Tzu Chi Local Volunteers in Mexico Launch a Flood Relief Mission

National Headquarters  |  February 25, 2022
Before the distribution, local volunteers go door-to-door in the disaster area to hand out fliers about the upcoming aid. Photo/Tzu Chi Mexico Team

Written by Meizhen Qian
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

At dawn on December 18, 2021, Rodrigo Pérez Lozada, a Tzu Chi Mexico volunteer, met more than 100 local volunteers at the site in Tula where Tzu Chi would hold a disaster relief distribution event for flood survivors in central Mexico that day. The event was the second of three, as Rodrigo explained. “In December, large-scale distribution events for flood survivors were held three in a row. This was the first time that local Tzu Chi volunteers in Mexico started with their own initiative. From assessing the disaster areas, planning disaster relief, coordinating division of labor, to preparing activities, all of the work was done by local volunteers.”

For the first time, Tzu Chi local volunteers in Mexico plan and organize three large-scale flood relief activities in December 2021. Photo/Tzu Chi Mexico Team

Everyone collaborated to set up the site, putting up tables and chairs. Considering that more than a thousand survivors would assemble to receive aid, the team prepared to accommodate many lines at a time, hoping to cut down the length of queues. Rodrigo motivated the group by highlighting the significance of their involvement, saying, “Tzu Chi moves more and more local people, who then take part in doing good deeds so that distributions for thousands can be successfully completed. This is a very memorable experience.”

Most of the local volunteers participating in these three flood relief activities got to know Tzu Chi following the 2017 earthquake relief mission. Photo/Tzu Chi Mexico Team

Rodrigo’s leadership role during preparations was the culmination of a journey with Tzu Chi that began several years earlier. Following the earthquake that shook Mexico in 2017, Rodrigo, who had studied in Canada, and his friends volunteered to transport water and food to the disaster areas. He noticed Tzu Chi volunteers there and offered to help them register the list of affected households, which marked the start of his volunteering with Tzu Chi.

Rodrigo Pérez Lozada (middle), a Tzu Chi Mexico volunteer with good English language skills, is the main person helping Tzu Chi volunteers communicate with local volunteers. Photo/Tzu Chi Mexico Team

Tzu Chi has been providing disaster relief and other aid in Mexico for some time. Volunteers from the United States, Spain, Argentina, and Taiwan will converge in Mexico to engage in free clinics, disaster relief, volunteer training, and other programs. Rodrigo has been responsible for the administration and coordination of Tzu Chi Mexico activities and, after completing the training, will become a certified Tzu Chi volunteer by the end of 2022. 

This flood relief mission began after torrential rains descended on the central part of Mexico in early September 2021. Local Tzu Chi volunteers mobilized immediately, launching their first self-initiated disaster relief effort.

A First for Tzu Chi Mexico

The flooding that affected parts of Mexico in September was severe. In Tlayacapan, in central Mexico’s Morelos state, it caused a landslide disaster. Similarly, in Hidalgo state, a total of nine towns along the Tula River were gravely impacted, with 21 deaths and more than 2,000 houses damaged. The flood became Hidalgo’s worst disaster in 40 years. Tula and Ixmiquilpan were two cities located in the hardest-hit areas.

After the floodwaters receded, local Tzu Chi volunteers visited Tlayacapan and Tula many times to assess damages and create a detailed roster of affected households. Teams from Mexico City, Xochimilco, and Jojutla then cooperated in disaster relief planning. And for the first time, three disaster relief distributions led by local Mexican volunteers were conducted on December 11, 18, and 19. 

To offer support and help ensure a smooth disaster relief distribution process, three volunteers with a wealth of experience flew in. Peiwen Wang, Weili Gao, and Martin Kuo, from Taiwan, Spain, and the United States, also assisted in confirming the details of all the local volunteers’ assessment records and relief materials. 

Finally, with the participation of 209 volunteers, the three distributions went smoothly. On December 11, the team provided aid to 25 households in Tlayacapan, 1,143 in Tula on December 18, and 143 in Ixmiquilpan on December 19. Each household received between 8,000 and 16,000 pesos, depending on the number of people living there.

