Written by Lulu Yin
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Patrick McShane
Tzu Chi USA’s San Francisco Regional Office cherishes its roots in the city’s famous Chinatown neighborhood. Tzu Chi’s first San Francisco branch office was established at the Holiday Inn on December 13, 1994.
For 29 years, Tzu Chi volunteers have been committed to their service missions within the community, with weekly food distributions lasting for 12 years, where 3.5 million pounds of food were distributed, benefiting nearly 100 thousand families.
Though San Francisco is one of the nation’s most prosperous cities and is home to several Fortune 500 companies, many local families struggle with surging rents and a cost of living crisis. The lack of affordable housing has forced many into subdivided homes where many people live in a home built for one family. A single family home is subdivided into smaller apartments, holding up to ten or twelve people and often leaving family members with less than 3 square feet of personal space. The economic situation has left people from underserved and underrepresented populations with few housing options other than divided homes, whose rent is one-fifth to one-tenth of the average rental cost.
The pandemic has severely affected the lives and income of Chinese-American families living in these divided homes. Tzu Chi volunteers have gone into the community and cared for nearly 100 families by sending food and pandemic-prevention supplies. Over the past three years, Tzu Chi has held several assistance events for them each year including distributing Chinese New Year’s Gift Packs, a Mother’s Day event, school supply distributions, winter distributions, and cold and flu vaccinations, among others.
As a part of continued efforts to provide medical services to those in need, the Tzu Chi USA’s San Francisco Branch and the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco collaborated to organize a Tzu Chi Health Day event, a free clinic held for the first time on February 18, 2023. Doctors from different fields used their love and professional ability to treat members of the local community. A total of 30 people were served, receiving treatments including family medicine services, Chinese medicine exams, spinal rehabilitation, and blood sugar screening.
The clinic was attended by individuals and families from low-income households in Chinatown, including area residents who work in transportion services, food service workers, older adults with mobility problems, and people with chronic diabetes.
A History of Service
Tzu Chi has a long history of working with the community. Local landmark, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall in Chinatown, served as the venue for the clinic. The hall was transformed into a Chinese and Western medicine clinic to maximize the charitable resources available to the community and to help those in need.
“I am very grateful for the community’s support,” shared Xue Ling Chen, who serves as the deputy principal of the Tzu Chi San Francisco Branch, and the Deputy Executive Director of Tzu Chi Northwest Region, “This Health Day event can benefit Chinatown, and I am very grateful for the support from all walks of life in the community.”
At the clinic, Tzu Chi volunteers also urged everyone to help raise funds for earthquake relief efforts in Turkey and Syria, to help survivors rebuild their homes and return to their normal lives. Mr. Wei Hong Kuang, a local Chinatown resident, came to the clinic and responded to Tzu Chi’s appeal by donating money to the relief efforts, saying, “With a little bit of our own heart, we donate a little bit of money to Turkey. We should appreciate the blessing, cherish it and benefit others. Thank you.”
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco and Tzu Chi have been close partners in the community for a long time. Director Ming-Chi Lai of the office highly praised Tzu Chi’s volunteer efforts, saying, “Over the years, Tzu Chi volunteers have reached out to the community and contributed money and effort to help the underprivileged and disadvantaged, whether it be in international disasters or in aid of the community. Tzu Chi’s volunteers have spared no effort in helping the underprivileged and disadvantaged in the community, and have fully demonstrated Tzu Chi’s four major missions.”
Heartwarming moments seemed to abound at the bustling wellness event. The medical team’s thorough planning made the day’s health day clinic possible. In light of the success of the first event, volunteers were inspired continue with enthusiasm, improving any shortcomings, and work to benefit more people who are in need of medical assistance.