Secret Hopes Can Come True

Northwest  |  December 7, 2021
Since the 2018 Camp Fire burned her former home, Xena Gale lives on uncultivated farmland without water or electricity. Photo/C.M. Yung

Written by Kitty Lu
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

“Finally, I’ll be able to take an indoor shower!” Xena Gale exclaimed excitedly to Tzu Chi volunteers as they all watched the construction project officially begin. 

Xena, age 66, initially lived in Northern California and often remembered her hometown of Chico, with the sweet scent of almond tree blossoms in the air. After thinking it over for some time, she eventually decided to move back.

Once she returned, Xena tried different jobs and finally decided to live in a mobile home in Magalia, a half-hour driving distance from Chico. She owns 25 acres of undeveloped farmland in Magalia’s remote mountains, where she grows the choice plants to make the organic and wildcrafted CALIRUB product she developed and sells.

One of the harvests from Xena Gale's farmland. Photo/C.M. Yung

And then, disaster struck when the Camp Fire of 2018, which came out of nowhere, burned her mobile home. Xena suddenly found herself facing many difficulties as she tried to recover. Due to a lack of funds, she couldn’t rebuild on the same site, and so she moved to a farmhouse on the uncultivated farmland in the mountains, even though it lacked water and electricity.

Because of the wildfire, Xena had also lost many resources she relied on to make a living, including raw materials, production equipment, and finished inventory. Despite the hardships she faced and the fact that she had nothing to her name, she didn’t give up hope and tried to continue making CALIRUB to support herself and bring relief to others with this healing product. 

After learning of Xena’s situation, the volunteers and staff at the Tzu Chi Chico Recovery Resource Center decided to help her as soon as possible. The first problem they tackled was Xena’s transportation needs. At the same time, they looked for appliances or equipment she required when making her product, so that increased sales could help her make ends meet.

Tzu Chi volunteers help Xena purchase this car. Photo/C.M. Yung
Tzu Chi volunteers help Xena purchase a freezer needed for her CALIRUB production. Photo/C.M. Yung

Xena remembers the first time she went to the Tzu Chi Chico Recovery Resource Center, feeling very nervous and embarrassed about receiving aid. However, the warm welcome, hugs, comforting words, and provision of urgent household items gradually made her let go of suspicion and step out of grief. She even volunteered herself, willing to help others if she could.

I would like to thank Tzu Chi for their constant prayers, blessings, and encouragement, which helped not only me but also the many survivors who have lost their homes like me.

Xena Gale, Camp Fire Survivor

With the car purchased with the help of Tzu Chi, Xena could now drive to various supermarkets to set up displays of CALIRUB and deliver the product widely. Unfortunately, while Xena was  still struggling to recover economically even a year after the destructive Camp Fire, the COVID-19 pandemic erupted, gravely impacting opportunities to market her product. Given her age, it wasn’t easy for Xena to find employment with a stable and sufficient salary either.

Xena Gale displays her products at a supermarket in Chico. Photo/C.M. Yung

Xena was grateful for all the help from Tzu Chi USA, yet she had one other hope not yet fulfilled. After talking to her, Tzu Chi volunteers learned that she wished to build an indoor shower stall equipped with hot water. It turns out that since she lost the house she was living in before the Camp Fire, daily hygiene remains a constant worry and challenge. 

Xena was asking local churches and friends to use their shower facilities, and was relying on an outdoor cold water hose in the yard to wash up. A shower stall of her own, with hot water, was beginning to feel like an unattainable dream.

Since the Camp Fire, Xena Gale uses a temporary showering set-up in the front yard. Photo/C.M. Yung
Xena Gal also has a temporary bathtub in the shed. Photo/C.M. Yung

“There were three times that I accidentally stepped on rattlesnakes while looking for the hose outside! With a shower stall, I could take an indoor shower and not worry about being unsafe outdoors. I could even wash my laundry indoors!” Xena mused when she shared her hopes with Tzu Chi volunteers. 

Taking all this to heart, Tzu Chi volunteers helped Xena find a solar generator pump to heat water and ways to connect a pipe to well water, temporarily solving some issues. But, that wasn’t all. With a boost of financial aid from Tzu Chi, Xena now finally has enough money to construct a shower stall equipped with hot water.

Xena Gale accepts a check from Tzu Chi, giving her enough money to complete the shower stall. Photo/C.M. Yung
Construction of the shower stall is proceeding, step by step. Photo/Chang-Ming Yung

Recovery after a major disaster is a complex journey, yet Tzu Chi volunteers stay attuned to individual needs. We can continue on this path with your love and support, making hopes and wishes come true.

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