Written by Christina Chang
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
In Northern California, the morning sun shone soft and bright through glass doors and windows at Tzu Chi’s Northwest regional office. Six Tzu Chi volunteers gathered their strength, and headed toward the six-meter tall truck under the sun. After the truck slowly parked the container on campus, the door opened and the forklift slowly and carefully unloaded all the pallets. With seamless cooperation, volunteers unloaded 760 boxes of Jing Si instant rice and noodles.
Tzu Chi volunteers Peter La and Michelle La reorganized the 760 boxes of Jing Si instant rice and noodles into batches according to the reported needs from local Tzu Chi offices in the Northwest Region. In the next two months, volunteers planned to deliver the Jing Si instant rice and noodles to families or institutions struggling with food insecurity due to the pandemic.
Tzu Chi volunteer Poh Joo Tan is in charge of the overall coordination and distribution of Jing Si instant rice and noodles in Northern California. “Our main task is to deliver timely relief to those affected by the pandemic with the love from Master Cheng Yen and the Masters from Jing Si Abode,” he explained.
Delivering Jing Si Instant Rice and Noodles
The United States was struck hard by the coronavirus as it spread across the globe, and the number of confirmed cases in the country ranks first in the world. As of August 21st, 2020, there have been 5,587,300 confirmed cases in the U.S., and at least 174,100 deaths. Dharma Master Cheng Yen saw the devastation brought forth by the pandemic in the United States, and expressed her concern for the nation’s most vulnerable populations. Tzu Chi volunteers have been delivering their mindful support through the provision of food for families grappling with food insecurity due to reduced hours and job loss, and through donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) to help safeguard the wellbeing of our heroes working tirelessly on the frontlines. Currently, we’ve donated 2,097,854 surgical masks, 181,856 N-95 masks, 23,730 handmade cloth masks, 41,425 pairs of goggles, 75,612 pairs of gloves, 14,511 protective coveralls, 28,157 face shields, 13,846 bags of groceries, and more.
To help Tzu Chi volunteers provide further relief, our global headquarters in Taiwan shipped the boxes of Jing Si instant rice and noodles to California for distribution, hoping that it will allow our most severely affected neighbors to put food on the table for their families.
Tzu Chi’s Northwest region volunteers have been planning the distribution of Jing Si instant rice and noodles since May. The goal is to deliver these food supplies to the locals most in need in the shortest possible time. After mindful discussions and assessments, volunteers decided to give aid to Chinatown SRO, local seniors, low-income households from the Happy Campus program, local shelters, unemployed or low-income farmworkers, and more.
Volunteers Promote Vegetarianism
The City and County of San Francisco is densely populated, and thus, has a relatively high risk of getting infected with COVID-19, and an increased need for essential supplies. Tzu Chi volunteers in the San Francisco area have been supporting the community for many years, and proposed distributing Jing Si instant rice and noodles to support the local communities. With the joint efforts from other offices, 190 boxes of Jing Si instant rice and noodles were allocated to help the locals struggling with food insecurity.
Tzu Chi volunteers also planned deliveries to Bayview–Hunters Point in San Francisco, where Tzu Chi has implemented a “Happy Campus” program. The Happy Campus program began in 2006 in the neighborhood of Bayview-Hunters Point when Tzu Chi volunteers discovered a great need in the schools where families struggle to make ends meet, and students have a hard time keeping up with school work.
In San Francisco’s Chinatown SRO (single-room occupancy) housing, each floor of the building consists of more than 20 rooms, and each room is less than three square meters in size. The shared kitchen is temporarily closed during the outbreak. Upon becoming aware of the concerns that arose from this situation, Tzu Chi volunteers assisted in the delivery of vegetarian meals to residents.
