From Receiving Care to Giving It: A COVID Survivor’s Journey

Northeast  | February 8, 2021
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A New York resident, Weilin Wu (left), was under the care of Tzu Chi volunteer San San Chiang (right) during her quarantine period after contracting COVID-19. Since her recovery, she dedicates time volunteering to benefit others. Video Screenshot/Tzu Chi USA Video Team

Written by Daphne Liu
Translated by Diana Chang 
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

Weilin Wu, a New York resident, contracted COVID-19 during the pandemic. Thankfully, she did not require hospitalization. During the time she was recovering and in quarantine at home, several Tzu Chi volunteers took the risk to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to her each week.

I [was in self-quarantine] for a period of time, maybe one or two months. When Tzu Chi volunteers heard that I got infected with the virus, [a volunteer] came every week to give me food, I’m very grateful for that.

Weilin Wu, New York Resident

The Tzu Chi volunteer Weilin spoke of is San San Chiang. Deeply touched by this attentive care, something Weilin had never experienced during her 40 years of residency in the United States, she told San San that the first thing she wants to do after recovery is to become a devoted volunteer herself. 

True to her word, Weilin followed through, and now, the meaningful task of volunteering is part of her life. One of the activities she currently participates in is Tzu Chi USA Northeast Region’s regular distributions of fruits and vegetables in Flushing, a neighborhood in New York City’s borough of Queens.

Inspired to Give Back

Friday is the day that many Chinese residents in Flushing most look forward to, as that is when Tzu Chi New York volunteers distribute fresh produce at Tzu Chi USA Northeast Region’s head office. The residents’ fond dependence on this regular program has intensified since the pandemic began. With the economy widely affected and many jobs lost, more and more people require charity aid. Consequently, the locals arrive earlier each week, too; some begin lining up in wait as early as six in the morning.

Many neighborhood residents come to help out at these food distributions, intent on assisting those in need in their community. Now Weilin Wu has also joined their ranks. Although she retired a few years ago, Weilin is still willing to volunteer every weekend. She knows firsthand how it feels to receive Tzu Chi volunteers’ love and care; thus, she wants to support their aid efforts.

During the weekly distributions, Tzu Chi provides a variety of fresh produce such as green leafy vegetables, cabbage, bitter melon, eggplant, and so on. Weilin helps to sort and subdivide the food supplies before they are handed out at the distribution or delivered to those who can’t attend, as they were in her case while she was in quarantine.

Actually, it’s the [kind] thoughts instead of the food that really touched and moved me, so I also want to do something for the neighbors around me, hoping they will also feel the same.

Weilin Wu, Tzu Chi Community Volunteer
While COVID-19 continues to spread, Weilin Wu dedicates time to volunteer and deliver food to those in need in her community. Video Screenshot/Tzu Chi USA Video Team
Weilin participates in all the food distribution activities in Flushing, New York, taking on whatever tasks need doing. Video Screenshot/Tzu Chi USA Video Team

Tzu Chi volunteer San San is touched by Weilin’s dedicated contribution while expressing some concerns as well:

She comes to our office every Friday to serve the community. Although she has a bad back and had surgery before, that doesn’t stop her. [Seeing her] carrying heavy items and delivering them really moves me.

San San Chiang, Tzu Chi Volunteer

Once the food supplies are ready, Weilin helps deliver them to seniors living alone. Among them, she visits Dingjun Wang, a 96-year-old professor and renowned writer, who, along with his wife, are her neighbors. For this couple and other elderly care recipients, such efforts make a world of difference during the pandemic, as they mostly stay confined to their homes for safety reasons.

Weilin is fully aware of the trouble of not being able to go out for groceries during the pandemic, so she is tirelessly delivering food to families in need. Video Screenshot/Tzu Chi USA Video Team
Professor Dingjun Wang and his wife can’t go out during the pandemic and depend on Tzu Chi’s help with obtaining food supplies. Video Screenshot/Tzu Chi USA Video Team

May Good Deeds Keep Rising Like Dough

Beyond participating in food distribution efforts, Weilin Wu also felt motivated to fundraise on behalf of Tzu Chi’s missions. This venture can be challenging given all the current public safety constraints due to the pandemic. However, she found her path in doing so and, based on her skills, chose to raise funds by making and selling healthy steamed buns.

To fundraise for Tzu Chi’s missions, Weilin makes steamed buns for sale. Video Screenshot/Tzu Chi USA Video Team
Supporting Tzu Chi’s missions gives Weilin a new sense of direction during her retirement years. Video Screenshot/Tzu Chi USA Video Team

And, as Weilin watches yeast dough rise in the process, she happily visualizes a growing amount of good deeds arising in the community and more neighbors adding their time and effort to support Tzu Chi’s activities. She is also grateful for the new sense of purpose she has discovered. “This pandemic has given me a deep awakening that I can no longer play mahjong every day,” she explains.

The hands I used to play mahjong skillfully [now] knead the dough, [as I] do something meaningful. The global pandemic does not discriminate between race or nationality, so we all must be alert and work hard to overcome the difficulties.

Weilin Wu, New York Resident

Each week, Tzu Chi New York’s food distributions in Flushing help at least 200 families. Moreover, as this story beautifully illustrates, this ongoing program also plants the seeds of love in care recipients’ hearts, motivating some of them to act on it through community service.

The seeds of blessings must be sowed whenever their fruits are harvested to ensure that the virtuous cycle continues indefinitely.

Jing Si Aphorism by Dharma Master Cheng Yen

By supporting Tzu Chi USA’s charity missions, you, too, can be part of this cycle of care.

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