Written by Andrea Barkley
At the 2023 National Voluntary Organizations Active In Disaster (NVOAD) Conference, a unique platform that brought together various organizations committed to providing more effective support to communities affected by disaster, a host of fascinating products caught the attention of attendees. The annual conference fosters cooperation, communication, coordination, and collaboration among its members and other participants. Among the most noteworthy items on display were Tzu Chi eco-blankets, eco-pens, and other products made using DA.AI Technology.
One attendee, Brandon Torigian from Team Rubicon, expressed his surprise, “I didn’t even know that, like one bottle, a plastic bottle can make a pen. So I’m going to probably use this one in the next disaster I go to.” Team Rubicon is a veteran-led humanitarian organization known for its efforts in providing relief during disasters and crises.
Jessica Foutch from Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc., was particularly taken by the eco-blankets: “I think what got me was this blanket. You said it was made out of 67 plastic water bottles. I’m feeling it and it’s soft, it’s heavy duty. I think that it’s comforting for people that lose everything, a blanket. I think blankets are just a great way to comfort people and the innovation of how you guys are making these blows my mind.”
The NVOAD Conference, held in St. Louis, Missouri, was attended by Tzu Chi USA volunteers from the National Headquarters, Northwest, and Midwest Regions. Tzu Chi USA is an organization known for relieving suffering in every corner of the United States and beyond. Beajia Laschober, a Tzu Chi Volunteer, mentioned, “Tzu Chi volunteers from different regions are attending this conference. They’re sharing their disaster response experience with people at our booth. Whoever stops by is interested in what we do.”
During the conference, the Tzu Chi USA team met people from Northern California and Oregon and shared about their relief efforts after disasters strike, disrupting lives. They spoke about providing services while encountering life changes when disasters struck.
Erika Bucio and Virginia Camberos, from Unite Oregon, also shared their thoughts. Bucio stated, “While I was talking to one of your members, he was talking about how you guys work with stuff after the fires or after an incident, and recycle and try to work with the Earth. That’s wonderful, and that’s something I think we all should be more mindful of — co-existing with Earth.”
Camberos added, “I started reading this, and it says, ‘Be mindful of humanity’s impact.’ Right away, you know it’s something that we hold so dearly in our hearts with the organization that we work for. It’s because that is so important that we all be mindful. When I saw that, it just warmed my heart because I’m thinking these are the folks that are also doing great work and we need to be connected working together instead of trying to replicate what you all are doing, and we can learn from each other.”
The conference also featured a poster showing Tzu Chi volunteers partnering with local organizations during the 2017 Santa Rosa wildfire relief in California. It beautifully embodied the goal and purpose of NVOAD: working together and learning from each other. Collaboration is the key to bringing sufficient relief after disasters. This spirit underlines the mission of National VOAD and its member organizations, and it’s a spirit that was vividly displayed at the 2023 National VOAD Conference.