Bringing Hope in Times of Calamity: Tzu Chi Volunteers Deliver Disaster Relief to Winter Storm Survivors in Ventura County

National Headquarters  |  March 15, 2023
Tzu Chi volunteer explaining the cash card to the recipient
Volunteers explain how to use the cash cards to Ventura residents. Photo credit/Youbin Huang

Written by Jennifer Chien
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Andrea Barkley

Winter storms rocked the state of California in December 2022 and January 2023. Ventura County in southern California experienced some of the most extreme weather in the state. On February 23, Tzu Chi USA Headquarters distributed cash cards totaling $7,350 to 22 local families at the United Way of Ventura County at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) invitation.

The Toll the Storms Have Taken

Roads around Ventura
Many Ventura residences near the valley are blocked due to road damage. Photo credit/Jennifer Chien
Once lush farmland is now unusable due to the storms. Photo credit/ Jennifer Chien
Once lush farmland is now unusable due to the storms. Photo credit/ Jennifer Chien

The sudden winter storm that lasted from December 2022 to mid-January 2023 caused severe disasters in many counties of California. Additionally, it caused significant economic losses. It is estimated that California has lost over 30 billion dollars because of the storms. Flooding, mudslides, mountain torrents, and other disasters have devastated many regions, including downtown Los Angeles. The winter storm caused extreme damage to residential buildings, vehicles, farms, and highways. In addition, the flooding and atmospheric rivers have devastated California agriculture.

From February 9 to February 21, 2023, Tzu Chi National Headquarters volunteers stationed themselves at the Disaster Recovery Center in Ventura County Fairgrounds, arranged by FEMA. There, Tzu Chi volunteers learned more about the disaster suffered by this agricultural community and provided relief to the affected resident. 

After the registration process of 68 families, Tzu Chi, assisted by the United Way, made plans to distribute cash cards on February 23. 

Tzu Chi volunteers team for United Way of Ventura County
On February 23, 2023, Tzu Chi National Headquarters volunteers conduct a distribution at the United Way of Ventura County. Photo credit/Youbin Huang
Tzu Chi volunteers explaining Tzu Chi's background and Bamboo bank spirit
Volunteers explain Tzu Chi’s bamboo bank story to residents. Photo credit/Youbin Huang

Tzu Chi National Headquarters volunteer, Calvin Kao, said, “We came to Ventura County to distribute DA AI eco-blankets, cash cards, care packages, and other supplies to help storm survivors. Three categories of survivors have registered for distribution: the unhoused, homeowners whose properties have been damaged or even destroyed, and agricultural workers who have lost their jobs because of the flooding.”

‘We hope Tzu Chi's cash cards and supplies will let survivors know someone cares about them.

Susan Englund (middle), Vice President of United Way of Ventura County learns about the distribution process of Tzu Chi. Photo/Youbin Huang
Susan Englund (middle), Vice President of United Way of Ventura County learns about the distribution process of Tzu Chi. Photo/Youbin Huang

Susan Englund, Vice President of the United Way Ventura County, shared her experience with Tzu Chi USA. She said, “We got to know Tzu Chi through the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster organization. We have previously cooperated with Tzu Chi in many different emergency relief projects in Ventura County. So when we saw Tzu Chi stationed at the Disaster Recovery Center, we discussed and agreed that we could work together to help the community.” 

Englund continued, “Any help that goes to the survivors is appreciated. Tzu Chi’s distribution will help the affected families recover more quickly.”

From Housed to Housing Insecure

Tzu Chi volunteer interacting with recipient's children
Volunteers take care of children while parents fill out distribution forms. Photo credit/Jennifer Chien
Recipient Carolina June listening to Tzu Chi volunteer's explanation for the distribution
Caroline June (first from left) listens attentively to Tzu Chi volunteers. Photo credit/Jennifer Chien

The impact of the rainstorms on Ventura County is visible everywhere. There are numerous abandoned farms. Flooding is everywhere, and lush crops have been destroyed. 

Carolina June, a mother, farm worker, and storm survivor, said, “I used to be a strawberry-picking worker. When the heavy rain started, the farm fired us and told us to wait for the notice after the rain stopped. Although I got a call to return to work three weeks later, we only work two or three days a week because of the frequent rain. There are few strawberries to pick, so we don’t have money to pay for rent and food.”

I am very happy to get the cash card, it can help our family pay the overdue rent.

Another community impacted by the winter storms was unhoused individuals. The sudden storm caused the local river to surge. The Ventura Fire Department had to send a helicopter to rescue unhoused people who usually camp on the riverside and under a bridge. 

Jesse Johnson, a member of the unhoused community, shared his experience. “The flood washed away all my belongings. Several of my friends got stuck in the muddy water, but the helicopter rescued them”, He continued, “I got the distribution information at the shelter and registered. It’s freezing outside now. Any assistance is helpful. I appreciate it!”

Recipient Jesse Johnson receiving Tzu Chi's help
Jesse Johnson is glad to receive Tzu Chi's assistance. Photo credit/Jennifer Chien

Recent natural disasters have left many California families and individuals in dire straits. Tzu Chi volunteers are committed to aiding those in need during these trying times. Please join Tzu Chi USA in giving love and care to the survivors.

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