Written by Eric Tong
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
The morning of January 23rd, 2021, in Washington D.C. had been clear but frigid, dropping to the lowest temperatures seen since winter began. Nevertheless, volunteers from the Washington D.C. chapter of Tzu Chi USA were determined, and set out to host their first food distribution event of the year.
Just the week before, on January 17th, the number of confirmed cases had reached a single-day record high of 9,914 in Virginia. In response to the effects of the ongoing pandemic, Tzu Chi has upheld that all volunteers participating in Tzu Chi events must adopt careful preventative measures to protect their own health as well as the safety of the communities they serve. Anyone who showed Covid-19 symptoms or who felt unwell had been asked to refrain from attending the drive. All participating Tzu Chi volunteers additionally had their temperatures taken beforehand, and everyone was required to wear medical-grade personal protective equipment (PPE) while maintaining mindful social distancing procedures throughout the event.
Tzu Chi’s food distributions in Seven Corners began in July of last year, and had been held in person each time. This year, however, added preventative measures were necessary. Therefore, volunteers implemented a drive-through method of distribution, benefiting 32 families. Apart from being more convenient for residents of the community, this recently implemented method proved significantly more efficient as well. And most importantly, the health and safety of families and volunteers alike were protected.
A total of 14 volunteers participated in this event. A Vietnamese-American physician, Dr. LamSon D. Nguyen, attended the event as well, and was accompanied by three of his colleagues in the medical community. This was the third time that Dr. Carolina Saldarriaga Perez, a pediatrician, and her husband, Dr. Sebastian Ochoa Gonzalez, a Clinical Fellow in Allergy and Immunology, attended a Tzu Chi event. Both considered these food distribution drives to be deeply meaningful for the community, and they signed up immediately each time they’d been informed of an upcoming event. They have also expressed that if Tzu Chi proceeds with its Medical Outreach program in the future, they will gladly lend their expertise.
The Covid-19 pandemic has persisted for over a year, creating a complex web of obstacles for individuals and families to overcome. And therefore, the cold had been no match when Tzu Chi volunteers are committed to helping affected families acquire the resources they need. Volunteers could not bear the thought of families impacted by the pandemic not having adequate nourishment at home, and readjusted their distribution process to better suit the current circumstances. During the food drive, volunteers were warmed within despite the cold weather, as they knew these crucial resources would be helping to ease the hearts and minds of families amid this tremendously difficult period.