Rekindling Hope: Tzu Chi Oakland’s Compassionate Response to the Richmond Fire Tragedy

Northwest  |  May 25, 2023
Tzu Chi volunteers give disaster relief cash cards loaded with funds to survivors of the building fire. Photo/DA.AI News

Written by Wen Tian
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Andrea Barkley

On January 27, a fire dyed the sky in Oakland, California, USA. On January 27, a serious fire broke out in an apartment building in Richmond, the ruthless fire severely affected 16 families.

Since most of the survivors were low-income people, the Red Cross launched an emergency relief effort and requested Tzu Chi’s assistance to work together to help the survivors through the difficult times. The Tzu Chi Oakland Service Center immediately took action. After a detailed assessment of the disaster, 20 Tzu Chi volunteers went to the community activity center on February 9 to deliver cash cards and eco-friendly blankets to the survivors.

On the day of the distribution, the volunteers arrived at 7:00 a.m. to set up the site, carrying tables, chairs and supplies from the clubhouse to the activity room of the affected apartment building. The distribution started at 10:00 a.m. and the volunteers were in high spirits and received the survivors one by one to register.

It has been two weeks since the fire, but the survivors are still in a state of shock and anxiety. They all told the story of their own panic and anxiety at the time. As the fire was too big, almost everyone fled in a hurry and couldn’t bring anything, and now they have nothing, which makes people sad.

Tzu Chi brought a letter of condolence from Master Cheng Yen to the survivors. The heartwarming words soothed their anxious hearts. George, a survivor of the fire who came with his family, burst into tears as he read Master Cheng Yen’s warming and encouraging words.

You are not alone, we are all brothers and sisters, living in the same sun.

Many of the survivors expressed how grateful they were for the help they received from Tzu Chi. They were touched by the kindness and goodwill of the Tzu Chi volunteers: “Thank you for your help, I am grateful from the bottom of my heart for all you have done.”

Volunteers introduce the story of Tzu Chi's bamboo banks to the survivors.
Volunteer Qiwen Fu interacted warmly with a child who came with his family and taught him the spirit of Tzu Chi's great love.

While helping people, Tzu Chi also encourages them to give their love. The volunteer introduced the story of Tzu Chi’s bamboo bank to the survivors: “Each coin represents our full blessing to people.” The survivors took the bamboo banks given to them by Tzu Chi and said they would go back to collect coins to help others.

Volunteer Qiwen Fu interacted warmly with a child who came with his family, teaching him the spirit of Tzu Chi’s great love: “We want to help the world, and I believe you will.”

The volunteers felt the gratitude of the survivors and were very happy. It is believed that what Tzu Chi is doing can give the survivors the strength to rebuild their homes and ignite hope in their hearts.

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