Tzu Chi USA Mobilizes to Raise Funds and Spread Love to Help Maui Survivors

National Headquarters  |  September 8, 2023
Tzu Chi volunteers write out receipts while collecting donations. Photo/ Roger Kao

Written by: Berlinda Lin, Shu Li Lo
Translated by: H.B. Qin
Edited by: Patrick McShaen

The island of Maui in Hawaii was hit by a massive wildfire on August 8, 2023. The blaze rapidly destroyed homes and communities, making it one of the most devastating disasters in recent years. Before the smoke even cleared, Tzu Chi USA immediately launched the Maui Relief campaign to assist all those affected by the fire. Volunteers across the United States quickly reached out to the communities they work with to raise money and gather donated supplies, so more people could channel their warmth to the survivors in Maui.

Volunteers in California took to the streets as soon as the relief effort began. They visited stores to collect donations and gathered loving Bamboo Banks full of donated change. They immediately sent donations to the disaster area to accompany and assist the survivors through this difficult time.

Over the years, volunteers and store owners have built up a working relationship. They are like friends, and when volunteers discussed the purpose of this fundraising effort, many store owners were happy to do their part for the survivors. 

Volunteers also went to stores that they had never set foot in before to introduce Tzu Chi’s charitable services and explain the purpose of their visit. They worked with the owners to set up an area where donations could be solicited, allowing customers and passersby to donate and provide a small token of support for those in need.

Loving Bamboo Bank from Store Owners

A group of volunteers in Southern California walked into a newly opened beauty salon on August 15. The store had recently relocated and the volunteers hadn’t interacted with the owner or staff before. Nevertheless, the store and its customers greeted the volunteers warmly. When one customer, Jerome Martin, was told that the volunteers were raising money for the Maui wildfire, he put money in the collection box without hesitation. “I want to help the people affected by the Hawaii wildfire, too,” he said, “They need food, shelter, and a place to live, and they need warm supplies or blankets.”

Many stores in the Los Angeles area have been working with Tzu Chi volunteers since 2014. In August of that year, volunteers made a special effort to reach out to the community and asked local companies and shops to place Bamboo Banks in their stores. Kenny Lee, owner of One Stop Hair Design, and his wife Jenny put tips from customers into their Bamboo Bank every day as their way of showing their gratitude to a doctor from Tzu Chi Medical Center. When Jenny’s family first immigrated to the U.S., the doctor helped Jenny’s mother by buying her insulin out of his own pocket, a kindness that Jenny has always remembered. When the volunteers came around with Bamboo Banks she happily accepted one, seeing it as a great opportunity to repay that kindness.

Kenny said, “There is a fire in Maui, Hawaii now, we all want to help! My wife (Jenny) put this money in it (Bamboo Bank), a few dollars every day. It can also help people, many people in the world need help, I hope that everyone can work together to help.”

Maui Survivors Receive Help

Because they have always been there for us, we are now going to be there for them through this difficult time, and we are very thankful for this opportunity!

George Papavasiliou of Jim’s Burgers also got to know Tzu Chi in 2014: “We’ve been supporting (Tzu Chi’s) Bamboo Bank for nine years now! At Jim’s Burgers, we feel it’s important to give back to the community, and we do everything we can to support (Tzu Chi). We also encourage our customers to give back. I know that the money in the Bamboo Bank is going to assist the Maui, and I think it’s important. Because a lot of people travel to Maui, it’s a very beautiful place for people to visit and relax; it’s an important time for us to support them.”

Rafael Pozo, owner of a local car wash, has been supporting Tzu Chi for nine years. The Bamboo Bank on his counter collects quite a bit of money: “Thank you for doing this, and thank you to the customers who make donations. I hope that the money helps some of the people who are suffering, especially in Hawaii. I hope that people can help out a little bit, and thanks for all that you do.”

Family members of Tzu Chi volunteers have responded enthusiastically to the campaign as well. Longtime Tzu Chi volunteer Yu En Dai, told her sister, Rui Zhen, about Tzu Chi’s fundraising efforts for the Maui survivors. Rui Zhen immediately contacted volunteers to collect donations from her at her home. Rui Zhen moved from Taiwan to Hawaii for marriage many years ago. Although she no longer has any family members living in Hawaii, she is still very concerned about the disaster. Rui Zhen’s daughter was very concerned about the fire in Maui as well. She told her mother, “Hawaii is beautiful, but the jobs and education are not as good as others, and the economy is not good! That’s why we have to help them.” She was in tears when speaking, and she asked her mother to pray for the victims of the wildfire so that they could pass away in peace. Rui Zhen answered her daughter firmly, “I will!”

Before the blaze was even put out, Tzu Chi volunteers in Los Angeles and across the nation immediately launched a heartfelt campaign to raise funds for the survivors of the Maui fire. While volunteers inspire others to be kind, they also strengthen their own belief in selflessness and giving to others. Everyone wishes the survivors a speedy return to their daily lives and a bright future in the coming years.


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