Providing Disaster Relief

National Headquarters  |  May 18, 2017

Disasters strike without warning worldwide, bringing death and destruction, and turning lives upside down. When they do, people are in shock and distress, and we bring disaster relief quickly, offering cash cards, blankets, basic necessities, and the comfort of someone there to share their sorrow, and offer care with love and a listening ear. Our disaster relief missions reach across the country, and around the globe, as we answer the call of those in need.



The first time our volunteers answered the call of those in distress after a disaster was on September 11, 2001, following the tragic terrorist attack on that day. Other tragedies soon followed, and we were there to shoulder the weight of sorrow alongside those impacted, while offering immediate financial relief and care.

Gradually, we expanded our reach and capacity, offering disaster relief across the nation, grateful to offer aid and a helping hand following natural disasters such as wildfires, floods, mudslides, and tornadoes – including Hurricane Katrina. From 2001 to 2016, our disaster relief mission distributed more than $27,690,000, benefiting 79,864 families and 203,309 individuals.

In 2016, Tzu Chi USA distributed $2,008,124 in cash cards, benefitting 4,718 families affected by disasters domestically. And, as our summary of disaster relief in 2016 reveals, we were able to continue offering aid to people affected by disasters beyond the USA as well.

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Tzu Chi USA began providing disaster relief internationally in 1998, after Hurricane Mitch and George struck the Caribbean region, and our volunteers went to the Dominican Republic and Guatemala to offer aid, moral support, and a helping hand.

In 2001, we came to the aid of those affected by the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that hit El Salvador, and Tzu Chi Foundation went on to build 1,175 homes, joined in a network of DaAi (Great Love) Villages. This construction project marked Tzu Chi’s first overseas housing project. The scope of our international aid continues to grow steadily, as our missions in Haiti, Sierra Leone, and Ecuador show.



Our footprints of aid in Haiti began in 1998, when we launched a clothing drive after Hurricane Georges, providing four containers of clothes for distribution to those in need and suffering. And our aid continued to grow from then on.

in 2010, our volunteers rushed to bring aid after one of the deadliest earthquakes in history struck Haiti on January 12, killing nearly 230,000 people, destroying close to 280,000 buildings, and affecting a staggering three million people.

We offered 84 supply distributions, and provided 6,000 tents and 40,000 plastic tarps. This aid benefitted nearly 50,000 families (196,000 people). Our free clinics also served more than 15,000 patients, and a Food-For-Work program recruited 2,400 people to clean up the community, rewarding them with food supplies for each day.

In January 2012, we launched the construction of two schools in Port-au-Prince.

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In December 2014, our Cash-For-Relief program helped those affected by severe flooding in Cap-Haitien.

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Foldable Beds distribution

And in 2016, we were there after Hurricane Matthew touched down on the southern coast of Haiti on October 4, causing widespread devastation and damaging a great deal of agriculture. In response to a desperate need for food, especially in rural areas, our volunteers got to work quickly, and began providing hot meals, followed by distributions of rice over the course of several months. Our commitment to humanitarian aid in Haiti is ongoing, and will continue in the years to come.



In 2015, we began empowering the people of Sierra Leone with humanitarian aid as they struggle to recover from the Ebola outbreak that reportedly killed 11,000 people in 2014, this human tragedy on the heels of a brutal 10-year civil war that nearly wiped out a generation and brought the country to a halt.

We have donated 200 tons of rice, benefitting 3,488 Ebola survivors, 914 Ebola orphans, 121 amputees and war-wounded, as well as 3,589 social institutions and 430 partner organizations. We also distributed beds and blankets and donated 119,121 items of used clothing, 246,000 face masks, 15,174 pairs of shoes, 17,280 pairs of slippers.

And, we returned in 2016, to evaluate the impact of our aid, as well as provide more support to Ebola survivors: Tzu Chi was the first and only NGO to help all Ebola survivors across the country, having collected their names from lists provided by local government. We will continue to help and restore hope, while finding ways to empower these people on the path to recovery.



On April 16, a 7.8 earthquake struck Ecuador, killing at least 659 people, leaving 27,732 injured, and devastating the country as nearly 7,000 buildings collapsed and crumbled. Our assessment team was there within days, taking stock of the tremendous suffering and destruction, with people suddenly homeless and unemployed in the worst-hit regions in coastal Manabi Province that depended on tourism, now gone.

Just one week later, our emergency Cash-For-Relief program launched in several cities, jump-starting the clean-up process, while providing $511,815 USD in aid and creating 34,121 temporary jobs that helped people buy necessities for their families, brought communities together, and sparked hope in the midst of tragedy.


2016 Ecuador Earthquake Relief

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We returned a few months later with mid-term aid, distributing beds and blankets to those still displaced, paying attention to serve the most vulnerable members of the communities.  And in 2017, we launched our long-term aid with a project that will rebuild the Catholic Church in Canoa, returning the spiritual home to the community, where they can congregate, draw inspiration, and support each other on the long road to full recovery after the earthquake.


2017 Ecuador Flood Relief 

 Santa Ana & Pisloy Cash-For-Relief

Tragically, torrential rains led to severe flooding in parts of Ecuador in April, 2017, this catastrophe affecting Manabi Province as well. Entire communities were left caked in thick mud and sludge, the clean-up effort required daunting. We quickly launched a Cash-For-Relief programproviding a total of $268,080 USD in aid while creating 17,828 temporary jobs.

Santa Ana & Pisloy Cash Distribution

Tzu Chi also gave financial aid to 2,089 families , each family received $300-$500 and $894,200 in total. The resilience and resolve of Ecuadorians after this string of misfortunes is remarkable, and we will continue to offer a helping hand with love.



During each disaster relief mission, our volunteers share the history of how Tzu Chi began, and the story of the Bamboo Bank is at the heart of it. Everywhere we go, people are astonished by Tzu Chi Foundation’s humble beginnings.

Knowing how the aid they are receiving comes from individuals just like them, some only able to give a small donation on behalf of helping others, moves them greatly. And soon those receiving become the givers, discovering the joy of altruism.

This is how the river of love and generosity that Master Cheng Yen began in 1966 continues to flow further into the future, growing wider and stronger as it replenishes hope and brings relief to those in need.

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