Written by Pheel Wang, Meizhen Qian
Translated by Hong (Ariel) Chan
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
On December 10–11 of 2021, multiple states in the U.S. Midwest were impacted by dozens of tornadoes. Tzu Chi Midwest volunteers mobilized swiftly for emergency distributions, hoping to provide direct warmth and relief for survivors before Christmas. Two months after the disaster, Tzu Chi volunteers have continued to be committed to community residents in disaster-impacted areas. In February, volunteers returned to Kentucky to further understand the needs of survivors.
Assessment in Dawson Springs
In addition to Mayfield, KY, and Bowling Green, KY, Tzu Chi volunteers also surveyed damage at Dawson Springs, a small hard-hit Kentucky city, for the first time.
Tzu Chi volunteers were scheduled to visit Dawson Springs chiefly to investigate the disaster’s impact, and have a face-to-face meeting with Dawson Springs city officials and representatives of the American Red Cross to discuss preliminary relief. It was determined that on February 26–27, the local high school would be used to prepare for the distribution of cash cards and materials for 620 affected households in Dawson Springs.
When a disaster assessment team composed of six volunteers from Tzu Chi USA’s Midwest region entered the city on February 11, they discovered heartbreaking devastation. There had been scarcely a single intact building within sight. The vicinity was filled with roofless and windowless evacuated homes, the entire block seeming desolate.
Striving for Relief
Boards had been nailed over the windows and doors of a home damaged by the storm. “Good Stuff Gone,” and “TVs, Identity Already Stolen,” were scrawled in black spray paint by the owner. With the community in the disaster area so severely impacted, and the police administrative system also affected, the homeowner had no alternative but to use this method to prevent the residence from being robbed even further.
Wherever volunteers caught sight of local residents, they rushed to offer support. From survivors, they learned that many of the affected families were temporarily living in hotels or the homes of relatives and friends. “All the property in the house has been ruined, and we don’t even know when the government’s emergency subsidies will be issued,” one resident poignantly expressed. “A few neighbors with better economic conditions have already started to prepare for reconstruction, but the vast majority of the affected households are still facing difficulties in getting food and accommodation on a daily basis, let alone think about future reconstruction.”
When she came to the city hall for the consultation meeting, Debbie Meads, the liaison representative of the American Red Cross, cordially greeted Tzu Chi Midwest Region CEO, Chong Hsieh, and additional Tzu Chi volunteers. Debbie had met Tzu Chi volunteers in emergency relief events before, and knew the signature blue and white uniforms well. The mayor of Dawson Springs, Chris Smiley, thanked Tzu Chi volunteers for coming to the city and expressed the city government’s wholehearted support for Tzu Chi’s distribution work.
Your care and support will mean the world on the long road to recovery. Help empower us with the resources to do more.