Giving Thanks Amid Hurricane Harvey’s Recovery: Tzu Chi’s CORE Program

Southern  |  October 30, 2019

It was in the Summer of 2017 that Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, causing catastrophic flooding, and taking the lives of many. The violent storm would mark the first major hurricane to strike southern Texas since Celia in 1970. 

Tzu Chi mobilized volunteers from across the country to provide disaster relief in Houston and Dallas, the financial assistance alone benefiting over 12,000 households, and amounting to $7.37 million in cash cards. 

However, that was only the beginning. Tzu Chi volunteers knew that what the survivors needed most was love — someone to accompany them on the long road of recovery.

In February, Tzu Chi USA launched the Community Outreach Recovery Education Program (CORE) — a long-term recovery plan aimed at ensuring sustainability for impacted residents. The team visited a total of 11 impacted communities throughout Texas, including Port Arthur, Wharton, and Rockport, with a team of 42 volunteers.

Tzu Chi USA launched the CORE program to assist survivors on the long road to recovery. Photo by Jiaying Zhao.

Continuing their home visits in May, Tzu Chi volunteers upheld the implementation of their plan, and visited the Wharton community, ensuring the progress of families who yet struggled. 

Behind every affected family, there are heart-rending stories that inspire volunteers.

Volunteers were especially touched during a home visit wherein a survivor named Spencer hugged a volunteer, and expressed “I’m not scared now that you are here.” 

In order to help survivors resolve crucial financial hurdles, the CORE  program team also held a “financial planning” seminar.

Government Subsidy Received!

The Tzu Chi relief team had gathered at 6:30 AM on June 29th to begin distributions in  Wharton. Over 60 households were served, and with each interaction, volunteers’ hearts ached with the knowledge that these individuals had suffered after the disaster — but they also knew how the aid would make a difference. 

Tzu Chi collaborated with other organizations to help survivors apply for government subsidies as another form of financial aid.

On June 30th, when the first resident who was assisted by Tzu Chi in applying for government subsidies heard her application was granted, she burst into tears of joy: “Tzu Chi kept their promise. It’s true that many people are willing to help us!”

“Luckily, you’re here!” Photo by Benqi Liu.

Back to School

On July 19th, the team conducted a Back-to-School event in Wharton. Volunteers from Tzu Ching, Tzu Chi’s youth association, also showed their support, exuding a sense of energy and love which was positively contagious! Bright smiles adorned the faces of children as they received backpacks, stationery items, and a bamboo bank.

I’m really grateful to Tzu Chi. Without your help, I can’t imagine how these children and families start the school year.

Barbie, Local Tzu Chi Volunteer

The Tzu Chi volunteer team visited Port Arthur On July 21st for another Back-to-School distribution event, a total of six organizations — the General Land Office, St. Vincent de Paul, Gulf Coast Leadership Council, Legacy, Endeavors, and the  American Red Cross — had arrived to assist with the program. A total of 88 households were benefited in one day, of which, 74 received school supplies.

Tzu Chi mobilized 15 Tzu Chi volunteers, 3 local volunteers, and 18 partners, to offer assistance. The event even captured the attention of the media to video the program.

Barbie (left) was grateful for the opportunity to help children with their back to school needs. Photo by Benqi Liu.

Grateful for Love and Care

At the end of August, Tzu Chi’s team arrived in one of the hardest-hit areas: Rockport. Volunteers sang “Love and Care” as part of a sign language performance, and affected residents felt encouraged to express their feelings and experiences after the hurricane. Volunteers hoped this sharing would perhaps help alleviate some of the pain survivors had endured. When we met with them again, the children could still remember the melody of “Love and Care.” 

“We want to express our gratitude,” volunteers said. “Thank you for inviting us, and thank you for allowing us to participate in Project Hope — the road to recovery.”

Tzu Chi volunteers were honored to be awarded for their work aiding survivors after Hurricane Harvey.

“First to arrive, the last to leave,” is one of Tzu Chi’s principle mottos, and Hurricane Harvey has been no exception. We have vowed to be there for those in need, and walk this road to recovery side-by-side, hand-in-hand, until the very end of our compassionate mission for relief in Texas.  

Please consider joining the Tzu Chi team!

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