Tzu Chi Dallas Volunteers Take Preventive Actions Against COVID-19

Central  |  April 3, 2020
Tzu Chi volunteers respond quickly to the emergency request for supplies to help with COVID-19 prevention measures in Dallas. Photo by Shirley Wu.

Written by 
Translated by Pheel Wang
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto

In the city of Dallas, Texas, Tzu Chi USA’s local Dallas branch volunteers were among the first on the city’s list of humanitarian relief organizations to call upon when support was needed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This mutual trust and honest collaboration was born after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, and Tzu Chi volunteers had traveled to the hardest-hit areas to deliver compassion and relief. These threads of great love were even further strengthened during our Hurricane Harvey relief mission, where our aid gave residents the hope and the means to rise from the destruction, and embark on a path of healing. 

Preventive Measures for the Homeless Population

Flowers have begun to bloom, and Spring has officially started in the United States. However, it already feels like summer at times in Dallas, at others, however, the temperature can still plummet 20 or 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, when the sun sets, many people who are homeless are forced to stave off the chill inside tents or other coverings that are far more exposed to the elements. Indeed, where one takes shelter one night may not be there for them the next, and lacking protection from the virus or a safe place to isolate, the homeless population is among the most vulnerable as cases of COVID-19 remain on the rise.  

To help support the city’s homeless population during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s government designated Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center into a temporary shelter, providing a secure place to lay one’s head while maintaining social distancing practices. However, although individuals were provided with temporary shelter, resources were lacking to keep occupants sufficiently warm. 

Thus, a request for a helping hand was made by Mr. Rocky Vaz, Director of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) on March 21, 2020. The message was received at noon by the Executive Director of Tzu Chi’s Central Region, Yuanliang Ling, and Tzu Chi immediately took action, mobilizing volunteers to donate 400 DA.AI eco-blankets.

In less than half an hour, the city dispatched three vehicles to the branch office in Dallas to pick up 400 eco-blankets. Tzu Chi Dallas has a good relationship with the city government. As long as there is a need, Tzu Chi will be here to help.

Tzu Chi volunteers assist with the loading of eco-blankets for homeless individuals in Dallas. Photo by Vivian Wang.
Tzu Chi fills up three truckloads of warm DA.AI eco-blankets for the homeless shelter at Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. Photo by Shirley Wu.

When they saw the volunteers, the city staff greeted them with grateful smiles, energized by the support, and worked together with volunteers to load boxes of DA.AI eco-blankets onto the pickup truck. And while complying with social distancing precautions, Louie Scott Jr., a Dallas City staff member, gave thanks with his hands together in front of his chest, bowing to the volunteers. “We can’t let our homeless residents become the pandemic curve,” he stated. “They will also keep a safe social distance at the shelter. Thank you, Tzu Chi, for providing the DA.AI eco-blankets; this is a great help!”

A Delivery for Addison

“Rescue the suffering upon hearing their voice, with timely relief during a disaster; purifying people’s minds, and prevent disasters actively,” once stated our founder, the venerable Dharma Master Cheng Yen.  

Tzu Chi volunteers adhere to the principles of caution, devotion, cherishing daily life, and observing impermanence. Therefore, volunteers endeavor to be suitably prepared to take action for disaster prevention, and stock various disaster relief supplies to be managed systematically. Thus, in times of emergency, the required supplies can be provided to those in need within a short time.

The town of Addison in Dallas also sought support from Tzu Chi. There is a need for hand sanitizer in government buildings for visitors and employees to disinfect their hands as soon as they enter the door, but because hand sanitizer has become difficult to obtain, the Dallas County Department of Health & Human Services is currently without such disinfectant products. 

Tzu Chi volunteers deliver four large boxes of hand sanitizer to Addison Town Hall. Photo by Shirley Wu.

The COVID-19 pandemic is nationwide, and resources are tough to obtain in urban cities and small municipalities alike. The Mayor of Addison, Joe Chow, recalled Tzu Chi’s professionalism in carrying out past disaster relief missions, and contacted the Dallas branch immediately. The following day, Tzu Chi volunteers delivered four large boxes of hand sanitizer to the town of Addison.

City Manager Wesley Pierson shared concerns regarding the scarcity of resources. He received a message from the Mayor that Tzu Chi brought supplies, and was immensely relieved to see the bottles of hand sanitizer on the table. 

The bottles of hand sanitizer are disaster relief supplies that Tzu Chi Dallas volunteers stockpile at the branch. From right to left are City Manager Wesley Pierson, Mayor Joe Chow, and Yuanliang Ling, Executive Director of Tzu Chi Central Region. Photo by Shirley Wu.

Obtaining such crucial resources for taking preventative measures during the virus outbreak set the minds of City Manager Wesley Pierson and Mayor Joe Chow at ease.

We are truly grateful to Tzu Chi USA for providing us with these hand sanitizers. This is a great gift. We can now protect our residents.

For volunteers, protecting the health of the community also incorporates protecting their own health. Likewise, the city’s commitment is to give back to the community.

Yuanliang Ling led the volunteers in the delivery of supplies. “Actually, this is what Master Cheng Yen likes us to do: to be able to bring peace to people in need. In the community, everyone can have peace of mind with these supplies. The item may be small in size, but it can accomplish our mission.”

Assisting the Elderly in Nursing Homes

In March, multiple calls came through Tzu Chi’s Dallas branch. One such call was from Tsanyu Wang who was in Puerto Rico. Tsanyu Wang is a former Director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Miami.

In May of 2017, Puerto Rico filed for bankruptcy. In September of 2017, it suffered the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Like in many disaster-stricken areas, the economy dropped through the bottom, but the rebuilding process was slow and lacking in proper environmental sanitation. Hurricane Maria has been regarded as the worst natural disaster in recorded history to affect Puerto Rico. 

Tzu Chi volunteers were happy to organize and pack the sanitizing tablets for Puerto Rico on March 25th. Photo by Shirley Wu.
Sanitizing tablets are prepared for the elderly; they are multi-purpose disinfectants that only require to be soaked in water before use. Photo by Shirley Wu.

Tsanyu Wang, who is currently serving at Puerto Rico’s Observatory, recognized that the local nursing home does not have the required sanitizing supplies. The elderly are extremely vulnerable to the new coronavirus and are the population most severely impacted by it as well, bearing a heightened chance of infection leading to pneumonia and death. Wang was worried about these elderly individuals, and called the Tzu Chi volunteers who he’d met during Tzu Chi’s disaster relief during Hurricane Maria. 

“Tsanyu Wang asked the Mayor if there was anything he could help with, and then passed the message to us.” Yuanliang Ling and a team of volunteers packed boxes of sanitizing tablets, loaded them into the car, and rushed them to the post office for immediate shipment.

Because the liquid hand sanitizers are too heavy, we choose to send sanitizing tablets instead. A tablet can soak in a gallon of water. We sent 21,600 tablets, which can make 21,600 gallons of disinfectants. The sanitizing water can give the elders who live at the nursing home in Puerto Rico a safe and sanitized environment.

The sanitizing tablets dissolve into water and can be used as multi-purpose disinfectants. At present, the local government and Tzu Chi volunteers are working together steadfastly to bring love and care to the people in need. 

People are under extreme pressure and distress due to the growing pandemic, but know that your Tzu Chi family will be here for you on this journey. Together, we’ll flatten the curve, and pave a path of healing with love and compassion.

Support our mission to provide crucial medical supplies to medical institutions in need by giving your love today.

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