Written by Lulu Yin, Grace Wong
Translated by Ariel Chan
Edited by Scarlett Liu, Patrick McShane
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world. During this unprecedented time, most economically disadvantaged families in Bayview Hunter’s Point, San Francisco were faced with the triple challenges of the pandemic, lack of access to public health facilities, and a suffering economy. As the economic effects of the pandemic began to bite, issues such as medical costs, loss of salary due to unemployment, and loss of loved ones did indelible damage to these vulnerable families.
When this global tragedy struck, Tzu Chi’s happily stepped up to help these families, and continued to provide aid to those in need, but now with special emphasis and care for those affected by the pandemic. Tzu Chi volunteers actively contacted four schools in Hunters Point, San Fransico, including Bret Harte Elementary, Dr. Charles Drew College Preparatory Academy, Dr. George Washington Carver Elementary School, and Malcolm X Academy. They tried to work with students who had family members suffering from COVID-19, who had no identification documents, or who hailed from unemployed single-parent households to provide timely assistance during the pandemic. Over the past two years, at least 50 disadvantaged families have been helped by Tzu Chi with the assistance of the 4 local schools.
Despite the unfolding pain and struggle caused by the pandemic, Tzu Chi volunteers carried on as usual, and care and love never ceased. For three consecutive years, no matter the harsh winter wind or the wet and cold rainy season, the warmth that Tzu Chi volunteers conveyed to disadvantaged families could never be stopped.
On December 14th, 2022, 12 Tzu Chi volunteers from San Francisco and Emily Wade Thompson, an administrator in Cohort Three of the San Fransico Unified School District, packed Christmas gifts and went to four elementary schools that partner with the Happy Campus program to care for disadvantaged families. Ms. Wade Thompson, who has worked in education for nearly 50 years, has served in the schools of the Hunter Point Community for more than 30 years. She has been a well-known and highly respected classroom teacher, mentor, principal, and director of the District Education Bureau, and over the years she has developed an in-depth knowledge of all the community’s families and charitable organizations.
Emily shared, “These families are the case families that Tzu Chi has helped during the pandemic. Tzu Chi continued to care for these families and gave them gifts. I am very grateful.”
The students and parents who received the gifts were very pleasantly surprised. The winter clothes, blankets, and chocolates were not only festive but were also filled with love, sending each family winter blessings.
Steve Harris is a 32-year-old single father with two sons. When he walked into the school auditorium, he was very excited to see Ms. Emily Wade Thompson. He told those who were present: “Ms. Emily Thompson is my kindergarten teacher. One can imagine how long we have known each other. I am grateful to her for caring for me and reporting my situation to Tzu Chi. When I was at my most difficult times, Tzu Chi regularly visited, donated furniture or daily necessities and cash cards to help me tide over those difficulties.”
Tzu Chi has been helping the community for a long time. Many teachers at the local schools have built a deep and long-standing relationship with Tzu Chi, and are grateful for Tzu Chi’s long-term support.
Matthew Fitzsimons, Principal of Malcolm X Academy shared, “Thanks to Tzu Chi for doing its best to assist our school, such as through the perfect attendance award program, which encourages children to go to school every day. Now many students have reached the attendance rate of the class.”
Bret Harte Elementary offers a Spanish language immersion program and has many Spanish-speaking families. Narda Harrigan, who is in charge of translation, has worked with Tzu Chi for more than ten years. She shared: “Tzu Chi has helped the community and the case families with their need for food, and specifically presenting us with such beautiful holiday gifts today. The parents and I are very, very grateful.”
The gift distribution brought warmth to the cold winter day. A total of 144 gifts were distributed to assist 44 disadvantaged families. Tzu Chi volunteers grasp opportunities for kindness and love and readily go to the places that need care the most. Despite the pandemic and the cold winter wind, they brought warmth to the hearts of every family in need.