Endless Compassion: Tzu Chi Northwest Returns for Third Distribution in Disaster-Affected Planada

Northwest  |  April 3, 2023
Tzu Chi volunteer and the Merced County flooding affected people holding hand
After many distributions, Tzu Chi volunteers feel close to the survivors and the atmosphere is warm and welcoming. Photo/Wen Chun Chiang

Written by Rouli Huang
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Andrea Barkley

On January 9, 2023, Merced County in central California experienced a disaster caused by flooding resulting from a winter storm. The Planada community, located in east Merced County, was particularly affected. Tzu Chi Northwest responded by distributing cash cards to more than 300 families on February 4 and 11.

Given their number of applications, Tzu Chi Northwest wanted to assist more families needing help. Therefore, they conducted the third distribution on February 25, 2023, at the Merced County Fairgrounds. The volunteers assisted a total of 50 families in the distribution that day.

Warmth and Love Against the Cold Winter

Merced resident Maria Luisa Martinez and her husband were the first to arrive on the scene. Martinez said, “We temporarily live in Fremont due to the flooding. My daughter registered me for assistance by scanning a QR code earlier. So, early this morning, my husband and I drove from Fremont. When I received the distribution supplies, I felt the happiness and joy of being cared for. I collected two bamboo banks from the volunteers on-site, and I will introduce Tzu Chi USA to people around me to spread the love.”

Vicente Ramirez, from Planada, arrived in a wheelchair, helped by a friend. “I found out about the distribution through a friend who lives in Fremont, and I decided to come here to ask for help,” he said during the conversation, “the flood has affected me so much that I have no electricity and no food, so I have to stay with relatives in Merced for now. The Tzu Chi volunteers were amiable, and the blankets were very warm, so I was delighted.”

Merced resident Ofelia Castro arrived at the site visibly distressed. During the conversation, Tzu Chi volunteers learned that it was her birthday. Castro said, “When the flood happened, I had no income. I didn’t have a home. On top of that, I didn’t know English, and I didn’t know how to seek help. I felt scared and hopeless. I applied for assistance with the help of my friends.”

I am not only thankful for what I received, but more importantly, it has given me renewed hope and joy.

Tzu Chi volunteer handing a Bamboo Bank to
A survivor thanks Tzu Chi Northwest volunteers for teaching her daughter the meaning of the bamboo bank. Photo/Steven Voon
Tzu Chi Bamboo Banks
Marcela Mendoza returns to Tzu Chi with bamboo banks filled with love and donations. Photo/Ruoli Huang

Tzu Chi’s Love Inspires All

That afternoon, Marcela Mendoza, a resident who had attended the second distribution, came to the information desk with two bamboo banks in her hand. She spoke to several Tzu Chi volunteers whom she had previously met. The bamboo bank story deeply moved Mendoza. So, she successfully filled the banks with donations in just ten days.

During the distribution, Jim MacDougal, a mitigation specialist who came to support the event, praised the Tzu Chi volunteers’ positive and responsible attitude. 

Merced Flooding distribution volunteers group photo
Volunteers pose for a group photo. Photo/Ruoli Huang

At the end of the distribution, Tzu Chi Northwest CEO Ming Jin Hsieh briefly summarized the day’s activities. He reported, “Today was the third distribution, an unplanned addition. The cold weather did not diminish the enthusiasm of the volunteers. I was surprised to find that I had the opportunity to bond with folks and share with them the spirit of Tzu Chi, especially the bamboo bank story. Distribution ended on a warm note. I hope there will be more activities in the future so that more volunteers can participate.”

Tzu Chi Northwest has established a link of love, passing on goodwill and compassion. In turn, survivors have rediscovered a light of hope even amidst this hardship, empowering them with the strength to persevere, knowing they are deeply cared for.

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