Tzu Chi USA Boston Volunteers Aid Fire Survivors in New Bedford

Northeast  |  June 16, 2023
Residences of Royal Crown Lodging and Tzu Chi volunteer
Tzu Chi USA Boston volunteers borrow the office of Steppingstone Incorporated to distribute aid, providing a private space that allows disaster survivors to rest and ease their anxiety. Photo/Meixia Feng

Written by Qihua Luo
Translated by Hong (Ariel) Chan
Edited by Andrea Barkley

On the afternoon of March 28, 2023, a level-three fire broke out at a four-story rooming house in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the largest city in the southern part of the state. Despite the steadfast efforts of 80 firefighters, the intense blaze, fueled by strong winds, raged on until the evening, destroying the 31-room building known as Royal Crown Lodging, tragically causing three fatalities, five injuries, and displacing 32 people. 

Responding quickly, Tzu Chi USA Boston Service Center volunteers initiated emergency relief services, with dedicated volunteers providing in-person care and conducting disaster assessments. On April 22, they began distributing relief funds and essential supplies to 16 individuals who had lost everything in the fire, helping them on the path to rebuilding their lives.

Working Hand in Hand

Many survivors of the sudden fire at Royal Crown Lodging were underserved and low-income community residents seeking temporary housing. As the building was rendered uninhabitable and they were forced to evacuate, the Red Cross assisted most of the affected residents with temporary accommodation in nearby hotels. Some survivors also stayed with relatives and friends.

On March 31, the Massachusetts Emergency Assistance Office invited Tzu Chi Boston volunteers to support the affected residents at the New Bedford City Government’s community center, which served as a temporary disaster assistance center, along with other relief organizations. After assessing the survivors’ immediate housing, daily necessity, and clothing needs, the volunteers collaborated with the local government to launch effective relief, conducting distributions at the office of Steppingstone Incorporated on April 22.

Steppingstone Incorporated
In the private space of the Steppingstone Incorporated office, affected residents express their fears and concerns about the future. Photo/Meixia Feng
Tzu Chi Boston volunteer helping fire survivors fill in informations
Boston Tzu Chi volunteers help survivors fill out forms and distribute supplies. Photo/Meixia Feng

Caring for Survivors

The affected residents found solace inside the Steppingstone Incorporated office’s private space. They were able to express their fears and concerns about their lives, knowing that they were being supported and cared for by the volunteers.

Thank you for everything you have done. I felt warmth as soon as I entered the room, and it made me feel relaxed. After talking with the volunteers, it seemed like none of the problems mattered anymore.

The devastating fire destroyed many residents’ savings and brought additional challenges to their already complicated lives. Ryan, who was at work during the fire, lost her entire savings of $3,000 that she kept at home. Additionally, she could not contact her boyfriend for two days, only to later learn that he had heroically rescued nine people but suffered significant physical and emotional injuries.

Timothy relied upon odd jobs to survive, and lived at the Royal Crown Lodgings with his fiancé and 13-year-old child. He lost his savings of $1,000 in the flames. Without the support of family or friends, he faced the prospect of being unhoused once again, which deeply troubled him.

Expressing his gratitude and appreciation, another resident named James Ortiz requested to take a photo with the Tzu Chi volunteers who had shown him love and care. He wanted to convey his love and gratitude to all the volunteers. He expressed his happiness knowing there are still kind-hearted people willing to help individuals like him.

Disasters are unpredictable, but Tzu Chi volunteers do their utmost to provide immediate support. Alongside material and financial assistance, Tzu Chi also offers compassion and care as they accompany survivors who must rebuild their lives after disasters strike.

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