Tiny Home, Sweet Home: Groundbreaking Gets Underway for Camp Fire Survivors

National Headquarters  |  June 6, 2022
Tzu Chi Northwest Regional Executive Director Minjhing Hsieh, local partners, and community members attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the very First Butte County Approved Tiny Home for a local Camp Fire survivor. Photo/Changming Rong

Written by Christina Chang
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto

On the morning of May 19, 2022, Tzu Chi USA’s Northwest Regional Executive Director, Minjhing Hsieh, Tzu Chi Disaster Case Managers, local partners, and community members, gathered near the town of Paradise, CA, for a momentous occasion. 

It was a ‘groundbreaking’ ceremony for the very first Butte County-approved Tiny Home for a Camp Fire survivor. The new home will play an important role on the pathway toward recovery, hope, and new beginnings with a sense of safety and security. The joint disaster recovery project aims to complete the first Tiny Home within the next four months, followed by a total of five Tiny Homes in neighboring locations within a year. 

After the 2018 Camp Fire, community reconstruction faced many hurdles. New wildfires struck, forcing the evacuation of residents from some areas once again, and during the most critical stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns led to a pause in construction, as well as the rising cost of building materials. 

Throughout this period, Tzu Chi volunteers and Disaster Case Managers continued to be there for survivors, offering their genuine care and support. Tzu Chi Chico volunteers additionally engaged in long-term recovery work for individual care cases, assisted with documents for Tiny Home qualification, and aided local social welfare groups with preparations. The Tiny Home construction will be funded by Tzu Chi USA’s Northwest Region, with more partnered organizations sharing the cost of building materials, and the construction will be contracted by the Tiny Pine Foundation.

Over the past three years, Tzu Chi volunteers survey suitable sites, and assist survivors. Photo/Changming Rong

John Yates will be the first Camp Fire survivor to live in a Tiny Home. Three years ago, Tzu Chi Chico volunteers contacted John to provide their care, and while offering their relief, Tzu Chi helped apply for housing. Now, at the groundbreaking ceremony, Tzu Chi Northwest’s Executive Director, Minjhing Hsieh, was able to present John with a book of Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s Jing Si Aphorisms as a gift. 

He then opened the book and read one aphorism aloud. “Nothing is impossible with confidence, perseverance, and courage,” Master Cheng Yen’s warm wishes echoed over the landscape. 

Tzu Chi attends the groundbreaking ceremony to offer congratulations and prayers. Photo/Changming Rong

John Yates shared smiles with all in attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony, and expressed his gratitude to Tzu Chi, saying, “My heart is full of joy. Thank you very much for your help along the way.”

John Yates (second from left) smiles brightly on the day of the groundbreaking ceremony, excited for the next steps. Photo/Changming Rong

Alyssa Hofman spoke with volunteers on behalf of the Tiny Pine Foundation at the groundbreaking ceremony, and thanked all partnered organizations in attendance for working together to make the Tiny Home project a reality.

Alyssa Hofman (second from left) speaks with volunteers on behalf of Tiny Pine Foundation at the groundbreaking ceremony and thanks Tzu Chi USA for its long-term support. Photo/Changming Rong

The May sunshine warmed the hills that day, offering a cheerful start to the next phase of this collaborative effort. It’s hoped that in the near future, survivors will return to these hills and find a home beneath the welcoming sun.

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