Tzu Chi Northwest Returns to Provide Aid and Empathy to Merced County Flood Survivors

Northwest  |  March 12, 2023
Affected households holding the blankets from Tzu Chi
Tzu Chi Northwest volunteers visit Merced County again to distribute cash cards to help flood survivors. Photo/Kitty Lu

Written by Renee Liu, Kitty Lu
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Andrea Barkley

On January 9, 2023, winter storms struck California. The storms caused flooding and severe damage in the state’s northern, central, and southern regions. The neighborhood of Planada, located in Merced County, central California, was one of the hardest-hit areas. Tzu Chi Northwest volunteers mobilized as they heard the news and conducted a distribution on February 4. Then, on February 11, they returned to Merced County and distributed cash cards to help affected communities.

Flood damage in Merced County
The flood damage leaves a beautiful neighborhood in shambles. Photo/Kitty Lu
Merced County flood survivor crying
Survivors cry because of the loss they experience. Photo/Kitty Lu

Disaster survivor Mercedes Perez is the mother of three children, two of whom have autism. When the flood hit, her priority was to keep her children safe. She said, “I had to stay strong and assure my children so they wouldn’t be scared. They needed to feel safe. Walking in the water was very difficult; eventually, someone came to rescue us. But, unfortunately, we were forced to evacuate our home.” 

The question of rebuilding their lives became pressing for Perez, “I had to think about how I could regain what we had lost.”

 Resident Luis Camacho escaped the Mexican drug war. When drug dealers seized his home, he moved to Planada with the help of the U.S. government. Sadly, the flood destroyed his hard-earned home again. However, Tzu Chi Northwest’s service brought him new hope, “I am so grateful for your assistance; I thank you on behalf of my family. I hope God blesses you all and you help more people in the future.”

Tzu Chi Northwest volunteers embracing survivor
Tzu Chi Northwest volunteers embrace survivors, a quiet gesture that symbolizes the care they offer. Photo/CM Yung
Tzu Chi volunteers distributing cash cards to Spanish-speaking survivors
Tzu Chi volunteers work together with volunteer translators to distribute cash cards to Spanish-speaking survivors. Photo/CM Yung

Tzu Chi volunteers translated Master Cheng Yen’s letter to the survivors into Spanish. The thoughtful gesture touched their hearts. Survivor Ana Zaragoza could not help crying, “It’s so hard to start from scratch after losing everything. But these warm words inspire me.”

The distribution brought warmth and joy; people clung together with laughter and tears. Tzu Chi Northwest volunteer Adriana Fonseca said, “I’m glad I can help as an interpreter. Planada is a nice neighborhood; most residents only speak Spanish and they are my culture, so I wanted to be here to support them and be of great help.”

Merced Mayor Matthew Serranto was deeply touched and expressed his most sincere gratitude to Tzu Chi Northwest, “I want to thank you on behalf of everyone in City of Merced. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming here to help. Love and care are essential.”

In the future, I hope to give back for all this help, keep positive and keep moving forward, stay optimistic, and keep my head up. Although it feels terrible to lose everything, there is always hope.

With Tzu Chi’s support, flood survivors are determined to move forward. Tzu Chi USA hopes this love and care ripples out and will be felt by many in the coming days and weeks. 

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