Written by Huiyi Qin
Translated by Mark Wan
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
On August 8, 2021, Tzu Chi Medical Association sponsored a special outreach event in Long Island, jointly providing free community health check-ups and food distribution services. This occasion marked the very first Tzu Chi medical outreach event since March of 2020.
Before the event, all volunteers in charge of grocery distribution services and the free clinic services had convened across several sessions to compare notes and formulate the most suitable strategies for organizing the event and guiding guests.
A Rainy Turn of Events
“Due to the seriousness of the pandemic, I had no idea whether there would be anybody willing to come for the free clinic. But what pleasantly surprised me was that most participating doctors confirmed within 48 hours that they would come,” said Dr. Lian Yang of the Tzu Chi Medical Association. “All the great doctors from respective departments arrived in addition to volunteers — both veteran and greenhorn — and joined forces with nurses, ophthalmologists, and dentists, to take care of the health of community residents.”
However, despite all the careful planning of volunteers, the weather took a more drizzly turn, raining the entire day. “The rain poured down that morning when I got up, and I wondered whether or not volunteers would continue because of the rain.” Tzu Chi volunteer Bilian Guo had been worried at first. Then, all thoughts turned to the careful efforts volunteers had put into the event thus far, and said, “Both charitable and medical teams had already planned and prepared this event meticulously. Let’s hope everything goes fine and just let the rain be an extra test for volunteers.”
And indeed, the rain failed to dampen the passion of volunteers, who arrived one after another, as expected. Everyone had pitched in selflessly to overcome any difficulties that arose. Volunteers outside the tent held umbrellas over care recipients while assisting in carrying groceries to their respective vehicles. Meanwhile, those inside listened to the rhythm of the falling rain that hit the tent roof and maintained proper order, arranging pantry essentials mindfully for distribution.
Serving the Community No Matter the Weather
Carolina Guevara, a volunteer from Catholic Health Services, provided invaluable help with translation during the event. Before each of the four phases of food distribution, an introduction describing Tzu Chi’s humanitarian activities allowed guests to get to know Tzu Chi’s missions, which Carolina graciously translated into Spanish, detailing additional programs such as Tzu Chi’s Vision Mobile Clinic.
“I have participated in free clinics sponsored by hospitals many times, witnessing the needs of many community residents — sans legal documents or medical insurance coverage, being unable to have access to medical care while being affected by the pandemic.” Carolina Guevara thought of this two-in-one service project as a valuable way to benefit families who needed food supplies and free clinical consultations. And, while watching short video clips about Tzu Chi, she became aware of its varied services, expressing that she would be pleased to offer her help at the next event.
Volunteer Jiaxin Wei was also accompanied by an enthusiastic group of volunteer translators. Among them was Maribel Suarez, who’d already been a Tzu Chi translator for some time. With warmth and excitement, Maribel had looked back upon her visit to Hualien, Taiwan, in 2019, where she trained with other volunteers and met the venerable Dharma Master Cheng Yen, founder of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation. On August 8, she’d brought along Franklin Villamar, a friend from Brooklyn.
It was his first time at a Tzu Chi event, and even despite working both day and night shifts, he was eager to lend his efforts. “I am grateful to have come to America where I met many good people who helped me from time to time,” he’d said. “Today, I am even more grateful to avail myself of this opportunity to be here at the registration desk to help translate and fill forms for recipient families. It feels great!”
Dr. David Wong is a podiatrist with the BronxCare Health System. He was so moved upon witnessing Tzu Chi volunteers donating medical supplies amid the PPE shortage that he immediately accepted the invitation to help serve at this community event.
The Unstoppable Power of Love
Also present at the Tzu Chi event was Nancy Tituaña, a community volunteer with whom Tzu Chi volunteers have developed a special bond. In June of 2020, while distributing groceries in the community, Nancy was struck by a motorist who had been driving while intoxicated. The accident resulted in the loss of her left leg, and she sometimes experiences pain in her right leg due to the collision. Following Nancy’s recovery at the hospital, she returned home with Tzu Chi volunteer medical professionals providing physical therapy and acupuncture. Physical therapist Jiaxin Zhang, the coordinator for the Medical Association in Long Island, visits Nancy weekly to provide his care, and encouraged by Mr. Zhang, Nancy signed up for the event’s free clinic.
“This is the second time I’ve gotten out of the house since the accident,” she explained, feeling this event to be a special day for her. Nancy’s naturally warm and optimistic demeanor shone brightly on the rainy event, and her hearty laughter propelled everyone to keep the momentum going.
The Commitment of New Volunteers
Shuxian Wu and her husband moved from Dallas to New York for work on August 3, and as a registered nurse, she’d previously undergone training and certification to be a Tzu Chi committee member. Three days after arriving in NY, and despite the airline losing her luggage, she joined a Tzu Chi food distribution event in Flushing with joy in her heart. And, on August 8, the couple also took part in the free clinic and food distribution in Long Island.
Volunteers were also delighted to see how many dental assistants at the event were younger people, and some were even the children of Tzu Chi volunteers.
Upholding Health With Love
This community medical outreach event also provided care to fellow Tzu Chi family members, like Yucheng Lin, a 4-year-old who accompanied his father for the dental service, saying, “I saw dark spots on my teeth, so I am here for teeth cleaning.” Part of what makes Tzu Chi Medical Association’s services special is that they provide guests with information on preventative care as well, like how to take good care of one’s teeth at home daily and other healthcare basics.
During the event, a total of 42 families took home care packages of pantry staples, and of the 75 guests who came to the free clinic, 30 received dental cleanings, 12 received new pairs of glasses, four people received COVID-19 vaccinations, and 15 guests received free haircuts.