Teaming Up to Feed Lowell, MA’s Cambodian Community

Northeast  | October 5, 2020
Tzu Chi Boston and Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association of Greater Lowell join forces to distribute food to needy families in Lowell, MA. Photo/Ning Jing Jia

Written by Ning Jing Jia
Translated by Penny Liu
Edited by Dilber Shatursun

On July 18,2020, Tzu Chi volunteers from the Boston Service Center visited the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association of Greater Lowell, or CMAA, in Lowell, MA. They brought with them items full of love and care from Dharma Master Cheng Yen and her monastic disciples at Jing Si Abode in Hualien, Taiwan: Jing Si Instant Rice and Noodles.

Together, they held a drive-thru grocery giveaway that included 300 packs of the Jing Si products as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. Though summer temperatures were well into the 90s, Tzu Chi Boston and CMAA volunteers were enthusiastic to help local families, many who are of Cambodian background.

Tzu Chi Boston and CMAA volunteers work together to unload food for the distribution. Photo/Ning Jing Jia
CMAA volunteers await Tzu Chi volunteers at their office. Photo/ Ning Jing Jia

After a fire occurred in Lowell four years ago, volunteers from the Tzu Chi Boston Service Center provided winter jackets for many members of the Cambodian community there. It was then that the two organizations met. Now, with the immensity of needs the pandemic has brought, this connection was once again renewed to help feed struggling families.

When Tzu Chi volunteers arrived at CMAA’s building, young volunteers from across the Cambodian community awaited them – ready to help. Tzu Chi volunteers were touched to see these young people willing and ready to help their community, using their Cambodian language skills to ensure ease of communication, too.

CMAA volunteers help take down important information from care recipients at the drive-thru. Photo/Ning Jing Jia
Elders in the community arrive to pickup groceries, too. Photo/Ning Jing Jia

Tzu Chi volunteers also took this opportunity to advocate for a vegetarian lifestyle. They explained the concept of eating vegetarian meals to protect all living beings and save the Earth to CMAA’s volunteers, who were then asked to pass on the message to families.  Overall, the responses from the families were very enthusiastic and supportive.

Many were willing to pledge at least one vegetarian meal a day to support Tzu Chi USA’s Very Veggie Movement. When many Cambodian elders, who are Buddhist themselves, found out Tzu Chi is a Buddhist organization, they willingly pledged to three vegetarian meals a day.  With this common bond, they put their palms together to thank each other in gratitude. At the end, the pledges totaled a whopping 10, 560 meals!

This world is a great field of blessing. We must become diligent farmers who cultivate Bodhi forests to protect those who are suffering.

Jing Si Aphorism by Dharma Master Cheng Yen

The sincerity of CMAA’s volunteers touched the hearts of every Tzu Chi volunteer. They each promised to get together after the pandemic ends.  One Tzu Chi volunteer saw a young volunteer run over to take a photo with Master Cheng Yen’s portrait, replete with a bright smile. Tzu Chi has sown a seed of kindness and mutual gratitude.

Tzu Chi Boston and CMAA volunteers work side by side in the summer heat. Photo/Ning Jing Jia
A care recipient happily shows off her grocery package. Photo/Ning Jing Jia

After the distribution, all the volunteers prayed together to send love and blessings to all corners of the world. Though the sun was blistering, everyone gathered for a keepsake: one big group photo. Nevertheless, the sunshine proved no match for the brightness of their smiles.

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