Tzu Chi local volunteers hold a well-organized distribution event in Ixmiquilpan on December 19. Photo/Tzu Chi Mexico Team

It was a milestone for the Tzu Chi local volunteer team in Mexico. Moved by the Tzu Chi spirit since first contact with it during the 2017 earthquake aid mission, as they served their communities, it was now their turn to inspire others to embark on the volunteering path, expanding the circle of love. 

Serving With Heartfelt Dedication

Tzu Chi USA volunteer Martin Kuo has cared for Mexico for years and flown in many times to carry out large-scale disaster relief activities and accompany local volunteers. Photo/Tzu Chi Mexico Team
Local volunteers assist seniors who have difficulties moving about to enter the site during the distribution event. Photo/Tzu Chi Mexico Team

Those serving during these large-scale distributions put their whole heart into their volunteer efforts. Trinidad Jardines Castillo, who got to know Tzu Chi in 2017, arrived at the Ixmiquilpan site on the evening before the distribution, coming after work to help with the set-up. Even though she worked late into the night, it didn’t stop her from participating in the distribution on December 19 with energetic enthusiasm. 

Having witnessed in 2017 how Tzu Chi volunteers flew to her hometown from distant countries to devote themselves to disaster relief work without complaint or regret, she was moved and motivated to begin volunteering herself.

After I deeply understood Tzu Chi’s origins, I decided to join this warm group and help more people together.

Trinidad Jardines Castillo Tzu Chi Local Volunteer

Martin Kuo, a veteran Tzu Chi USA volunteer, admired the commitment of everyone on the local team, having seen it evolve over the years. “For many years, Tzu Chi has been caring for Mexico, a country with frequent disasters. After the many times that we flew here to accompany and train local volunteers, this year, we finally saw the results of the growth in their commitment.” He celebrated the local Mexican team’s evolving capacity and initiative, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic until now:

With the difficult pandemic situation, the local team made great efforts to donate personal protective equipment and essential supplies in 2020. In 2021, they took the initiative to care for the survivors of the flood disaster in central Mexico, making their own plans, and successfully distributed aid to more than a thousand households, which shows that the local Tzu Chi team can assume independent work.

Martin Kuo Tzu Chi USA Volunteer

A Continuation of Love

As teams from Mexico City, Xochimilco, and Jojutla were involved in planning the flood relief distributions in Tlayacapan, Tula, and Ixmiquilpan, the process reunited Tzu Chi volunteers and locals who first met during disaster aid missions years earlier. For instance, in Xochimilco, it was an opportunity to reconnect with Edna González César, who was an integral part of Tzu Chi’s relief efforts following the earthquake in 2017.

Tzu Chi volunteers Weili Gao (first left), Liangyan Luo (second left), and Peiwen Wang (first right) visit local volunteer Edna González César (second right) in Xochimilco to discuss the flood distribution plan. Photo/Tzu Chi Mexico Team
More than 200 Tzu Chi local volunteers in Mexico participate in mobilizing, organizing, and delivering disaster relief for over 1,300 households. Photo/Tzu Chi Mexico Team

Edna remembers that time well, recalling how she felt then, “It deeply touched me to see Tzu Chi volunteers go to the disaster areas to assess the disaster every day. I thought I could do something for my hometown too, so I took the initiative to lend out my house for Tzu Chi to use and become a stronghold of Tzu Chi in the local community.” 

Edna is now a dedicated local volunteer in Xochimilco and was responsible for the overall coordination of this current mission. Moreover, after several years of community cultivation by Edna and other volunteers, Xochimilco now has an active and motivated Tzu Chi volunteer team.

One can see that Tzu Chi’s spirit has flourished in Mexico through local involvement, and today, a new group of disaster survivors is discovering how small acts of generosity can make the help they received possible. Learning about Tzu Chi’s roots, many were eager to donate to Tzu Chi’s bamboo banks so that others could also receive aid in their time of need. One care recipient expressed it succinctly:

Our whole family is very grateful that you’re willing to help us in this way. Although it’s not easy, we’re slowly getting out of the shadow of the flood. As you showed us, we’ll save through the bamboo banks and continue the spirit of mutual assistance.

Flood Relief Recipient

Through inspiring one person at a time, Tzu Chi is planting seeds of compassion in the land of Mexico. And gradually, in the spirit of mutual help and love, more local volunteers will join in to do their part for their communities. We invite you, too, to join forces with Tzu Chi by supporting our disaster relief and charity missions in the Americas. Love saves!

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