Written by Lulu Yin, Grace Wong
Translated by Ariel Chan
Edited by Jiali Liu, Patrick McShane
Bayview Hunter’s Point in the southeast of San Francisco is off the beaten path for most people. It is one of the Bay Area’s more economically distressed areas and often has a higher crime rate than other parts of the city. One summer, for example, over forty shootings occurred here.
Tzu Chi volunteers work hard to introduce and cultivate Master Chen Yen’s ideals in the community, including her recommendations on “Being charitable, expanding medical access, spreading education, and uniting humanity”. The Master also teaches that “The stronger your will, the bigger your power.” With this in mind, the volunteers began their work with the Happy Campus project in local schools and spread their efforts to further help residents, all the while subtly changing the entire community for the better. The transformation took nearly 15 years of dedication and it was a long and difficult path. Tzu Chi went from being rejected and suspected, to finally being accepted and embraced.
Youth Warriors Promote Vegetarianism
The Bayview Hunter’s Point Youth Warriors have a special mission in the community: to promote environmental protection and vegetarianism. In 2018, the Alice Griffith Zero Waste Program was established in the community. Twice a week, more than a dozen teenagers act as “Youth Warriors” and follow adult residents to recycle materials and trash they find in the area. They have been out helping the environment consistently for more than 4 years. Even when the community was gripped by the pandemic, they continued to do environmental protection work as usual to achieve the vision of zero waste in the community.
Beginning in 2022, the Youth Warriors set a goal through the Healthy Diet, Healthy Life program, hoping to set an example through their own actions to influence their families and community residents to join their mission of vegetarianism.
The volunteer team purchased ingredients to cook the food that the Youth Warriors liked, and then returned to the kitchen of the Service Center to try and adjust the recipes a few times to perfect the taste and nutritional profile to meet the children in the community’s preferences. The goal is to help children learn to enjoy cooking vegetarian meals at home and mobilize their families in the process.
The vegetarian cooking class occurs once every two weeks. Five Youth Warriors show off their vegetarian cooking skills. They put on neat aprons, arranged the ingredients, washed and cut vegetables, and used their own special small pots to complete the vegetarian meals.
The community activity center was full of aromas, and the community residents who came to watch the Youth Warriors cook vegetarian food realized that the children had matured and learned new skills through the program. Each participant now knows that a healthy life starts with a healthy diet.
Community member Aaron Tanneri said emotionally: “I admire these children. They cook vegetarian food for us to taste, bring vegetarian food to share with family members, teach neighbors to cook vegetarian food together and learn to eat healthily. I am very grateful to them for your kindness and care.”
One of the goals of 2023 is to implement the Healthy Eating, Healthy Living program in the community. It is hoped that children will motivate their parents to switch to a vegetarian diet and foster a healthy and happy community.
Non-stop Distribution of Fruits and Vegetables
Since 2017, Tzu Chi volunteers have been distributing fresh fruits and vegetables in the local community every Saturday, and over the years the number of residents receiving food has increased from a few dozen households to nearly 150 households today. The program has allowed more residents to have fresh fruits and vegetables every week, helping them cultivate a balanced and healthy diet.
The number of volunteers participating in the food distribution has grown as well. In the beginning, all members were Tzu Chi volunteers. Five years later, two-thirds of the volunteers are community members. Their ranks are joined by young members of the Youth Bright Project who have played their part in the spirit of helping their neighbors. Everyone joined forces to take care of the community, bringing peace and warmth to each other.
Thanksgiving Winter Festival
For ten consecutive years, the Thanksgiving Winter Festival has been an annual event to thank the 35 households who usually participate in various Tzu Chi activities and contribute to the community during the year, through initiatives such as zero waste environmental protection activities, weekly one-time food distribution, and door-to-door promotion of environmental protection.
A total of 200 local community members enthusiastically took part in the event, celebrating the community’s accomplishments. Volunteers prepared cooking pots, blankets, chocolates, toys, and supplies that the community residents needed, and distributed 150 gifts of various sizes to those in need.
Nothing in the world can be done by only one person, actions can only be accomplished through teamwork. If many small actions are taken in the spirit of giving, their cumulative effort will add up and lead to great changes.