Rice Distributions Bring Relief in Haiti at the Beginning of the School Year

National Headquarters  | October 6, 2020
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Students of the La Saline community in Haiti are excited when they return to school and see bags of rice from Tzu Chi. Photo/Keziah Jean

Written by James Chen, Grace Wong, Keziah Jean
Translated by Pen-Chi Liu
Edited by Diana Chang, Ida Eva Zielinska

In Haiti, a country in the Caribbean, the school summer vacation lasts three months, and the first semester starts in October. During the school year, Father Zucchi Olibrice provides free lunch to students in several underprivileged communities of the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince, such as La Saline and Cité Soleil. However, this support is interrupted during the summer months.

Resuming his food aid at the end of the vacation period, on the first day of school in 2020, Father Zucchi distributed Tzu Chi’s rice from Taiwan to parents at a school within these communities. The fragrance of cooked rice would soon fill their homes, an aroma perhaps missing during the summer.

“Today is the first day of October. It is also our school’s first day of the new semester. After this first day, the students will go home and will return after seven days to officially start school. So, we use this opportunity to distribute rice to the parents,” Father Zucchi explained. He is deeply grateful every time he presides over a distribution, adding, “I want to take this opportunity to thank Tzu Chi. I am grateful to Master Cheng Yen and the people of Taiwan for their love and support in La Saline and Cité Soleil.”

Father Zucchi (left) and Johnson Chang (right) are the driving force for Tzu Chi's unconditional love in Haiti. Photo/Keziah Jean

Father Zucchi and Johnson Chang mobilized a team of local Haitian volunteers to help with the rice distribution for students and parents, and they began by uploading rice from the many trucks used to transport it to the school. Once everything was ready, Tzu Chi volunteers started the distribution event by performing a sign language song, bringing even more cheer to this happy occasion.

Local volunteers help unload the rice from Taiwan, from one truck after another. Photo/Keziah Jean
Before the distribution, volunteers start with a performance of a sign language song for the parents. Photo/Keziah Jean

The care recipients had come from La Saline and Cité Soleil’s most impoverished areas near the school. Everyone waited their turn patiently, then when leaving the distribution, with joyful smiles, some fathers carried the bag of rice they received on their shoulders while holding their child by the hand. Mothers transported the rice on top of their heads while their children ran ahead towards home, eager to enjoy a delicious meal.

Parents, who are now familiar with Tzu Chi's rice distribution process, line up in an orderly fashion to receive the rice. Photo/Keziah Jean
Tzu Chi’s rice distribution to families of students from impoverished areas is a joyful community event. Photo/Keziah Jean

During the summer, the school was not able to provide free lunch to students. Therefore, before the summer vacation, Tzu Chi volunteers distributed two bags of rice to each family to ensure the children would not go hungry. And at the end of summer, volunteers decided to distribute another bag of rice to each family. If the family has more than two students attending school, they can receive two bags of rice. Each person also received three face masks.

I am so happy and grateful to receive the rice. Thank you, people of Taiwan, for helping us. Thank you, Master Cheng Yen, and all the good-hearted people who care about Haiti.

Guerda Goger, Parent and Care Recipient

A total of 1,532 households benefited from this rice distribution. Seeing the parents’ and students’ gratitude and joy, Father Zucchi was also most pleased, exclaiming, “I saw their happy faces. Without this rice, their lives would be very difficult.”

With a foundation of love, Tzu Chi volunteers have built a bridge of kindness with the Haitian people. Now Haitian volunteers have gradually grown in strength and bring love and care to many more neglected communities.

With joy, one can overcome challenges; with gratitude, one can accumulate strength.

Jing Si Aphorism by Dharma Master Cheng Yen
More than 1,000 families benefited from this rice distribution. Photo/Keziah Jean

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