A Different Kind of Celebration: Families Volunteer Together to Help Ukrainian Refugees During Fourth of July Weekend

National Headquarters  |  August 17, 2022
Some volunteers stepped foot on the Tzu Chi USA Headquarters campus for the first time. Everyone sacrificed their long weekend vacation to help Ukrainians. Photo/ Shu Li Lo

Written by Shu Li Lo
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Maggie Morgan

As the United States geared up to celebrate Independence Day on July 4, 2022, many organizations closed their doors early for a long weekend. While others were relaxing and taking advantage of the holiday, Tzu Chi volunteers were giving themselves to the greater good at the organization’s USA Headquarters. 

On July 3-4, in San Dimas, California, Tzu Chi’s campus was bustling with both volunteers and community members as they packed emergency medical supplies. Mothers and their children worked together to assemble essential kits. Entire families joined the ranks of volunteers to help those in need. 

From young children to senior citizens, every age demographic was represented that day, each one of them rolling up their sleeves and getting to work. After two days of constructing kits, a total of 1,000 medical emergency packs were made. The supplies were then loaded and ready to be shipped to Ukrainian refugees.

Meeting Ukraine’s Urgent Need for Emergency Supplies

Every volunteer in the assembly line was busy without a word. Photo/ Lv Ci Li
Bags donated by kind-hearted people were used for assembling medical emergency packs. Photo/ Lv Ci Li

Debra Boudreaux, CEO of Tzu Chi USA Headquarters, said, “In May, we had the opportunity to travel to Romania and Moldova to have in-person meetings and interact with the front-line workers assisting Ukrainian refugees, to understand the most urgent needs of the local hospitals. That’s why we prepared medical emergency packs that are more for use in emergency rooms.”

The emergency packs contained medical and household supplies including bandages, Band-Aids, alcohol swabs, antibiotics, medical ointment, toothbrushes, toothpaste, scissors, gloves and masks. Ukrainian refugees are in dire need of these types of resources, especially local hospitals who utilize them to care for community residents.

A line of tents were neatly set up under a row of trees. Medical supplies were sprawled across several long tables, ready to be packed up and sent across seas. Tzu Chi volunteers concentrated on counting, sorting and bagging the items one by one, each person having a role in the assembly line.

The finished products were compact emergency packs that made carry and transport extremely easy. The entirety of medical supplies and packing bags were either purchased by Tzu Chi USA or generously donated by members of the community. This joint effort accomplished something so vital to refugees in Ukraine; Tzu Chi’s team was able to deliver resources we may take for granted, but are lifelines for those in crisis.

Volunteering Together: Families Celebrate the Fourth of July Doing Service Work

The preparation work was physically demanding, but the volunteers worked together to carry the boxes of supplies to each tent. Photo/ Shu Li Lo
Children who came to the campus with their mothers soon joined the volunteers. Photo/ Shu Li Lo

Many of the volunteers celebrated the Fourth of July by participating in the event as a family. Mothers could be seen guiding their children along the way, and although none of them were expert packers, they soon got the hang of the assembly line. It was a sight to see the pairs working together, doubling the results with half the effort.

Last year, Ruian Tseng graduated from the Tzu Chi Youth Group (Tzu Shao). He came with his mother, Lansin Chen, to volunteer. Lansin Chen said, “I divided the large bags of gloves into groups of ten and gave them to him to roll tightly into small bags, preventing them from loosening and making it easier when bagging, and then they are handed over to the next station with the moving line.”

We have never experienced their (Ukrainians') situation and may not be able to appreciate their feelings in the face of war and displacement, but we can imagine their hardships.

Meijun Chen, community member

Meijun Chen is from Malaysia, and she and her daughter had never been to the Headquarters campus. The two joined the operation line and joyfully helped pack the bags. Meijun Chen said, “We only made a small contribution to help pack medical supplies. When thinking about how difficult life must be for the Ukrainians who have been displaced from their homes and disconnected from their families, and how many difficulties in life they may be facing, and I don’t know what the weather is like there, I’m sure life must be really difficult for them.”

Seven-year-old Junshi Wang, whose whole family is vegetarian, is going to Tzu Chi Elementary School at Walnut in the fall. He came to volunteer with his parents and was quick to keep up with the adults. Junshi got busy handing over the empty cardboard boxes to his father to fold, and took on the important duty of carrying the boxes. He said gleefully, “Today’s task is to pack medical packs to help Ukrainian refugees.”

Qi-ning Yu followed his father, mother, and sister to the park to team up with other volunteers. The siblings were good helpers, quick-eyed and quick-handed, assisting their parents to pack masks and hand towels and spot-checking their work at random. 

Qi-ning Yu, whose hands never stopped moving, said, “I’m putting the masks in the bags, we are helping the Ukrainian refugees prepare the medical packs.

Round Two of Aid to the Rescue

The work area is filled with volunteers who are fully engaged in packing. Photo/ Shu Li Lo
The volunteer in charge of the final bagging made sure that each medical bag contained all the items. Photo/ Shu Li Lo

“The Ukrainian refugees fled their homes with very few possessions with them. Some of them need basic medical supplies, so what we provide in the medical packs are basic medical supplies such as bandages, antibiotic ointment, and gloves, as well as personal hygiene items such as toothpaste and toothbrushes. We’ve considered all their practical needs,” said Tzu Chi USA Headquarters Medical Development Office colleague Sylvia Wihardjo, who is responsible for the coordination and management of the supplies. “Before that, we had sent about a hundred medical packs in June, which was far from enough because they were in great need of these medical supplies.”

Volunteer Baogui Li went to the campus on Sunday to join the packing efforts. She said, “The medical packs have to be placed neatly, we put the larger items at the bottom and then arranged others in order so that when the refugees open them, what they see are neatness and professionalism, as well as our respectful hearts; this medical pack has many small objects that can be carried around and are really practical in case of emergency needs.” 

Each long table was full of medical supplies, and volunteers counted and bagged them one by one. Photo/ Shu Li Lo
The medical packs are filled with medical supplies and the love and respect of Tzu Chi volunteers. photo/ Shu Li Lo

The emergency packs have been boxed and will soon be sent by air mail through Tzu Chi’s partners. The aid will go directly to help Ukrainians in need. As volunteers and community members gathered for a common purpose, it was clear their hearts were with those across the globe. People have been living in constant turmoil, uncertain of where their next meal will come from or when it will be safe to return to their homes. 

For those who are still living in fear, who are in a constant state of chaos, Tzu Chi seeks to provide hope and relief in any way possible. As the team formed one body of work, systematically breaking up into parts of a whole, they were reminded of where their energy was going. Each pack, put together by hand, holds so much more than essential medical supplies. The kits contain love, they contain light, and they contain hope for a better tomorrow.

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