Supplies From Tzu Chi Help Students Return to School Confidently

National Headquarters  |  November 23, 2021
Tzu Chi USA holds a stationery distribution at Alhambra High School in Los Angeles on August 7, 2021. Photo/Shu Li Lo

Written by Shu Li Lo
Translated by Hong (Ariel) Chan
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

For many students, September this year was most exciting. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students had been staying away from classmates, teachers, and familiar campuses, taking online classes at home alone. Fortunately, the pandemic has been brought under control, and the government has finally notified that schools could resume classes starting in the fall. This reopening was exciting news for students who had been absent from campus for a long time.

However, some families were worried about the beginning of the semester, as their children need school supplies, and for many people, this is a costly expense they struggle to afford. Moreover, many families lost their sources of income during the pandemic, and even providing daily meals was now a problem, so the need to buy stationery brought tremendous stress. 

Fortunately, Tzu Chi has always kept the plight of families in need close to heart. On August 7, Tzu Chi USA National Headquarters Region volunteers held a stationary distribution event at Alhambra High School in Los Angeles, California. They provided backpacks filled with school supplies as well as cash cards to families in need.

The courtyard of Alhambra High School in Los Angeles, Tzu Chi’s distribution site on August 7. Photo/Shu Li Lo

Each backpack contained colored pens, pencils, ballpoint pens, notebooks, folders, etc., according to students’ grade level. Tzu Chi volunteers had carefully selected these school supplies according to lists from teachers. The volunteers also attentively asked each child to choose a school bag of their favorite color. The children were elated to see the dazzling array of new stationery once they opened the backpacks.

This year, in addition to stationery, Tzu Chi fundraised for a batch of brand new shoes so a group of lucky children would get a pair of shoes that fit their size. The volunteers also had second-hand books and snacks, which were popular among the children. Finally, they thoughtfully prepared a $50 cash card for each student so their parents could purchase extra items for special needs.

Volunteers help find the right size of new shoes for the children. Photo/Shu Li Lo

All combined, the supplies and financial aid distributed were a great help to families with insufficient financial resources and many children. On the day of the event, Genny Guerrero brought along her infant and four school-aged sons. The family received four backpacks with supplies and cash cards. It’s not hard to imagine what a heavy burden was lifted for this family thanks to this aid, as it was for others.

Genny Guerrero, a mother of five, receives supplies for her four school-aged children. Photo/Shu Li Lo

I came to collect my backpack, cash card, shoes, and snacks today. This was a great help for our family. During the pandemic, life has been a huge challenge. My children are growing up, and we have recently welcomed a baby. We can only say thank you to the Tzu Chi volunteers’ hard work to help us.

The distribution was the first occasion on which Tzu Chi volunteers interacted face-to-face with the public since the pandemic. Although masks covered their faces, they couldn’t hide the volunteers’ excitement and joy. 

The distribution proceeded according to appointment times to prevent a crowd from gathering. In this way, the families could peacefully choose backpacks, books, new shoes, and their favorite snacks when it was their turn. Serving the families one by one also allowed the volunteers to present the benefits of vegetarianism while spending some quality time together.

Tzu Chi Youth Association members (also referred to as Tzu Shao) from the Los Angeles area also volunteered their services at the distribution, led by the group’s captain, Tiffany Wang. After the event, Tiffany suggested another distribution at the school once classes resume. Before the next event, she planned to secretly be on the lookout to identify which students and their families may need help.

I see many families that are not as lucky as me. So, I am very grateful to my family for preparing the stationery I needed. At the same time, I am also grateful for the opportunity to participate in the distribution and help others.

Volunteers participating in the distribution take a group photo to remember the day. Photo/Shu Li Lo

Due to loss of income and other factors resulting from the pandemic, putting food on the table has become a challenge for many families. Tzu Chi’s regular food distributions strive to answer those needs. However, since Tzu Chi volunteers are also well aware that education is one of the most important ways to advance in life, they also aim to assist underprivileged students with distributions such as this.

The school supplies and financial aid that Tzu Chi provided on August 7 at Alhambra High School empowered many children to return to school confidently and concentrate on their studies, which will ultimately help them create a better future for themselves and even their parents. We welcome your support of our charity programs across the United States. With your help, we can do even more!

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