How Tzu Chi Warms Hearts in Dallas After Outbreak of 10 Texas Tornadoes

Central  |  November 18, 2019
Ten tornadoes leave residential homes with severe damages. Photo / Shirley Wu

Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Natasha Palance 

On the evening of October 20, ten tornadoes tore through Northern Texas leaving nearby residential areas in ruins and costing an estimated $2 billion in losses for the state. The suburb of Richardson, where Tzu Chi Dallas Branch is located, was one of the hardest-hit areas. Immediately after the tornadoes struck, volunteers conducted assessments in impacted areas.

Tzu Chi Dallas volunteer conducts assessment report at a disaster site. Photo / Shirley Wu

To alleviate cold weather concerns for displaced residents, a distribution of eco-friendly blankets was facilitated to keep survivors warm during the cold nights ahead for the season. Subsequently, financial aid was distributed to address additional urgent needs of survivors. During the distribution, Jing Si Aphorisms were shared with aid recipients to evoke hope and enlighten their spirits, in addition to information on the origin of Tzu Chi eco-blankets and use of bamboo banks. 

On October 26, relief distributions continued at local community service centers including the Multi-Agency Resource Center and the American Red Cross to continue to benefit survivors.

Local Recovery Efforts

Churches and schools near the disaster area suffered from major structural damage from the tornadoes. In response, the Dallas School District took immediate action to ensure county students could resume normal school days as soon as possible. Walnut Hill Elementary School students have been temporarily dispersed to other schools to continue their studies without interruption.

Due to the extent and severity of damage throughout the county, Dallas County (VOAD) has set up a service center in the Multi-Agency Resource Center at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, about 11 miles south of the Dallas branch. Similarly in response to the urgency, the American Red Cross has set up a service center at the Elderly Activity Center in Richardson, located 1.5 miles northwest of the Dallas branch.

Walnut Hill Elementary School suffered major damages from the tornadoes. Photo / Shirley Wu
Tzu Chi offers relief services to Texas residents at the Multi-Agency Resource Center. Photo / Shirley Wu

Transcending Multicultural Boundaries

In order to assist as many survivors as possible, Tzu Chi Dallas branch volunteers divided into two groups to conduct eco-friendly blanket distributions at both the Multi-Agency Resource Center and American Red Cross service center, paying our utmost respect in helping survivors regardless of beliefs or background.

Tzu Chi collaborates with multiple organizations from the community to best suit survivor needs. Photo / Shirley Wu

In support of the mission, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins visited the Multi-Agency Resource Center to show thanks to participating relief organizations whose generous contributions make all the difference in survivor recovery. During his visit, Ling Jicheng, CEO of the Tzu Chi Dallas branch, educated Judge Jenkins on Tzu Chi’s global relief work, as well as the environmental significance of Tzu Chi’s eco-friendly blankets. 

Texas State Representative John Turner also came to the Multi-Agency Resource Center to visit survivors and similarly show appreciation for the efforts of relief organizations, including that of Tzu Chi.

Ling Jicheng, CEO of Dallas branch (left) introduces Tzu Chi’s eco-blanket to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. Photo / Vicky Tsai
John Turner (middle), Texas State Representative, visits the Multi-Agency Resource Center in support of survivors. Photo / Vicky Tsai

Fears of Returning Home

Each survivor who visited a Tzu Chi booth expressed fear about having to return to the current state of their homes. With the severity of structural damage, some homes have been deemed unsafe to return to. Many shared pictures demonstrating the extent of the storm damage.

A resident shows pictures of how one tornado ripped her once beloved home apart. Photo / Shirley Wu

Residents whose homes have been destroyed still can’t and don’t dare to go home, with many resorting to sleeping in their car due to displacement including survivor Roman Gomez. When Roman shared his encounter with the tornadoes, he was still in shock. Roman describes seeing a twister first-hand: “We were watching a game in the living room and suddenly heard the sound of train crossing outside, but there was no train passing nearby. When I opened the door, I clearly saw the tornado coming our way, so we hid immediately. After the tornado [passed], I heard screams from the neighbors and they were crying in fear, because their house was completely destroyed.”

Tzu Chi volunteers distribute supplies to survivor Roman Gomez with the principles of "gratitude, respect and love". Photo / Shirley Wu

Healing with Love

While we can never be prepared for uncertainty, we each hold the ability to heal and grow from what may come — and help others to do the same. By sharing love from the world, Tzu Chi volunteers assure survivors that they are not alone in their journey to recovery. 

I saw how Tzu Chi helps survivors after disasters around the world in a video; I was touched by the letter of condolence from Master Cheng Yan. This reminds me that everything will be better. Tzu Chi understands and cares for me - I really feel their love and care.

As always one of the first relief organizations on-site following a disaster, we’re also one of the last to leave. Our team will be back in Concow for additional aid distributions for tornado survivors, long until our mission for sustainable recovery is complete.

With your help, we can ensure those impacted by this devastation reach a full recovery. Send love to Texas tornado survivors now, in their time of need.

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