Reported by Tzu Chi USA San Francisco Branch volunteers
Translated by Hong (Ariel) Chan
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska
The Fall 2022 semester of the San Francisco Unified School District was to begin on Monday, August 15, with all K-12 students returning to class. Since some students from low-income families don’t have new uniforms to wear, Tzu Chi USA Northwest Region’s San Francisco Branch ordered more than 1,600 brand-new uniforms for children in the Bayview-Hunters Point school zone in advance, and distributed them in the community on August 13.
Lulu Yin, the head of Tzu Chi USA’s San Francisco Branch, said 1,619 uniforms, ranging in size from XS to XL and suitable for students in grades K-12, were obtained from two manufacturers. Moreover, because the Branch purchased and delivered the uniforms early, it could avoid issues such as freight costs and rising prices due to inflation.
The provision of new uniforms in Bayview-Hunters Point has been going on for years. According to Yin, the San Francisco Branch learned about the need through its Happy Campus Program. In some schools, students alternate, wearing only the top or bottom part of their uniform on different days of the week. Also, many students’ uniforms no longer fit, but parents can’t afford to replace them. Thus, at the invitation of the San Francisco city government, Tzu Chi joined the team for back-to-school uniform distribution and has been involved for over ten years now.
Bayview is one of the areas with the highest crime rate in San Francisco. Due to its unique history, the population is mainly low-income families, immigrants, people experiencing homelessness, and other vulnerable groups. It’s challenging even for charities to carry out their work here. Roxanne Buchwitz, Charity Lead at Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, believes aiding children is an excellent way to establish trust and a relationship with the whole community.
Jackson Chen, former CEO of Tzu Chi USA, said that by helping children in schools by providing food and other support, Tzu Chi eventually entered the families of the community. “In places where no one dares to come, Tzu Chi volunteers can walk around freely. The residents here raise their hands in welcome if they see you in a Tzu Chi uniform. This is the result of more than ten years of service.”
Families leave the site with green bags filled with free school uniforms from Tzu Chi. Photos/Tzu Chi USA San Francisco Branch
Lulu Yin added that Tzu Chi has been providing uniforms, backpacks, stationery, and other necessary items for students since 2009. Even during the most severe time of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, this aid was not interrupted. “Since students adopted virtual learning, Tzu Chi also distributed masks that year,” she said.
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