Written by: Shirley Wu
Translated by: H.B. Qin
Edited by: Patrick McShane
This past August, a power tropical cyclone formed in the Gulf of Mexico south of Texas. This weather system brought storms to the Dallas Metroplex after making landfall along the Southern Coast. Although the rain relieved the Summer drought that had affected the area for the previous two months, the rain, which fell too rapidly to properly drain or soak into the soil, caused flooding in many places. The Tzu Chi Central Region immediately activated the disaster relief mechanism and cooperated with local disaster relief organizations to bring help and relief to affected communities.
The Government and Private Sector Came to the Rescue After the Water Receded
In just 24 hours, the greater Dallas area had more than 23 centimeters of rainfall, more than it had in the entire past month, and the second-highest ever recorded. The heavy rains came fast and furiously, causing severe flooding in many areas. According to local news reports, the severe flooding was concentrated in the southeast of the area served by Tzu Chi Central Region and in the low-lying areas of Fort Worth to the southwest.
Since the start of the flooding, Tzu Chi Central Region has been in close contact with relevant agencies and participated in an online meeting with the City of Dallas Office of Emergency Management on the afternoon of August 23rd.
At the time of the meeting, the full extent of the damage was still unknown and city officials were still investigating the storm’s impact. Although the City of Dallas and the State of Texas issued an emergency disaster alert, the Federal Government could not subsidize damage relief programs or emergency aid because the amount of damage was below the threshold for federal aid. Although most of the flooding in the affected areas has receded, the City of Dallas has continued to compile disaster information and continues to share information with various volunteer organizations.
After the meeting, the City of Dallas set up a temporary Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) at the Samuell Recreation Center to assist survivors with post-disaster recovery issues.
Tzu Chi Supports the Survivors
Volunteers from Tzu Chi Central Region were present at the MARC for two consecutive days, collecting information from 63 households and listening to the survivors’ heartfelt stories about the day of the flood. Some of the survivors also shared shocking footage they took with their cell phones. The videos showed cars submerged in water, flooded bathrooms, and bathtubs and toilets overflowing with brown floodwater. Many homes were flooded with up to 50 centimeters of water, and some even had water as high as 150 centimeters, resulting in severe damage.
The survivors said that the flooding arrived rapidly and receded quickly. There was no time for them to think, they had to begin cleaning up their homes immediately after the disaster.
One resident Tzu Chi spoke with worked to help his parents during the disaster. He rushed to their home as the water rose, but the water level came up so fast it quickly reached the top of his head, nearly 180 centimeters high, and almost washed him away. He said, “This house was built by my grandparents forty years ago, there are memories everywhere, it’s heartbreaking that the flood destroyed it, I hope the house can be repaired and preserved.”
Another woman, who was raised by her grandmother, applied for aid on behalf of her grandmother who was affected by the flood and has mobility issues. She wept when she saw how her grandmother was impacted by the flood. She said, “I hope my grandmother’s house can be repaired, and I hope my grandmother, who is in poor health, can live in a clean and comfortable environment.
Distributing Supplies and Spreading Love
After carefully evaluating the data provided by the survivors, the volunteers determined that 43 households were eligible for aid, and immediately arranged for the distribution of cash cards, blankets, bamboo banks, wipes, and masks to the survivors at the Tzu Chi Central Region clubhouse from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 4th. More than 50 volunteers were mobilized to assist 26 families affected by the floods.
Early on the morning of September 4th, volunteers set up the distribution venue at the clubhouse. Tzu Chi Central Region Executive Director Yuanliang Ling urged the volunteers to seize the opportunity to introduce Tzu Chi and promote the concepts of Tzu Chi, hoping that everyone would be safe and happy. After the survivors arrived at the clubhouse, the volunteers checked their identities and invited them to take their seats. The survivors were greeted with an introduction to Tzu Chi by Tzu Chi volunteer Ying Na, and a video about Tzu Chi.
While handing out supplies, Tzu Chi volunteer Biyu Chen said to the survivors, “The $800 in this card is the love of Tzu Chi volunteers all over the world, I believe you can feel it.”
Along with handing out much-needed supplies, the volunteers told the survivors about the origin of Tzu Chi and the bamboo bank, hoping that the survivors would join the cycle of goodness and help more people suffering from hardship. Some of the survivors said they were very touched and thought it was a very good idea, and expressed that the Tzu Chi volunteers treated them like family. They felt the volunteers’ friendly demeanor clearly came from the bottom of their hearts. Many survivors conveyed hopes that everyone in this world would treat each other compassionately, knowing that it would make the world a better place.
“I experienced the cohesiveness of a community at Tzu Chi,” said Jaidev Ojha, a survivor of the disaster, “Seeing Tzu Chi’s dedication in all corners of the world reminded me to make an effort to do my part in the world and help others.”
While grateful for Tzu Chi’s donations, disaster survivor Matilda Gray-Waters hopes to pass on the spirit of mutual help. She said, “A little help is more meaningful than a lot of help because it means you didn’t lose everything. So, I am telling myself to look at the bright side. I also got a cash card, so I don’t have to worry about whether I have money to buy food in the next few days, I am really grateful; I also got two bamboo banks, so I can save more love to help others.”
Cassandra Wallace, an employee of the City of Dallas Office of Emergency Management who has worked with Tzu Chi for many years, said in an interview, “I am sincerely grateful to the Tzu Chi USA for being such a good ally of the City of Dallas and our best partner of the Office of Emergency Management. Whenever there is a disaster, we can always see the Tzu Chi volunteers, and we trust what you do for the survivors. Once again, our greatest gratitude for what you have done for the survivors.”
Through the distribution of supplies and cash cards, the volunteers hope that the survivors can rebuild their lives and their homes as soon as possible. They also gave a Tzu Chi’s bamboo bank to every family, hoping that the little gifts of kindness accumulated day after day will one day be able to help others.