When Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast on August 25, 2017, Houston’s school district said that 75 of it 275 schools were closed due to flood damage. Following the Tzu Chi Hurricane Harvey disaster relief mission, volunteers continue to stay in touch with Houston and surrounding communities in order to assist in the rebuilding of people’s homes, communities, and lives.
20.8% of the population for whom poverty status is determined in Houston, TX (473,620 out of 2.27M people) live below the poverty line, a number that is higher than the national average of 14%. These underprivileged students lack sufficient educational funding, and often suffer from achievement gaps as a result of their socioeconomic standing. Once this gap ensues, it is often difficult for students to catch up.
According to Robert Kaplan, president of Dallas’ Federal Reserve Bank, this educational achievement gap suffered by low-income families has seen no change in the past three decades, and, in fact has become worse. This in turn not only affects the Texas economy, but results in increased unemployment for the state as well.
Poverty plays an imminent role in poor education. For the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, volunteers returned to the school districts within Houston and surrounding areas to provide general educational supplies, such as notebooks, pencils, folders etc., to students from low-income families — and just in time for the start of the new school year.
Wharton Schools Distribution
On August 13, 22 volunteers drove for an hour to Wharton to distribute school supplies to underprivileged students ranging from elementary to high school. The students were selected by the Just Do It Now organization that provides after school care and spiritual assistance to students within the Wharton district and surrounding communities. Volunteers prepared, organized and laid out the distribution bags in a neat and organized fashion out of respect for the recipients, and in order to demonstrate that they are gifts.
Our volunteers also engaged with the students and parents through sign language performance. The recreational activity served as an ice breaker that allowed for bonding and relationship building between volunteers and recipients. Donations are not a one way street; Tzu Chi volunteers are provided with the opportunity to learn from the student and family recipients as well. Tzu Chi is always grateful to the recipients because they give us a chance to serve.
Mara Simmelkjaer, Hurricane Harvey victim, is one of many Wharton residents who received aid from Tzu Chi.
Tzu Chi volunteers took additional time to get to know the recipients on a personal level, and to educate them about our organization as well. The recipients were informed on how Tzu Chi was founded from humble beginnings in 1966 with Master Cheng Yen and 30 housewives saving pennies into a bamboo bank with the aspiration to provide assistance for the well-being of others on a daily basis. Over 50 years later, Tzu Chi is now a renowned global charity organization, that delivers the love and care collected from all over the world to those in need.
On August 16, 24 volunteers visited San Leon Elementary School to distribute school supplies for 158 low-income students residing in Dickinson, Texas. Volunteers prepared, organized and laid out the distribution bags in a neat and respectable fashion, as always, to present the gifts.
Volunteers also took the time to introduce the Tzu Chi foundation, and inform the residents of Dickinson what kinds of aid relief and humanitarian work that the organization provides for students, parents, and school faculties. They were informed about how the foundation started from humble beginnings with pennies in a bamboo bank and the simple thought to help people each day. This was to ensure the residents that the materials they are receiving today are from the love of people all around the world, and that with driven aspiration and hope, anything can be achieved.
Volunteers will continue to be in touch with the schools to provide more help to those who are in need within the Houston community.
Support Tzu Chi USA’s initiative to assist those who are in need of financial assistance. See how your donation can give hope to others by taking a look at our efforts.