In July, when the city stopped serving meals, Tzu Chi volunteers continued to provide Jing Si instant rice and noodles through multiple channels to those in need around the Chinatown area. Volunteers provided timely food support to residents of two SRO buildings, consisting of many Asian and Hispanic households.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an international voluntary organization, their mission to serve the poor and homeless members of the community in San Francisco being just one of their projects to better the lives of those who struggle. Tzu Chi volunteers contacted the organization to introduce Jing Si instant rice and noodles into their collaborative distribution events. Tzu Chi volunteer Lulu Yin explained that when distributing Jing Si instant rice and noodles, volunteers explain the benefits of maintaining a vegetarian diet, and why Dharma Master Cheng Yen has sincerely called upon everyone to eat mindfully.
Reaching Out to Communities in Need
Tzu Chi volunteers from Sacramento have also continued to deliver their love and care to the seniors at Park Folsom Senior Retirement Community, a low-income residence for seniors. During the pandemic, they lacked manpower and the retirement center was limited to only providing breakfast and lunch. Most of the seniors at the center are eighty or ninety years of age and depended on the assistance. When Tzu Chi volunteers came to visit the seniors, who they hadn’t seen for quite some time, they were happy to be reunited again and chatted with the Tzu Chi volunteers at the entrance.
“We all felt so lonely during this critical time,” expressed one senior, and volunteers were thankful to be able to let them know that their Tzu Chi family will always keep them close to heart. In addition to the Jing Si instant rice and noodles, Tzu Chi volunteers brought warmth to the hearts of seniors.
Tzu Chi volunteers from San Jose and Cupertino, California, worked together to guide high school students who wished to volunteer by participating in volunteer programs with the Asian American for Community Involvement (AACI). This organization strives to empower communities through offering an array of human services. During the pandemic, volunteers provided mask donations, and also prepared Jing Si instant rice and noodles for distributions at the AACI’s temporary shelter.
Many seniors live alone in an Asian community in Oakland, CA. These elders who are in their 70’s and above are afraid to step out of their homes due to the pandemic. Tzu Chi volunteers have been caring for them on a long-term basis, and prepared staple foods to be delivered once per week.
Camp Fire survivors have faced many challenges on the road to recovery, and the pandemic has only added to their distress. In the foothills area of Concow near Chico, California, one resident named Teri Rubiolo has been preparing over one hundred free meals per day for 40 families in the community for the past year and a half after the fire. Tzu Chi volunteers have likewise continued to assist Teri by obtaining food supplies for her. As soon as the Jing Si instant rice and noodles arrived at Tzu Chi’s Northwest regional branch from Taiwan, volunteers delivered them to Concow immediately to support Teri’s daily hot meal distributions.
There are many temporary farmworkers in the Central Valley and Salinas Valley — the most productive agricultural regions in California. The outbreak affected the ability of many farmworkers to bring food home for their families. TIMA volunteer, Chijen Huang, brought Jing Si instant rice and noodles when visiting the workers along with Salinas Valley Health Clinic staff in the hopes that these staple food supplies can help the farmworkers and their families.
Tzu Chi’s Modesto Service Center is nearly two hours from our Northwest regional office. In order to save a considerable amount on freight costs and receive the supplies as soon as possible, Tzu Chi volunteer Yingli Yang made a trip from Modesto to the Northwest regional branch to pick up the Jing Si instant rice and noodles. On the return trip, he stopped in Stockton and Fresno to deliver these much-needed supplies, taking him over three hours to drive across the Central Valley.
Adopting Vegetarianism to Coexist with the Earth
At each Jing Si instant rice and noodles distribution event, volunteers bring along Tzu Chi brochures and Tzu Chi Journals in multiple languages which offer articles ranging from the benefits of being a vegetarian to Tzu Chi’s efforts to provide pandemic relief.
Tzu Chi volunteers will continue to support and empower the communities we serve throughout the pandemic. You can assist us as we aid struggling families all across the nation. We’re calling for 500k donors to help us raise $5 million in charitable donations. Every dollar counts, and in these challenging times, your selfless gift of $10 can help us deliver hope to those who can’t afford to feed their families, or provide essential PPE to individuals on the frontlines. If we can inspire 500,000 people to participate, we can reach $5,000,000 in relief!