Tzu Chi Volunteers in Long Island, New York Provide Food Aid

Northeast  | September 24, 2020
The volunteers have prepared the groceries for distribution and are ready to hand them out. Photo: Yizhen Yang.

Written by Huiyi Qin
Translated by Pen-Chi Liu
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tzu Chi USA volunteers in Long Island, New York, have been working with other organizations as well as the local government to provide grocery distributions. During these free food giveaways, they see first-hand the pressing needs of low-income families in the community. 

After contacting the local government of the Village of East Williston in Nassau County, they organized the first community food distribution event at the Tzu Chi Long Island office on July 25, 2020.

The volunteers held multiple planning meetings so that the distribution would proceed in a smooth and orderly fashion. They aimed to properly manage neighborhood traffic flow to maintain a peaceful atmosphere, and to protect people’s health by setting up social distancing measures.

Volunteers offer the free groceries with respect and sincerity. Photo: Yizhen Yang.

Volunteer Yucai Qiu, who co-owns a vegetarian restaurant, delivered freshly made vegetable buns at noon for the volunteers at the distribution and care recipients coming to get groceries.

I am very happy I can participate in the first food distribution at the Tzu Chi office and follow Master Cheng Yen's teaching to promote vegetarianism to everyone in the United States.

Yucai Qiu Tzu Chi Volunteer
The care recipients who attend the distribution are grateful and happy to receive food. Photo: Yizhen Yang.

In addition to dry goods and fresh produce, every family received two packs of Jing Si Instant Rice and ten medical face masks. At the start of the distribution event, volunteers explained why Tzu Chi created Jing Si Instant Rice so that the care recipients could understand the deeper meaning behind this seemingly simple pack of rice. Master Cheng Yen’s compassion had inspired her monastic disciples to research and develop this product, which has become a staple resource for international disaster relief.

Care recipients read and fill out pledge cards to commit to several vegetarian meals. Some pledged to three meals a day. Photo: Yizhen Yang.
Volunteer Yiying Cai explains how Jing Si Instant Rice came about and encourages everyone to eat vegetarian meals. Photo: Yizhen Yang.

During the distribution, volunteers also shared the story of Tzu Chi’s bamboo banks, and how the foundation began with 30 housewives who saved several cents daily from their grocery fund to help those in need in their community. Inspired, several care recipients immediately asked to take a bamboo bank home to start saving to help others as well. 

Care recipients happily take a bamboo bank home. Photo: Yizhen Yang.

Volunteers also promoted vegetarianism during the distribution, to keep ourselves healthy and protect the earth. 

Since about 90% of care recipients didn’t speak English, Kimberly Figueroa, a high school student whose family had received Tzu Chi’s assistance in the past, helped with Spanish translation. She was very touched by this event and grateful for the opportunity to understand Tzu Chi’s philosophy more and help others.

Ercy Vanessa Palma, a volunteer who helped with translation at the special assistance station, also felt grateful and happy to participate during this meaningful event. Through listening to other people’s hardships, she realized her own blessings.

Two young volunteers, Yiying Cai and Yixuan Cai, who had joined a Tzu Chi Youth Group and Tzu Chi Collegiate Association also came to help.  Having participated in many Tzu Chi events, they were very experienced in talking about the story of the bamboo bank.

Young volunteers Yiying Cai (second left) and Yixuan Cai (second right) are glad to help during the distribution, as is Kimberly Figueroa (right). Photo: Yizhen Yang.
Volunteers hoped to discover if families required additional assistance by interviewing care recipients with translation help from volunteer Ercy Vanessa Palma (second left). Photo: Yizhen Yang.

As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, it has severely impacted the global economy, leaving many people unemployed without any immediate prospect of improvement to their current situation. Many immigrants in Long Island who are undocumented can’t receive any government assistance, so they face even more significant hardships.

Thus, Tzu Chi volunteers are actively planning for long-term food assistance to help this community and those families who need additional support.

We invite you to support our Together While Apart campaign, to join the circle of care for those struggling during the pandemic. Every contribution makes a difference.

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