharton resident, had received a bamboo bank from a previous distribution there. She recently met with volunteers to return it, filled to the brim!

Thank you for the opportunity to give unconditional love around the world.

Ivy, also from Wharton, also met Tzu Chi volunteers at a previous distribution and made an important phone call to them. Of the bamboo bank, she said “please help me relay this message to Tzu Chi. The bamboo bank is truly a wonderful gift of grace with a beautiful meaning behind it.”

The power of love and care will continue to spread and pass on. The areas and people affected by Hurricane Harvey also face a long and arduous recovery process, but Tzu Chi CORE volunteers will be there, every step of the way.

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