Written by James Chen, Grace Wong, Keziah Jean
Translated by Pen-Chi Liu
Edited by Diana Chang, Ida Eva Zielinska
In Haiti, a country in the Caribbean, the school summer vacation lasts three months, and the first semester starts in October. During the school year, Father Zucchi Olibrice provides free lunch to students in several underprivileged communities of the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince, such as La Saline and Cité Soleil. However, this support is interrupted during the summer months.
Resuming his food aid at the end of the vacation period, on the first day of school in 2020, Father Zucchi distributed Tzu Chi’s rice from Taiwan to parents at a school within these communities. The fragrance of cooked rice would soon fill their homes, an aroma perhaps missing during the summer.
“Today is the first day of October. It is also our school’s first day of the new semester. After this first day, the students will go home and will return after seven days to officially start school. So, we use this opportunity to distribute rice to the parents,” Father Zucchi explained. He is deeply grateful every time he presides over a distribution, adding, “I want to take this opportunity to thank Tzu Chi. I am grateful to Master Cheng Yen and the people of Taiwan for their love and support in La Saline and Cité Soleil.”
Father Zucchi and Johnson Chang mobilized a team of local Haitian volunteers to help with the rice distribution for students and parents, and they began by uploading rice from the many trucks used to transport it to the school. Once everything was ready, Tzu Chi volunteers started the distribution event by performing a sign language song, bringing even more cheer to this happy occasion.
The care recipients had come from La Saline and Cité Soleil’s most impoverished areas near the school. Everyone waited their turn patiently, then when leaving the distribution, with joyful smiles, some fathers carried the bag of rice they received on their shoulders while holding their child by the hand. Mothers transported the rice on top of their heads while their children ran ahead towards home, eager to enjoy a delicious meal.
During the summer, the school was not able to provide free lunch to students. Therefore, before the summer vacation, Tzu Chi volunteers distributed two bags of rice to each family to ensure the children would not go hungry. And at the end of summer, volunteers decided to distribute another bag of rice to each family. If the family has more than two students attending school, they can receive two bags of rice. Each person also received three face masks.
A total of 1,532 households benefited from this rice distribution. Seeing the parents’ and students’ gratitude and joy, Father Zucchi was also most pleased, exclaiming, “I saw their happy faces. Without this rice, their lives would be very difficult.”
With a foundation of love, Tzu Chi volunteers have built a bridge of kindness with the Haitian people. Now Haitian volunteers have gradually grown in strength and bring love and care to many more neglected communities.