Fresno Distribution and Free Clinic: Delivering Love and Warmth in the Winter Cold

Northwest  |  December 19, 2022
Tzu Chi volunteers distributing winter
Volunteers braved the cold and showed their enthusiasm to provide supplies to farmworker families. Photo/Alvina Voon

Written by: Media Team
Translated by: H.B. Qin
Edited by: Andrea Barkley

On December 3, 2022, the winter morning greeted Tzu Chi Fresno Service Center volunteers with cold rain. Volunteers stood out on an open farm, with freezing wind blowing off the leaves, making the morning gloom even harder. But volunteers of Tzu Chi USA and community volunteers didn’t find it troublesome. They arrived at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Caruthers, a half-hour drive from downtown, before 9:00 a.m. and quickly set up the site for the distribution. 

The primary purpose of the distribution was to provide farmworker families with essential livelihood supplies and to check the health of local farmworkers by providing vision and dental screening services. A total of 36 volunteers participated in the event.

Tzu Chi volunteers delivering winter supplies
Volunteers enthusiastically assisted in carrying and distributing supplies. Photo/Alvina Voon
Tzu Chi volunteers assisting recipients for the distribution registration
Volunteers help to register and explain the Tzu Chi USA distribution activity to the farmworkers. Photo/Alvina Voon

Raising Spirits to Help the Poor and Sick

Fresno is home to a large number of Mexican farmworkers and low-income families. Although the Fresno Mobile Clinic Team has been traveling through Central California to serve farmworker families for a long time, farmworkers lack medical resources.

Tzu Chi Fresno has been interacting with the Catholic Church for many years. They have continued to provide supplies and medical services to farmworkers and disadvantaged families. Unfortunately, the winter distribution stopped for two years due to the pandemic; now that the pandemic is gradually under control, community activities are slowly opening up. Volunteers contacted the church and will bring medical services into the community in the future, in addition to distributions.

During the distribution, Li Da Lin, a dentist from TIMA, accepted the invitation from Olivia Chung, the manager of the mobile clinic, to go to the site to check the teeth of the farmworkers. Brother Yingli Yang and the Modesto team also joined the event to conduct eye screenings.

According to Olivia Chung, the medical office will provide two free ophthalmology clinics after the screening and arrange for professional doctors to fit glasses for them for free. Then, if the dentists want further treatment, they return to the office for follow-up treatments.

As the Christmas season approaches, many people across the country are cold and hungry. When the team decided to resume the winter distribution over the previous years, they publicized the need for rice, oil, pasta and sauce, canned goods, and other necessities. Many volunteers and community members responded with donations. The supplies are abundant and diverse, including sleeping bags and backpacks provided by the Northwest Region Chapter, socks suitable for all family members and Christmas gifts for children donated by Tzu Ching, and pandemic-proof masks presented by the Mobile Clinic Center to farmworker families, enough to keep the farmworker families from worrying about supplies at Christmas.

Tzu Ching prepared
The Tzu Ching team prepared socks and Christmas gifts to bring a festive atmosphere to the children. Gurneet Kaur (second from right) and Kaylen Situ (first from right) Photo/Alvina Voon
Ms. Lili Tsai (first from right) led high school students to help with the distribution. Photo/Alvina Voon

Planting Seeds of Goodness, Harvesting Fruits of Beauty

At the end of the year, students were busy preparing for their final exams. Ms. Lili Tsai, who teaches at a high school, led ten students to participate in the distribution. Ms. Tsai has a deep connection with Tzu Chi USA. She has served in the Clovis Unified School District for over 30 years. She has been leading students to participate in Tzu Chi’s activities in Fresno for over 20 years.

She said, “Tzu Chi USA has been very successful in its community service. It’s a large organization that attracts many people in the community because of its ability to accommodate different cultures and religions. Tzu Chi USA events are all significant. Many students enjoy participating in them. I hope to see more large fundraising events in the future.”

Kaylen Situ, a second-generation Chinese student at Fresno State University’s Tzu Chi Collegiate Association (TCCA), was very excited to meet Ms. Tsai at the distribution site and gave her a warm hug. She said, “When I was in high school, Ms. Tsai led us to volunteer at the Tzu Chi Mid-Autumn Festival. So we got to know Tzu Chi USA and learned more about Tzu Chi’s continued service to low-income farmworkers. So I joined TCCA in college, hoping to do my part for this community.”

Mr. Tsai said with a smile, “This is the result of our past efforts. The seed we previously planted is now bearing good fruit.”

Gurneet Kaur, another Tzu Ching of Indian descent, is currently a junior student at a state university and will become an optometrist. Over the past year, she has joined the Mobile Clinic’s ophthalmology sessions whenever permitted and went to remote school districts to care for children’s eyesight. She said, “I feel fortunate to be able to help the children and the positive impact Tzu Chi USA is making in our community.”

A mother brought her sick child to pick up the supplies. The child looked not well because of the sickness, but when the child saw the toys and candies specially prepared by the volunteers, the child suddenly started to smile.

Tzu Chi TIMA dentist
TIMA dentist Li Da Lin (first from right) performed oral checks on the farmworker, while volunteer Adriana (third from right) was a great help with her fluent Spanish translation. Photo/Alvina Voon
Tzu Chi Medical Foundation Deputy CEO and his family volunteering together
Wen Chun Chiang, Deputy Executive Director of Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, has been serving the community by mobilizing his whole family to every winter distribution. Photo/Alvina Voon

Newly Arrived Residents Offered to Help Others

Sara fled from Afghanistan to California in 2021 because of the civil war and became a new resident of Fresno. When she first arrived in the United States, her family of nine lived temporarily in a hotel in downtown Fresno. Tzu Chi USA volunteers visited when her sister Tahmina needed dental help. The family moved to Tracy afterward. When the family arrived in Tracy, the Modesto Tzu Chi volunteers continued with the care.

As Sara did not want to give up the job she had just obtained, she stayed in Fresno with her sister Tahmina and lived apart from their family. From then on, the Fresno Tzu Chi volunteers were there for her as if they were family or friends. They helped the sisters find a rental place, sent clothes and blankets when the weather turned cold, and regularly visited to support them.

After a few months, the volunteers invited her to participate in distribution activities, hoping she could meet people. This participation was an opportunity to experience American culture and see that there are still many poor and sick people in many corners of the world waiting for help. To see the suffering was a way to appreciate what the sisters have now.

I am very happy to participate in this event, I love to help others, thank you for the invitation.

The distribution ended successfully at noon. To accomplish this distribution, many volunteers worked silently behind the scenes by giving their total energy to show love and care to the community. 

It’s believed that our society will be better for it.

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