Written by Meijuan Su
Edited by Chenglin Li
Translated by Hong (Ariel) Chan
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
Tzu Chi volunteers in Southern California often visit communities in Tijuana, a border city in Mexico just south of California, to offer their love and care. Volunteer Ah Mui Pse and Tzu Chi physician Sihong Wang have worked in the local area for 15 years — and their commitment to helping others is unstoppable. Alongside fellow volunteers, they also deliver assistance to care facilities for seniors and people who are battling AIDS, helping them overcome challenges and improve their living environment.
Love Has No Borders and No End
The Tzu Chi Tijuana medical clinic provides daily necessities, dental services, family medicine, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment services to local households in need of support, and offers long-term care for assisted living residents and people with HIV/AIDS. As COVID-19 vaccines and boosters reached more and more people, paused Tzu Chi community service missions were gradually renewed with careful health and safety measures in place. Aiming to meet community needs, volunteers resumed not only medical outreach, but supply donations in this challenging time. Volunteers additionally engaged in a relief project for a family that was under Tzu Chi’s long-term care, repairing their damaged home so they can live and work with greater peace of mind.
At 5 AM, volunteers gathered at Dr. Sihong Wang’s home. After a two-hour drive, they arrived at the home of volunteer Ah Mui Pse in San Diego, CA, and drove together to the Tzu Chi medical clinic in Tijuana, Mexico. Then, at approximately 8 AM, they arrived at their destination. By this time, several patients had already formed a queue in the free clinic’s reception area. After setting up, they began a full day of care.
Long-Term Care From the Heart
Tzu Chi volunteers have been visiting Las Memorias AIDS Hospice for 13 years. This institution was established by a Catholic priest 30 years ago. Due to financial difficulties, it was transferred to a resident at the time, Antonio Granillo, who has diligently managed the care facility for over 20 years.
Years ago, the austere AIDS Hospice did not have the funds to install screen windows, so flies and mosquitoes were in abundance. Antonio hung tape wherever he could to trap the insects and keep them off his residents, but it seemed there was no end. After Dr. Wang and Ah Mui Pse conducted their first acupuncture treatment session for more than 80 patients in one night to relieve patients’ pain, they had to rest in the ward. As a result, they woke to countless insect bites all over their bodies.
Antonio worried that Dr. Wang would no longer come to help, and reassured him that mosquitoes would not transmit HIV to the next human it bites. Dr. Wang’s treatments did not cease, and he decided to help install screens so everyone could be protected from the bug bites. “At that time, they were in great difficulty, so we helped them pay for water and electricity bills, and provided 10 kilograms of tortillas every day for several years,” Dr. Sihong Wang expressed.
Through Dr. Sihong Wang and Ah Mui Pse’s regular acupuncture, massage, and donations of medications, food, and cleaning supplies, the patient care atmosphere has improved bit by bit. In the past 13 years, in addition to the two Tzu Chi volunteers who regularly visited for medical outreach, volunteer Tsz-ying Cai also visits to help feed patients. Another patient of Dr. Wang, Sergio Borrego, is in good health and has worked at the AIDS hospice for many years. During this visit, he told Dr. Wang that an Italian priest inspired him to become a Catholic monk, and he would try his best to give back. He was full of hope, and has great expectations for the future.
Easing Pain at Casa para Ancianos El Refugio
At Casa para Ancianos El Refugio, ninety percent of the 149 people admitted to the nursing home have experienced homelessness, and many residents live with diabetes, mental illness, or cancer. Due to limited medical resources at the center, Dr. Sihong Wang and Ah Mui Pse regularly provide medicines, funds, and food, and transfer patients to the medical campus for treatment.
During this service event, Antonio Mediana Gomez asked Dr. Wang for help. His back and foot joints had been in pain for many years, and he hoped to get treatment, but the nursing home lacked the funds needed. Dr. Wang used Chinese original point therapy to treat his sore muscles, and his pain quickly lessened. Many older adults at the center experienced similar discomfort, so Dr. Wang invited seniors to join him for a session on how to alleviate pain, and help each other, too.
Many residents living in the long-term care facility have limited mobility and chronic pain. Photo/Shuli Lo
Volunteer physicians also met an older man who’d had a prior operation on his arm. The original implanted stent was loose, and ultimately penetrated his arm. Every day, he needed to clean the wound to prevent infection, and his arm urgently needed treatment. Dr. Sihong Wang and Ah Mui Pse brought him to a doctor and evaluated his condition before determining subsequent treatment plans.
Jose Manuel Lopez, co-director of the nursing home, has lived here for five years. “I was almost unable to walk when I came here, but I am thankful that I can walk now,” he said. “The most needed supplies here are detergents, cleaning supplies, clothes, and medicines. Thank you for bringing so many medicines and daily necessities to us.”
Repairing a Family’s Home
Francisco Javier Gonzalez Organlista’s family of seven began receiving Tzu Chi’s care in 2009, as referred by Tzu Chi volunteer Yuya. Thirteen years ago, their fifth youngest daughter was just born, and the surrounding area flooded every time it rained too heavily.
“When we first came, they didn’t have electricity,” said volunteer Ah Mui Pse. “They only had a small candle holder and no food, so we gave them cash. The second time we came to offer care, we helped them pull the wires.” Five years later, Tzu Chi volunteers still keep in touch. During this period, they provided food, funds, eyeglasses, medications, vitamins, and other nutritional supplements.
In addition, “We paid for him to find a lawyer to restore his green card for work in the United States so that he could help his brother work part-time in the U.S.,” Dr. Wang said. “Tzu Chi only stopped the funding after he started working and living a stable life.”
Francisco also planned to build a more suitable bathroom for his three daughters, who live at home. After learning about the situation, Dr. Sihong Wang hoped to ensure the girls would have a rain-tight and private bathroom as soon as possible, and at the same time, that they could repair the leaking kitchen. Thus, he decided to subsidize the cost of building materials.
The people of Tijuana are close within the hearts of volunteers, indeed, as they have been for over ten years. Tzu Chi volunteers hope their warmth can continue to bring smiles to the faces of local community residents for years to come.